One wonders if Kaal is more than yet another thriller on the block but when one is engrossed so deeply in the thrill-a-minute caper, one hardly has any time to wonder any more. Based and shot in Jim Corbett National Park (the high profile producer duo of Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan are also facing some problems on this count), the movie is a high quality thriller that tries its best to pack some high quality stuff in its short duration of two hours and sans any songs (well..apart from the title song featuring the newest Item-boy, Shahrukh Khan, of course).
Kaal is the story of Orbit park, one of the biggest tiger conservatories in this part of the land, which has recently become rife with reports of killings of tourists and researchers by man-eater tigers (by the way, I always thought that tigers were called baagh in Hindi and the word sher was reserved for lions but apparently, the film makers do not think so...but that is besides the point, anyways). Kris and Rhea (played by John Abraham And Esha Deol), two researchers associated with the Discovery Channel (or was that Nat Geo?), think that something fishy is going on in the National Park and they decide to find out more about it.
Dev (Vivek Oberoi) and Ishika (Lara Dutta) are off to Saajid's farmhouse with their friends Saajid and Vishal, when their car breaks down and the person who offers them a lift also offers them the adventure of a lifetime. Baggha invites them to spend their vacations in the Orbit park, which he says, can offer many avenues for the entertainment of members of the group, whether it be silent corners for the romantic couple or opportunities at big game hunting for the restless and gun-savvy Saajid. The two teams of tourist and researchers, as expected, collide and start moving together till they come across a life threatening situation with nothing between them and death...well, nothing except Kali Pratap Singh. The dramatic entry of Kali (Ajay Devgan) puts the story in a tailspin, from which the viewer is able to escape only at the end of two engrossing hours of dead bodies, screams, sudden chillers, and of course, the group's Kaal...their imminent death.
To say more about the story would be killing the fun but let it suffice that the twists and turns are not too dramatic and can be rather made out from the way the story progresses. Anyway, speaking of the story, I must say that the screenplay is as taut as it could be and with no songs to interfere with the flow, the chills and thrills of the movie leave you with hardly any time to breathe. The cinematography is brilliant, especially because of the light-and-darkeness balance that is maintained throughout the movie. Generally, in a story like this, the director and the cinematographer tend to be a little partial towards darkness and though it does add to the mood, the expressions of the actors have to lose out in the bargain. Moreover, the forest and its trails could not have been captured so beautifully, had it been nights all along.
The music of the movie has been topping the charts and this is one time (after Bhoot's moderate success) that the soundtrack of the movie has come out and got its share of acclaim despite the movie not actually carrying the song videos, a la Hollywood. The title track is played during the titles and with Shahrukh and Malaika shaking their legs, the item song draws its share of whistles, and so does the Tauba Tauba song that plays at the end of the movie. The rest of the movie impresses with the background score...whether it is the "eye of the tiger" foot tapper or the just-when-you-thought-nothing-would-happen bang.
The debutante director, Soham, has done some really good work with his actors and even the normally wooden Esha Deol can be credited with screaming at just the right intensity. John Abraham as the serious, brooding researcher and Vivek Oberoi, as the short tempered, spoilt brat are just right and give the right amount of histrionic contribution. Lara Dutta is good, too...especially in the scenes where she is shown disbelieving some tales...she does it with a kind of arrogant and sarcastic smile that does its job without a word being spoken. Once again, Ajay Devgan walks away with the performance of the movie. The actor has been going leaps and bounds and if it is a serious and sarcastic role, there is no one to beat him (somebody please tell him to have a teeth job done...or ask him not to smile...and given the kind of roles he has been doing, he can be the next big thing after Amitabh's Jai in Sholay).
The only place where the movie fails is when the director and the screenplay writer try to create the suspense out of nowhere. There are quite a lot of moments in the movie that do give rise to the Whodunnit question but showing people smile cunningly and others giving them the side glance is not just my idea of trying to throw suspicion on characters. With effects, background score, performances matching the best in the business, there was no need to go the Gumnaam days of melodrama to keep the audience on their toes...the typical Hollywood style of cool and I-care-a-damn expressions might just have been suited for this kind of a movie (of course, the Barjatyas can't dream of using it).
Before I end, two questions that you will understand only if you have seen the movie and will not spoil your fun if you haven't (well, not at least till the scene comes in the movie, which is right at the end, when the suspense is all but over)...
Why does a Sony Handycam differentiate between voice and image?
Why does the mirror not differentiate between object and non-object?
Kaal is the movie to watch in the coming days if you are, even in the least, given to thrills...or are partial towards some good cinematography and background music...or are a nature freak with some strong views on poaching and tourist intrusion on animal territory...or if you want to know the reason why I asked the questions above and want to give me your version of the answer. :-)