Film Review: Kaafila

Film: Kaafila

Director: Ammtoje Mann

Banner: Mannerism Films

Co-Producer: Amrinder Singh

Cast: Sunny Deol, Ammtoje Mann, Sudesh Berry, Sandeep Kang, Sana Nawaz, Ashish Duggal, Chandan Anand, Girish Jain, Sachin Parekh

Rating: 2/5

A film, which tackles the controversial subject of illegal immigration, Kaafila is action-packed. In an attempt to raise and answer potent questions of nationality, patriotism, divisive borders and one’s own identity, director Ammtoje Mann goes the whole hog of commercial cinema without leaving out a trick in the book. What gets cooked up is a below-average masala film and sadly that is what Kaafila is all about.

The film is a saga of adventures telling a tale of a group of immigrants, who leave India for the UK, with dreams of big bucks and gold-paved roads. Their dreams turn to stone at the first touch of brutal reality (in the form of unscrupulous agents), their persevering efforts to continue despite all odds and their journey back home forms the rest of the film. A good measure of mafiosi problems, border issues and a hero who has nothing to lose add the bulk to the already bursting at the seams film.

That is one of the film’s major problems. It tries to say too much through too many characters and too many incidents. Some of which remain with you, some forgettable. The script is not as much at fault here as is the vision behind it. It tries to solve the problem of illegal immigration at all levels, social, personal and political, which leaves it as impactful as every other Sunny pot-boiler that screams patriotism. The script is tight and racy and the screenplay engaging even though immature and convenient in many places.

The fact that there are a variety of first-timers to grace the screen works for and against the film. It helps in keeping the energy high at all times but the lack of experience makes a marked difference to the scenes, especially the emotional ones. Pakistani actress Sana and Mona Lisa look gorgeous and befitting for the role. But while Sana delivers a controlled and watchable performance, Mona Lisa only manages to simper and leaves you feeling glad that she is around for only a while. The rest of the cast is too much of a mixed bag to attract individual attention but deliver within the limited scope of their characters. One does not go to a Sunny film for the acting and that’s why Sunny never disappoints. His style, his brooding manner and his man-of-steel persona make you realise why this guy works and remains a hit after 24 years and 60 films.

The cinematography of the film does complete justice to the subject. The film that has been shot widely in Tajakistan, Russia, Canada, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan is true to the landscape of these lands except that Afghanistan is tellingly digitally re-touched. But they greys and browns of Eastern Europe are as revealing as the colors of India. A couple of open-air shots are very badly lit despite the vast availability of natural light. Action sequences are packed with amazing movement and are quite racy, thanks to some adept editing but there are too many gaps in technical terms to make the sequences look convincing. Avoidable close-ups are included. Weapons, men and vehicles appear from nowhere continuously until one feels like giving up entirely on the lengthy monologue of the film.

The film, though large on production scale ($4 million) and subject (a global problem) loses out on the story-telling, which loses its way in its bid to make its points in a colourful, entertaining manner. The one thing unique about the film is the exploration of unseen landscapes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia on celluloid that not only delivers authenticity to the subject but also freshness to the eyes tired of seeing Switzerland and digitally re-touched US and UK. Watch it if you are a die-hard fan of Sunny because he delivers. But remember to go without expectations. No firecracker this is.