Bejoy Nambiar’s ambitious Kaala oscillates between the late 80s and the late 2010s. In the 1980s, it follows Shubhendu Mukherjee, an Indian special operations soldier who is disgraced for trying to interfere with the border defense forces’ illegal transactions with Bangladesh and forced to go on the run. With the help of his old friends, Shubhendu goes on a quest for revenge to kill the people who finished off his battalion and tried to murder him. He distances himself from his wife and son and starts a new life with a woman who becomes collateral damage during one of his attacks, raising her daughter as his own. Elsewhere, Shubhendhu’s biological son, Ritwik, joins the Investigation Bureau and goes after Naman Arya, who is the son of one of the soldiers who attacked Shubhendu’s battalion. It’s not a coincidence because Shubhendu’s boss sent him down this path, and after his death, Shubhendu took up the job of anonymously informing Ritwik about the ins and outs of Naman’s business.
Ritwik, Himanshu, and the Danish Discover the Indo-Bangladesh Tunnel
There’s apparently a lot that happens prior to the finale of Kaala, but it can all be boiled down to this: Shakti and Naman are conducting cross-border transactions for an international organization. This organization is represented by Ghulam and his assistant. Through some complicated hacking and tracing, Ritwik finds out that trucks full of cash are going from India to Bangladesh via Petrapole. When he and his father’s savior and the mole in Shakti’s business, Bismil, reach there, they find out that the trucks are empty. Ritwik and Bismil are arrested.
Meanwhile, Sitara (the IB officer who is Ritwik’s colleague and lover) turns out to be an agent of the aforementioned organization, and she kills the hackers (WI.CHI.TA.) and Lobo. By the way, I didn’t see this twist coming. It genuinely shocked me. But then again, the “why” behind it is not all that clear. So, as the shock of the twist dissipates, it fails to leave an impression. Anyway, Sitara assumes that her job is done and she can continue to live her life with her daughter. But she is ordered by Naman, Arya, and Ghulam to kill Ritwik, thereby erasing any information he has about the whole operation once and for all. Reluctantly, Sitara agrees to get the job done and then disappear with her daughter. Mohan calls up Sitara to let her know that they’ll be going to the Petrapole BDF station to take Ritwik back to Kolkata.
Before Mohan and Sitara get there, though, Ritwik figures out that the trucks going through Petrapole were decoys, and the real smuggling is happening through Mahadipur. Bismil remembers that the Indo-Bangladesh tunnel is in Mahadipur. So, Himanshu pretends to be Mohan and bails Ritwik and Bismil out of the Petrapole BDF station and heads towards Mahadipur, along with Danish. When they are gone, Mohan calls Sujay Dutta (the senior in-charge at Petrapole); he realizes that Himanshu has fooled them all, and he decides to head back to Kolkata. Since Sitara needs to get to Ritwik and kill him, she kills Mohan and everyone else in the car and then heads towards Mahadipur. Ritwik, Himanshu, Danish, and a bleeding Bismil reach the Mahadipur Border Area first, and they discover that the tunnel is indeed open and the smuggling of cash is taking place. Himanshu calls for backup, but since that’ll take time, Ritwik tries to create a distraction and stall the smugglers.
Sitara Goes On The Run
Upon reaching Mahadipur, one of the goons assisting Sitara kills Bismil, and then they begin searching for Ritwik. As a part of his diversion, Ritwik sets off a massive explosion that causes chaos in the camps. Firing ensues, and amidst all that, a dying Mohan calls Himanshu and tells him that Sitara is a turncoat. It is supposed to be a big revelation for the characters, especially for Ritwik, but since their relationship is so superficial and we already know what Sitara is, the reminder of the “twist” fails to have any impact. The action sequence is really well done, though. The firing, the sound design, the lighting, the usage of the tunnel, the chasing, the hand-to-hand fights—it’s all brilliantly choreographed. During Ritwik and Sitara’s fight, I think the editor has added a little shaky-cam effect just to sell the hits. It’s used when any of the characters begin to spiral out. But it’s not as prolonged as those moments of meltdown. It happens in short bursts, as if to hint that the characters are losing themselves with every hit. Anyway, enough about the technicalities; let’s talk about the plot.
