In both “Madras” and “Kaala”, the heroes may be Kaali (Karthi) and Kaala (Rajinikanth) for the movies credits. But I tend to think that the main character is actually the area of the city that each of these films depicts.
That’s why Pa.Ranjith and his cinematographer, Murali, chose these extreme long shots on the areas, Vyasarpadi in North Madras for Madras, Dharavi in Mumbai for Kaala. On the one hand, these urban overviews (probably realized with a drone technique) allow to stage the city as a character in its own right, to personify it. On the other hand, they are also the best way for the audience to understand that social inequalities are also spatial. Indeed, both Vyasarpadi and Dharavi are stigmatized as the spatial margins of Chennai and Mumbai.
And it’s exactly this degraded and negative image that Pa. Ranjith fights through his films by focusing on these poor and excluded areas, by making them the real heroes and by exploring their identities. Indeed, the identity of area is deeply rooted in the lives of its inhabitants : “Enga ooru Madras’u, idhukku naanga thaane adress’u”. Thus, by depicting the life, the solidarity and the beauty of Vyasarpadi and Dharavi people, Pa Ranjith puts light on the strenght of the collective and not only on the individual heroism, as too often in the Tamil cinema.
That’s how beautiful and how necessary are Madras and Kaala. Staging the city as a character obviously reminds me of many movies but above all, of one of my favorite series, The Wire, in which, five seasons through, we are invited to explore Baltimore in all angles and finally to fall in love with the city.
▪️Films : Madras / Kaala
▪️Director : Pa. Ranjith
▪️Cinematography : Murali G.
+ The Wire, by David Simon.