Prashant Neel’s KGF, a two-part Kannada production dubbed in four languages, borrows themes and motifs from Hindi action movies from the 1970s, the Mad Max films and the Baahubali franchise. The resultant 155-minute mixture is an over-the-top and prolonged saga that feels like an endless attempt to mine good material where there is none.
The story, which is narrated by a journalist (Anant Nag), centres on the ultra-masculine Rocky (Yash), who is destined for greatness. Rocky’s transformation begins in his childhood in Mysore, where he sees his mother die because she cannot afford treatment. The young Rocky arrives in Bombay, the city of dreams, to find a way to fulfill his mother’s dying wish that he will be a rich man when he grows up.
In Mumbai, we see the first instance of Rocky’s valour, virility and quest for power, which earns him the attention of a gold smuggler. Rocky soon becomes known as an assassin with unabashed bloodlust, and he is recruited to kill the heir-in-waiting of a giant gold mine in Kolar, which is run by the oppressive evil father-son duo Suryavardhan (BS Avinash) and Garuda (Ramachandra Raju).
The gold mine workers are treated like slaves and guarded by tattooed guards straight out of the Mad Max films. The mine owner even commissions a giant statue of himself, as did Bhallaladeva in the first Baahubali movie. There is a desperate need for a hero and a saviour – a task that is right up Rocky’s alley.
KGF dedicates its first chapter to the legend of Rocky. The film is littered with stylised sequences that show Yash walking in slow motion and delivering punchline after punchline, which include such gems as “You may be bad but I’m your dad” and “Rocky is like fire and his enemies are like petrol. The more the enemies, the more Rocky seethes with fury.” The soaring background score reminds us, in case we had forgotten, of Rocky’s prowess.
Yash’s performance rarely varies throughout the film: a slight head tilt, a deadpan expression and tufts of hair falling on his face as he stares grimly at the camera. In a film that is obsessed with its hero, there is little scope for the rest of the cast, which includes Srinidhi Shetty, Vashishta N Simha and Achyuth Kumar. Perhaps the second chapter will make amends.