Ko is a stylish well made film no doubt. The film, mounted lavishly, boasts of some smart dialogue, well designed set pieces, songs shot in stunning locations and decent performances. But commercial entertainer or not, can a film make an honourable martyr of a man who manipulates his way to the top, organizes a bomb blast at his own political rally which kills 30 innocent people and injures 100s in the worst manner possible to generate a sympathy wave? And even if the politician gets his comeuppance in the end, the hero justifies this act at the end by saying that a lie that helps the bigger picture (as he claims with the film’s convoluted logic) is ok! Is this what we’re coming to?
Ashwin (Jiiva) is a photo journalist working in a Tamil daily, who becomes a hero when he takes photos of escaping Naxal Bank robbers and gets them arrested. He gets attracted to new journalist, Renuka (Karthika), and her to him even as a fellow colleague, Saro (Piaa Bajpai), likes him. Knowing of Saro’s feelings, Renuka avoids coming close to Ashwin till Saro realizes the truth and tells them they deserve each other. Meanwhile, the State Elections are approaching and young idealistic leader Vasanthan (Ajmal Ameer) is standing with his team against the wily games of the ruling party Chief Minister (Prakash Raj) and the Chief opposition leader (Kota Srinivasa Rao) who will stop at nothing to be elected. As Ashwin and Renuka keep exposing the shortcomings in both men, Vasanthan starts climbing up the popularity ladder. All sorts of tactics are used to get Vasanthan out of the race including a bomb blast at a rally he addresses where 30 people are killed and 100s injured. Riding the sympathy wave, Vasanthan is elected and becomes the country’s youngest Chief Minister at 28. And as his team takes to power, comes the news that Vasanthan has agreed to free 30 arrested Naxals including those identified by Ashwin. And even worse, it comes to Ashwin’s light that he engineered all the attacks on himself and even the bomb blast at the rally…
Much of Ko’s problems are to do with the serious parts and the issues it tackles. Yes, the film goes deeper than KV Anand’s previous film Ayan (2009) as it explores political games, pressing Naxal issues, press ethics etc against the backdrop of approaching State elections. Scenes showing voters being given voting money give the film instant topicality given the recent events that have just unfolded in the just held Tamil Nadu State elections. But given the film’s final stand over Vasanthan’s character, it’s just better filmmakers do not take up issues if they are going to deal with them so superficially. How can you give a simplistic argument that his team, who knows him from college, did not know that he, their Chief Minister, was actually evil, and they are young and good people and if the Minister is exposed, the Government will unfairly fall keeping youth away from Politics. C’mon! In fact, I did not want to divulge this plot point or Vasanthan’s true character but am honestly just gobsmacked with the stand the film has taken.
That said, Ko is otherwise actually not bad with its typical mainstream elements. The narrative moves along energetically right from the eye-catching opening credits of various photographs and maintains its energy with enough ups and downs right through to the end although the film could have done with being about 20 minutes shorter. The scenes in the newspaper office, the love triangle between Ashwin, Renuka and Saro, the lighter moments (though admittedly some are silly involving Saro’s young admirer) are all generally well worked out though Ashwin has to carry the hero’s burden of being too superhumanly good to be true – probably a fantasy of KV Anand, an ex photo journalist himself. And being a person well aware of today’s techie age, he uses the advancements in technology in today’s living and in the characters’ life-styles to give the film a modern, hep, up to date look.
On the flip side, the much hyped song billed as Kollywood’s answer to the Om Shanti Om (2007) multi-star song falls totally flat as the cameos by stars Suriya, Tamannaah, Karthi, Jayam Ravi and others are wasted. It is almost as if for their portions they were there for an extremely short period, just asked to do what they wanted to, the camera covering whatever it could and then clumsily putting it together into some short of shape on the edit table. Not happening!
The script too suffers from typical mainstream problems and one such issue always has been how to bring out the characters’ backgrounds. For instance, after the sequence where the Naxal Bank robbers are caught, we see how proud his parents are of Ashwin but after barring maybe once in an early song montage, they vanish from the film never to be seen again and so we never see the effects of their darling son’s bigger and more important (and even dangerous) deeds. Of course, we have no idea what they do and what really is Ashwin’s family history. Surely, relevant characters and that too those direct to the hero, if used, must be integrated purposefully into the storyline. One remembers even in Naan Mahaan Alla (2010), the heroine, no less, conveniently vanishes from the second half as the love story didn’t fit in with the main storyline!
The performances, by and large, go with the grain of the film. Jiiva creates a likeable character even if uni-dimensional and like a good Tamil film hero is always at the right place at the right time. Ajmal Ameer makes the strongest impact as the wolf-in-sheep clothing idealist who becomes the country’s youngest Chief Minister – ironic in a state where the current CM is almost 87! He is helped as his character is easily the most interesting with various shades in the film. Karthika does reasonably well and looks pretty even if her styling and overdone make up in the songs is none too impressive. Piaa overdoes the chirpy bits but comes into her own in the more serious bits. Kota Srinivasa Rao and Prakash Raj could have played their roles in their sleep. The actor playing the upright editor deserves a special mention.
Technically, the film scores in its rich production design and stylish camerawork. Anthony’s editing is actually reined in with his typical cuts and revealing plot details later on kept to a minimum and only as and when necessary. The first action sequence where Jiiva chases the Naxal bank robbers – though admittedly ‘filmi’ – as he does all sorts of stunts on his bike is the action highlight of the film. The sound design and the background score, both, like in most Tamil mainstream films, are loud and obvious while Harris Jayaraj’s songs are decent enough with Enamo Aedho being the stand out composition. The picturizations are just so-so as stunning locations are the backdrops of some pretty unimaginative choreography. The placements of the songs is poor and they only bring the narrative to a grinding halt.
Finally for all its pluses (and minuses), Ko is a big, big downer for me as I refuse to accept it for the stand the film takes with Ajmal’s character even as it sugar-coats it in the guise of making a case of having honesty and youth in the political arena. When a filmmaker deals with a serious and volatile issue, his responsibility towards the stand he finally takes is all the more delicate and he must assess the various implications of his action. I wonder if KV Anand and his writer duo Subha have thought this one through.
PS: I had initially still rated the film 40% only for its making positives at the cost of the stand it took but turns out it isn’t even very original – much of the film is mishmashed from the Russell Crowe starrer State of Play (2009). Therefore, I’m bringing down the rating to 30% on this one.
Tamil, Action, Drama, Color