'Kasargold' review: Whiz-bang tale of ever-escalating menace

Kasargold is a fairly gripping, anxiety-inducing thriller that succeeds at creating a sense of claustrophobia despite being set outdoors
Poster of Asif Ali’s 'Kasargold' .
Poster of Asif Ali’s 'Kasargold' .

Before I begin, I want to inform readers that this review is of the film with the original ending, unlike the abrupt and incomplete one screened at Friday’s early shows due to an unforeseen technical glitch. The final version, with the complete and much superior ending, was being updated in theatres at the time of writing this. 

Kasargold has an intriguing prologue. A father narrates a fable to his son. It ends with a cruel twist you don’t see coming. It serves a meaningful purpose—encapsulating the entire mood of Kasargold, which is basically this prologue on acid. Speaking of, every character in this film behaves as though on crack, beginning with Asif Ali’s Alby, who spends most of the film’s runtime acting like a wild animal, yelling, his fists itching to punch somebody.

Fortunately, the actor doesn’t go to the unbearable extremes of his performance in Jis Joy’s Innale Vare. In Kasargold, this performance is offset moderately by a lead with equal footing in the form of Sunny Wayne’s Faizal—the film’s crucial emotional anchor— and a multitude of supporting players with nefarious intentions and sub-plots that sometimes work in favour of the film and rarely against. 

A minor vehicular collision sets off the film’s events, which throb with ever-escalating menace. Populating the film are enough sub-plots, characters, and chaos, thereby making it appear larger than it really is. The construction of it all works to a large extent, save for the few areas where you start wondering whether this much intensity is necessary. For those who are familiar with the films of Oliver Stone (Savages) or Tony Scott (True Romance), Kasargold is essentially a Malayali version of that kind of storytelling, where characters are constantly on the run, trying to evade perilous encounters and get out in one piece. 

There is a healthy give and take between style and substance, but Kasargold is predominantly about greed and the extent to which some go for survival. Given the shaky dynamic between the characters played by Asif Ali and Sunny Wayne, the events of the prologue remain at the back of our minds, and the film does a fairly decent job of toying with our expectations as to how their arc will end.

The unpredictability factor comes from having an assortment of shady characters played by the likes of Vinayakan (as a force of subdued menace), Siddique, PP Kunjhikrishnan (actor, Nna Thaan Case Kodu), Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval (director, Nna Thaan Case Kodu), Malavika Sreenath, Deepak Parambol, Abhiram Radhakrishnan and others.

Deals get made; locations, costumes and vehicles get replaced; alliances get tested; and some individuals get eliminated in brutal fashion. The film wears its gritty heart on its sleeve, and save for the occasional energy-dipping, attention-wavering portions, director Mridul Nair and editor Manoj Kannoth (Nna Thaan Case Kodu) manage to impart a whiz-bang rhythm to most sequences, which help the film stay afloat to a large extent. Vishnu Vijay’s refreshing, commendably non-intrusive score also helps keep repetition fatigue at bay.

Whose loyalty matters? Who will save the other’s hide? Who will remain alive in the end? Who will play avenger? A lot of questions, the answers to which are provided by the finale (the right one, that is). But I must admit to getting confused by a few narrative choices, like having a voiceover of Asif Ali narrating some key moments, which made me wonder when the narration actually began. There is also a bit of confusion as to who the loot—the one which lands in different hands—belonged to. 

These minor complaints aside, Kasargold is a fairly gripping, anxiety-inducing thriller that succeeds at creating a sense of claustrophobia, despite being set outdoors, by the time it gets to the closing credits. Just don’t forget to ask the theatres if what they are screening is the final cut because the original ending is more effective than the ‘eye-opening’ one they screened during the morning shows.

Film: Kasargold
Director: Mridul Nair
Cast: Asif Ali, Sunny Wayne, Vinayakan, Deepak Parambol, Siddique
Rating: 3.5/5

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