| K.Balachander's fascination with out-of-the-ordinary characters and relationships gets
another display with Kalki, his last big-screen outing. During his long and
illustrious career, KB (as he is commonly known) has dealt with human relations at various
levels. His movies have primarily been character studies that dissected the human mind
after putting them in extraordinary emotional situations.
From the conundrum thrown up by a father-son pair marrying a daughter-mother pair in Aboorva
Raagangal to the extra-marital union of two people drawn together by music in Sindhu Bhairavi, he has fashioned
memorable movies around the different aspects of human emotions.
KB's movies used to be famous for the "Balachander touch" - his trademark shots which are gone in a flash but make us smile at
their innovativeness. The waterfall flowing backwards to indicate a flashback in Achamillai Achamillai, signalling
intermission with an answer paper marked 50/100 in Nootrukku Nooru, shot of a cow chewing the cud when a character
is telling an old story in Vaaname Ellai are some of his touches in older movies. Kalki is sadly lacking in
this. If this points to a drought in his ideas, it stands to reason that this movie was his swan song.
Chellammaa(Geetha), a singer, is wedded to a chauvinistic, sadistic industrialist Prakash(Prakashraj). She is unable to beget
a child and hence is the target of hurting words from Prakash and his mother. When he prohibits her from singing, it is the
last straw for her and they divorce. He marries Karpagam(Renuka), a doormat wife, while Chellammaa stays single, with a
cook Kokila(ex-newsreader Fathima Babu in her first movie appearance) around to help her. Kalki(Sruthi) works in an ad agency
and is relentlessly pursued by co-worker and model Paranjothi(Rehman) but she not only rejects him but debunks love and
sentiments. Chellammaa becomes friends with Kalki after a few encounters and Kalki moves in as a paying guest. But she
strikes up a friendship with Prakash and as the result of an affair with him, she ends up bearing his child.
While KB's strength of an interesting lead character is again apparent, he has not applied
the same care to the supporting characters. Aside from Kalki and Chellammaa, everyone else is a caricature.
The chauvinistic husband, the meek wife, the lovelorn hero - all of them are standard cinema cardboard figures with a
one-track character development. But Kalki is developed in such a way that we sympathise with her. She shows much more
distinctiveness than the flat gallery of individuals surrounding her. Apart from her final 'sacrifice', smaller
sequences like her participating in a controversial advertisement and her relationship with Paranjothi too work well
in building up her character. Infact, the character with the strongest presence, other than Kalki, is probably's Kokila's
husband who isn't seen throughout. With Kokila's frequent mentions about him and his advices, he is always in the
background (the same tactic was also used in Thullaadha Manamum Thullum where
Vijay's mother was never seen but was a strong presence through her letters).
Geetha's Chellamma is the other well-realised character. Woman power has always been the centerpoint of KB's movies and
things are no different here. Geetha is a strong character who opts to get out of a marriage that wasn't working and
lead her own life. But she harbors no ill-feelings towards her successor and the scene where they meet in the jewellery
shop is well-handled to bring out her character.
Cheap theatrics and silly melodrama abound and there is a lack of genuine sentiment. The frequent use of raw words like
"vesi" and "maladi" made me shift uncomfortably in my seat. KB's main motive here seems to be to shock the audience. This
is especially seen during the scenes involving Prakashraj and Renuka. She is shockingly subservient and the way he treats
her is chauvinistic and sometimes, even sadistic. While this works at some places, the net effect is to remove any
semblance of realism from most of the movie. The latter portions resemble a vendetta tale with Prakashraj getting his
due in the same way that he illtreated both his wives.
Sruthi's final act, which almost mirrors the ending in Sindhu Bhairavi, did not make a lot of sense to me. It
saddles Geetha with a responsibility which she did not ever ask for.
The credit for Kalki goes mostly to debutante Sruthi who delivers the best performance in the movie. There are several
scenes, like the scene where she hits Paranjothi for playing with her emotions, which she salvages single-handedly and if
her final volte-face doesn't seem too absurd, the credit goes to her performance during this scene. Renuka is the other
performer who delivers. Frequently seen on the small screen, she has moved smoothly to the big screen earning sympathy as
the innocent, meek wife. Prakashraj adds nothing new to his portrayal of the chauvinistic husband. Fathima Babu has an
impressive debut, performing with confidence. Geetha has never shown a lot of range and I have found her performance to
be similar in whatever role she performs.
Ilaiyaraja's teaming with KB for the first time in Sindhu Bhairavi resulted in an
unforgettable soundtrack. Sadly, Deva has not risen to the occasion here. The soundtrack
is mediocre at best with Singapore Selai... being the only catchy number.
Balachander has now shifted his attention to the small screen and seems to be enjoying
the same kind of success he got on the big screen with his serials being among the most
popular on TV. But his legacy on the big screen will not be forgotten easily though one
can't help wishing he had taken his final bow with a better movie than Kalki.