Out of the two “K.G.F.” movies, Chapter 2 was clearly the better one because Prashanth Neel actually listened to all the criticisms that were leveled at Chapter 1 and decided to improve his filmmaking. “K.G.F. Chapter 1” was an unwatchable mess. Every single scene was edited like a trailer for an action movie. The action sequences were so choppily put together that you had to pause every single frame to see what was going on. If it wasn’t for the screen presence of Rocking Star Yash and Ramachandra Raju, that movie would’ve flopped hard, and we wouldn’t have gotten a second chapter with a third one on the way. Now, guess which “K.G.F.” film the makers of “Kabzaa” chose as its inspiration? That’s right, they went for “Chapter 1.” And that’s not its biggest concern. The worst thing about the film is that, despite being a very obvious rip-off, it doesn’t have a single actor with the charisma who can convince you to tolerate over 2 hours of visual and auditory noise.
Written and directed by R. Chandru, “Kabzaa” opens with Bhargava Bakshi (Kiccha Sudeepa) telling a story about the “rowdy” that the criminals of his city idolize. His name was Arkeshwara (Upendra). Apparently, he’s the son of a freedom fighter named Amreshwara, who used to rule Sangram Nagar in 1945. His late brother was named Sankeshwara (Suneel Puranik), and his mother was Tulasi Devi (Sudha). Amreshwara and his men were killed by the British and Dhaka’s army. This caused Tulasi Devi to flee with Arkeshwara and Sankeshwara. They made ends meet by making Indian flags and Gandhi caps. In 1971, Arkeshwara became an officer-in-training at the Visakhapatnam Air Force Academy. He was in love with Madhumathi (Shriya Saran) and wanted to marry her. Madhumathi’s father was Veer Bahadur (Murali Sharma), who was in a battle for power with Khaleed (Danish Akhtar Saifi). Sankeshwara killed Khaleed’s son to stop him from harassing the common folk. So, Khaleed killed Sankeshwara. And that caused Arkeshwara to become a gangster. There is plenty more nonsensical stuff going on in the plot. But these are the points that are important if you’re taking this film seriously.
As mentioned before, “Kabzaa” spends the entirety of its 2 hours ripping off “K.G.F. Chapter 1.” It genuinely feels like Chandru and the rest of his team watched Neel’s movie for a week straight. They loved the living hell out of it. So, they decided to remake it, but with different characters and a slightly different plot. When they took a break, they probably watched “Raid 2,” “The Godfather,” and, weirdly enough, “Behind Enemy Lines,” and decided to copy the jail fight, the car shootout, and the tripwire bomb sequences, respectively. If I am being honest, that would’ve been forgivable if the story had been comprehensible and the characters were synonymous with the words impressive, larger-than-life, or impactful. What did we get instead? An anti-hero who whines a lot. A primary villain who whines a lot. A secondary villain who constantly flexes his muscles and whines. And a bunch of other secondary and tertiary villains who whine a lot. So, by the time they partake in any action-heavy moments, you are too exhausted to enjoy them. Also, as if all that wasn’t enough, there is so much stereotyping going on when it comes to the Muslim characters that it is obnoxious. At this point in time, if you can’t make a movie without caricaturing a community, then don’t make a movie in the first place.
Just saying that “Kabzaa” is an assault on the senses would be an understatement because it’s so much worse than just that. Every second of this film feels like it wants to insult you for choosing to watch it instead of every other film that has been released this week in theaters or on various O.T.T. platforms. There’s no way in hell that the filmmakers don’t know that a lot of the scenes are unwatchable. Not because they are improperly directed, or the writing is bad. But because they are lit, color-corrected, and then edited in such a horrible way, you literally cannot see what is happening on the screen. I usually sit five to six rows away from the canvas because I feel that the sense of immersion is at its optimum in that position. And that strategy failed in this case since every gaudy and garish frame lasted on the screen for about a tenth of a second before moving to the next one, thereby giving me whiplash. Usually, movies have one intermission. However, if the filmmakers truly care for their audience, they should put two intervals in “Kabzaa” so that they can make it to the end alive.
As for the actors, it’s good to see that Murali Sharma is getting so much work. Between 2021 and 2023, the man has been in around 22 films. And he’s always giving it his best. Shriya Saran is too good for “Kabzaa.” She deserves better. She gets to wear good sarees, though. So maybe that’s a win for her. The rest of the cast is absolutely atrocious, with Upendra being the crown jewel. This man doesn’t have an ounce of charm in his body. I admit that Chandru is not doing a good job of presenting him. But there are a lot of moments that would have benefited from that extra push from the actor, and Upendra gives absolutely nothing. From the way he walks to the way he shoots his guns, it’s all so limp. Whenever you look at him, you can see that he isn’t convinced about the role he’s playing. And if the actor isn’t convincing, how is the audience going to invest in the character? Well, he has a knock-off “Sulthana” song that he can listen to on a loop in case he gets to play Arkeshwara over a long period of time. Oh yes, did I mention that the film ends with a tease for “Kabzaa 2”?
In conclusion, no, I don’t recommend watching “Kabzaa.” If you want to watch a gangster flick with the ability to turn your brain into mush in a non-enjoyable way, then just go for “K.G.F. Chapter 1.” If you don’t want such an experience, just take a nice, relaxing nap. But, for the love of everything that’s magical about cinema, stay away from “Kabzaa.”