Bullet-point Report: Ko

Posted on April 22, 2011


  • If someone wants to make a case for the abolishment of song and dance from our cinema, Ko would be Exhibit A. A needless love track necessitates needless love songs, and even the one song that would seem to be necessary – the one in the flashback – is shot so arbitrarily as to be rendered needless.
  • But away from the love track, away from the songs, away from the flatulent first half where pretty much nothing happens, you can see why KV Anand wanted to make this movie. The thriller in his mind was probably the one that begins in the second half, the story of an ordinary man who finds himself in over his head as he unearths an extraordinary conspiracy.
  • But, of course, you cannot have an “ordinary man” as the hero of a mainstream Tamil movie, so he gets a snazzy bike (too snazzy, you think, for a photographer with a newspaper) on which he makes snazzy action-moves. Even towards the end, where an “ordinary man” would have gathered the incriminating evidence and fled, this hero sticks around to fight the villain, mano a mano.
  • All of which leads to the question: How do you infuse the slow-building mechanics of the paranoia thriller (say, Brian de Palma’s Blow Out, where John Travolta was an “ordinary” sound effects guy who uncovers a conspiracy, or Alan J Pakula’s The Parallax View, where Warren Beatty played an “ordinary” news reporter who uncovers a conspiracy) into the larger-than-life, hero-centric Tamil movie? Is this even possible? Or is Ko just not very successful (though watchable on a vague, corner-of-the-eye level, thanks largely to the adrenalin), and there’s perhaps another filmmaker who can make this work?
  • The Spider-Man movies, perhaps, yield a better template. After all, they’re based on a newspaper photographer who’s as much a superhero as the Tamil film hero.
  • Random Question No. 1: Why plant a villain’s mole in the newspaper office and reduce him to a silly punch line for office jokes? For all the menace he unleashes, he could just as easily have been the film’s comedian.
  • Random Question No. 2: With all the following-the-leads capabilities required of the hero, why not make him a news reporter instead of a photographer? But maybe this is a point only journalists will fully appreciate, being aware of the function of the photographer in the newsroom hierarchy. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m just saying it’s there.
  • That said, it’s amusing how a profession as unglamorous as journalism can be made to look in the movies. My parents should see Ko. They’ll think I lead James Bond’s life. Pussy galore, indeed.
  • Random Question No. 3: A tripod in the middle of a forest? Seriously?
  • Random Question No. 4: Is there anyone still interested in songs shot in National Geographic locations? With choreographed one-two-three-four steps? In the middle of two dramatic scenes?
  • Random Question No. 5: Is Harris Jayaraj ever going to step out of his comfort zone?
  • Is the heroine a fearless reporter or a damsel in distress? Make up your freaking mind.
  • There’s a hint of a more sophisticated movie every time the photographer-hero encounters a tragedy (a burning hut, a man with a lost limb) and elects to take pictures instead of actually doing something to help. He is, at once, providing a valuable service by letting society see, through his pictures, what he is seeing, and reducing himself to a mere voyeur.
  • The big reveal about a key character, I think, could have been the interval point, which is instead a chaotic mess that makes you wonder if anything in the first half was worth the price of the ticket.
  • Ko is a series of big scenes with no transitions, no segues, no scenes that just stop to smell the scenery. But that, probably, could be said of many other movies as well. And the frequent nudges to topical/political headlines do little more than remind us that Tamil masala movies work best when set in an anything-happens la-la land.
  • I still haven’t figured out what the title means.

Copyright ©2011 Baradwaj Rangan, The Hindu. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.