Prasanth Varma (of Awe fame) sets Kalki in the '80s Telangana village of Kollapuram - bell-bottom pants, radio, mention of India's World Cup campaign, and an MLA, who habitually rapes brides. At the heart of it is an investigative officer and encounter specialist Kalki (Dr. Rajasekhar), who nonchalantly struts around trying to untie the knots of politics and power in a conspiracy of smuggling, intensified by a few freak incidents.
Kalki keeps you interested right through, maintaining an intrigue that is important for investigative thrillers. It is not your below-the-belt thriller that suddenly creates new revelations to spruce things up in the story. The audience is not only watching, but also trying to untie the knots themselves. That is why at times, the revelations don't leave you open-mouthed. You have solved it while the officer on scene was chasing clues. Kalki, in other words, sacrifices shock and awe, to keep the audience interested for the most part, and when their conclusions are vindicated at the climax, springs the final surprise - that doesn't come as a hugely baffling reveal (since we have all watched enough cinema, haven't we?). But, we still leave the hall satisfied.
Credit to the team that dug out the story for which Kahaniyan has been credited in the opening reel. At the heart of the movie is a dead, good guy (Sidhu as Shekhar Babu), who has allegedly been killed by his political nemesis, while the audience suspects the dead guy's brother, played by the ominous-looking Ashutosh Rana, who never fails to bring villainy and menace into anything he plays onscreen.
As the movie proceeds, Kalki goes about chasing a string of mysterious events - a village fire, three capsized boats, and some killings, with a journalist Devadatta (Rahul Ramakrishna) as his aide.
Kalki is not mindblowingly good cinema, but it is one of those smartly done movies that give you what you want - a few good moments, a few good laughs, and a story. One really wishes that the sidenote love story of Kalki and Padma (Adah Sharma) had been totally avoided, as it doesn't add any value to the movie. One also really wishes that a needless item song had been pruned away too.
Barring those two digressions, most of the movie gives characters the time to breathe and do their bit, whether it is Shatru, Nassar, Sidhu or Nandita. Above all, Rajasekhar with this movie and Garuda Vega, his previous one, seems to be heading on a smart track - that of the ageing hero, who connects missing pieces (no man has played cop more than this guy, surely?) but largely lets the story steal the thunder. It suits him too, for the couple of fights this movie had were already overbearing. Let's be honest, the audience doesn't need Rajasekhar to show off his macho self with hyper-stylised fights, wearing heavy makeup and a wig. Cinema has evolved enough to appreciate good acting and a smart, tight script.
Two things really stand out in this movie - the camera work by Shivendra - mixing old world charm, and a neo-noir style of shooting. The other is Rahul Ramakrishna's acting - he effortlessly blends his comic timing with genuinely good acting. Would be nice to see him in a well-scripted role one day, but for now he does a mighty fine job. Also, a round of applause for the background music by Shravan, especially the hiphop bit played for Rajasekhar's entry. Quite stylish.
This is a movie that will not leave you gasping for breath, but at the same time, keeps you hooked. How many films can currently boast of that? Yes, it has a few plot loopholes and hashed editing and back-story bits; the narration at times meanders because of the director trying to cook up more suspense than needed. But, nothing should take away from an overall, above-average effort.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.