Sarath’s Ko 2 – an in-name-only sequel that carries over only one character from the earlier film, Chief Minister Yogeeswaran (Prakash Raj) – borrows its premise from the Telugu film Prathinidhi, but Tamil viewers will instantly recall Cheran’s Desiya Geetham. It’s the same one-line plot: the CM is kidnapped. But it’s not quite the same movie. Desiya Geetham took almost an hour to even bring up the idea, while Ko 2 kicks off with the kidnapping. Actually, we get to know about the kidnapping even before the movie begins, as a disclaimer announces that it is not the filmmaker’s intent to encourage the abduction of political figures. What sad, strange, terribly literal times we live in, apparently unable to separate fiction from truth. Had Arangetram been made today, would we get a similar warning, that the film does not exhort impoverished Brahmin women to become sex workers?
The kidnapping isn’t shown – we’re told about it. This takes the thrill element away and also sets the tone for the film. Ko 2 isn’t something you watch from the edge of your seat. This is a gentler vigilante movie. Think of it as a Shankar entertainer without the bombast. There’s even a Second Half Motive-explaining Shankar Flashback™. It involves an honest politician played by Nassar, who played the crooked CM in Desiya Geetham. The crooked politician duties fall on Ilavarasu’s shoulders – his cocky, I’ll-be-out-soon attitude when led away by the cops is the film’s most chilling moment. Ko 2 is an improvement on Desiya Geetham – it doesn’t preach. It folds its ideas into dialogues, and a good part of the film is a series of conversations between the CM and his kidnapper Kumaran, played by Bobby Simha.
I’m in two minds about Bobby Simha. He’s an affable presence, but he cannot pull off the “hero” things. I didn’t buy him in the action stretch where he beats up a few bad men. His T-shirt screams, “Have respect or loose your teeth,” and you feel it may not be a spelling mistake after all. A real hero would make you lose your teeth; Bobby Simha would simply loosen them. Then there’s the duet where he strides across the screen in slo-mo, wearing sunglasses and a smile. But you feel for him. There are only so many “baby-faced gangster” roles, and he has to move on. At least the song is lovely, with a chime that instantly worms into the ear. Composer Leon James has a 70s rock musician’s sensibility – he takes familiar templates (the love duet, the inspirational anthem) and makes them fresh again.
Ko 2 is a nice-enough change from the macho vigilante movies we usually get. It’s probably the election-season effect, but I got all warm-fuzzy watching a common man teach a lesson to a member of the ruling class. The punchy dialogues cover the Swachh Bharat Tax, the recent Chennai floods, and the depressing fact that basics like education and health are being increasingly privatised while liquor distribution stays with the government. Even the signoff of the TV channel featured in the film is lovely wishful thinking: Poruppum podhu nalamum. Prakash Raj is unusually subdued, and the other performers chip in as well. Bala Saravanan and John Vijay (in strangely accented English that makes you wonder if he learnt the language watching Kamal Haasan films from the 1980s) contribute some laughs, and Nikki Galrani is surprisingly effective. Her performance is essentially a placard that reads: “Look, some of us Punju-looking girls can learn lines and not burst into ecstatic squeals upon sighting an idli.”
- Ko = king; also see here
- Prathinidhi = see here
- Desiya Geetham = see here
- Arangetram = see here
- Poruppum podhu nalamum = responsibility and public welfare
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