During the fight, one of the goons accidentally stabs Sitara. Ritwik makes a run for it during this moment of confusion. Sitara kills the goon who stabbed her, while another goon goes after Ritwik. Just as he’s about to be turned into a bag of bullets, the BDF arrives and saves him. When Ritwik is brought out of the tunnel, he sees the cavalry, and he heaves a sigh of relief that the money has been stopped from being smuggled. When Ritwik’s family learns that he’s alive, they express relief as well. Sitara returns home and tends to her wounds. When her daughter’s caretaker asks if she can take her daughter to her village for her safety while Sitara takes care of whatever she’s going through, Sitara gives her a pretty stern look. Yes, Sitara kills the caretaker because she knows too much about her, and then she goes on the run with her daughter. I applaud Nivetha Pethuraj’s commitment to portraying Sitara, and she looks amazing while doing everything that she does in Kaala, but it is a very hollow role. That problem plagues every character in the show. However, for someone who is secretly pivotal to the show, Sitara feels surprisingly vapid. She is just there for the shock value. What a shame!
Did Ritwik manage to stop Shakti and Naman’s shipment?
Two days after the incident, Ritwik gets a call from Shakti, who requests that he let go of the cash consignment. Ritwik refuses to do so and reminds her of the advice that she had given him when he was just a child. Shakti begins sobbing because she knows that Ghulam isn’t going to spare her from this massive mess. Soon after that, the Chief Minister of West Bengal confronts Ritwik because he’s going to connect the smuggling to her. She initially says that she’s going to fight Ritwik’s case legally and win. She offers him money, early retirement, or anything else that Ritwik needs to dissuade him from tarnishing the CM’s reputation. Ritwik says that he doesn’t care about monetary gain and that he isn’t really afraid of attacking the CM, legally speaking. However, it seems like he knows that it’s impossible to prove that a politician is corrupt when she is at the height of her powers. So, instead of doing all that, he chooses to clear Shubhendu’s name with a ceremony felicitating him along with his fallen comrades.
In Kaala‘s ending, we see Ritwik remembering the people who have died on the mission. Naman Arya is arrested. However, while waiting for his hearing, he is poisoned by Ghulam’s employee. Shakti is surrounded by Ghulam’s men and shot to death. Well, it’s implied that she’s shot dead. We don’t see a body, and the golden rule of television is that until and unless you see a body, you can’t surely say that that character is dead. I don’t see a reason for Shakti to make it out of that situation alive. But if the writers and Bejoy Nambiar have something more in store for Shakti, they’ll undoubtedly find a way to keep her alive.
There’s a time jump of 2 months after all this, and we see that Ritwik has accepted his brotherly responsibilities towards Aloka, and Aloka has accepted him as her brother. Ritwik and Aloka’s mother silently acknowledge that even though Aloka isn’t Shubhendu’s biological daughter, they are a familial unit now. So, yes, after all that killing and murdering, the web series ends on a relatively happy note as we see Ritwik and Aloka drive off into the light at the end of a tunnel. There is a mid-credits scene where Varsha and Prem, the two bank employees who managed to help Ritwik connect Naman to the shell companies that were being used for illegal transactions, decide to go on a coffee date.
Now, if you are wondering what the end goal of the villains of Kaala was, don’t worry; I am with you on this because even I don’t know what their endgame was. I know that black money was being turned into white money and then smuggled from India to Bangladesh. For what? I don’t think I have missed anything, and if I did, the reasoning behind this whole operation must have been mentioned in passing because if they had emphasized it, I would’ve noticed it. I understood that if the operation failed, the villains (Shakti and Naman) would be killed by the supervillain (Ghulam).
I understood that Shakti had an emotional connection to the smuggling activity because that’s how she met her first love. But since I didn’t know what would happen if a large amount of cash reached Bangladesh, I couldn’t exactly get behind Ritwik’s journey. He didn’t know he was up against the son of the person who tried to kill his father until the last moment. Hence, it wasn’t a revenge quest. Some anonymous guy was nudging him in the right direction. That was why he was doing what he was doing. Is that the whole point of the show? That you should trust your anonymous sources because they can’t turn out to be a long-lost member of your family? That sounds amazing. If you manage to find out the real reason behind this eight-episode slog, please let us all know.