Kabzaa Movie Review: The Film Fails Disastrously

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Poster for the film, Kabzaa
Kabzaa Film Poster

It is no surprise that south Indian movies have more or less taken the Bollywood industry by storm, giving full competition to the movies of the north. Kabzaa is one such Kannada movie. Directed by R. Chandru, Kabzaa is a period movie based around 1942-1986, pre-independence to post-independence era. 

The movie premiered on March 17th, 2023, and was released all over India, dubbed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. The film is about a guy named Arakeshwara, played by actor Upendra, a simple military guy who ends up getting involved with people from the underworld.

Apart from him, the movie stars Shriya Saran as Arakeshwara’s girlfriend-turned-wife, Madhumati, and Kichha Sudeep as Bhargava Bakshi, a police officer out to get Arakeshwara behind bars. Actor Nawab Shah known for his movies Tiger Zinda Hai, Don 2, Dilwale, and many more, play the role of Bagheera. The movie has an ensemble of talented actors who have contributed vastly to it. 

The movie starts off in 1947 when India was fighting its final battle for independence. With just the finalities left, a freedom fighter got attacked and killed. Because of some events, the son of the said freedom fighter gets involved with the mafia lords and eventually becomes the most feared man himself.

The movie is a recent release, but it has been confirmed that Prime Videos has bought the digital rights to the movie and that it will eventually be available on the same platform sometime in the future.

Main cast of the movie, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)
The main cast of the movie, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)

Kabzaa Movie Storyline

The movie starts in 1947, where we see a guy named Amareshwara, a freedom fighter and a follower of Gandhi, getting brutally beaten and eventually murdered by British officials. With the sole breadwinner gone, Amareshwara’s family, including his wife, Tulasi Devi, played by Sudha, and his two sons, Arakeshwara and Sankeshwara, are forced to migrate out of the city.

They end up selling variations of the Indian flag to get money to survive, and this becomes their life for some time. The movie skips to the year 1971, where now Arakeshwara is a handsome grown man and has become a proud pilot for the Indian Air Force. Out of the two brothers, Sankeshwara had to let go of his dream to be the pilot for his brother.

We move back to Amarapura, where Amareshwar’s family still lives. Arakeshwar is back home to meet with his mother, brother, and girlfriend, Madhumati, who also happens to be the daughter of royalty, Veer Bahadur. The town of Amarapura is not as peaceful as it sounds.

The city is drowning in crime and is at war because of the three existing rival gangs led by Khaleed, Bagheera, and Malik. Veer Bahadur, the father of Arakeshwara’s girlfriend, Madhumati, wishes to stand in Amarapura’s elections to elect the new Chief Minister, creating competition for the already existing and very corrupt Chief Minister Ghanshyam Pandey, played by actor Lakki Lakshman.

Because the only way to win an election is to involve literal gang leaders in your rallying plans, instead of rallying and convincing the citizens to vote for you, Ghanshyam Pandey hires one of the gangsters, Khaleed, to create trouble within the city. Khaleed and his son Sartaj follow along and stir up problems, with Sartaj taking things a bit too far when he ends up killing an old woman.

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Our righteous second brother sees the entire ordeal and, in anger, kills the gangster’s son, Sartaj. He should have thought things through because what exactly did he think would happen when he killed a criminal’s son? In a complete blind rage, Khaleed kills and beheads Sankeshwara right on the spot.

Arkeshwara’s Second Life

The gangster and Sankeshwara started a spiral of attacks on each other, one that ended with either Arakeshwara’s death or Khaleed’s. Sankeshwara’s death brings a grey cloud over his family. Arakeshwara and his mother, Tulasi, try to handle things the legal way.

They reach the police station to file a complaint against the gangster, but the police scold them instead. How dare you step up against a literal criminal who should probably be in jail but is not? Arakeshwara, a supposed simple family-loving guy, gets so angry he ends up killing the police officer who insulted and made fun of his family. Does anybody in this movie know how to keep their anger in control?

He loses his job at the Air Force, goes through a court procession, and because of the heavy amount of evidence against him, he finds unable to get out of the situation and is sent to jail. Khaleed’s thirst for blood is still not quenched, and he hires another scary-looking gangster, Bali, from inside the jail and orders him to finish off Arakeshwara.

Clearly, Bali, a gangster with a lot of experience in killing people, is not enough to get Arkeshwar, and the latter ends up killing Bali instead. Arakeshwara has the potential to be a cold-blooded murderer, and Veer Bahadur sees that. He gets Arakeshwara bailed out and asks him to side with him.

Khaleed tries, once again, to get Arakeshwara taken care of, but Arakeshwara somehow manages to kill all of his men and even kill Khaleed. His death brought long-forgotten justice to Sankeshwara’s death. Arakeshwara should have tried to go back to his normal life, maybe try to get back to his mother and girlfriend, but he chooses to do the opposite and takes over Khaleed’s empty gangster position.

Arakeshwara is new to the crime world and still has to figure out how to deal with the two other rival gangs led by Malik and Bagheera. Even so, Veer Bahadur won the election and became the chief minister with Arakeshwara on his side. No matter how you put it, Arakeshwara is still a dangerous gangster capable of taking lives. 

So when Madhumati tells her father that she plans on marrying him, Veer Bahadur obviously, says no. But the two blind love birds were not ready to take no for an answer, and so they ended up running away and marrying each other. Why did they even bother asking the father, then?

Arakeshwara, after marrying Madhumati, finds a way to finish off the two rival leaders, and he eventually takes over their gangs too. This married man is now the leading mafia crime boss in the city and is feared by all. 

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A cut from the movie, Kabzaa
A cut from the movie, Kabzaa

A Not-So-Happy Ending For The Fam

The movie skips two years, and it is the year 1973. Arakeshwara could not care less about his previous job as a pilot and seems happy and well-adjusted in his new life as a criminal, living with his mother, wife, and his two kids. But life cannot for once go smoothly for him, and soon trouble knocks at his door again.

DSP Vikram, played by Dev Gill, tries to capture Arakeshwara to put him in jail, but our lead manages to save himself once again. He also kills DSP Vikram before escaping. Sometime later, on the day of Arakeshwara and Madhumati’s wedding anniversary, the latter tries to visit her father in hopes of saving their relationship and reconciliation.

Veer Bahadur is angry to see her, rightfully so, and goes on to tell her all the bad deeds her dear husband has been going around doing. He puts her in a cell that he just happened to have access to and prevents her from leaving, all the while also forcing her to listen about all the murders Arakeshwara has ever committed. 

He reveals that he is the one who got rid of Malik, Khaleed, and Bagheera and that he is also the one who has taken over their position. While she is held captive and rendered completely helpless, Veer Bahadur thinks it okay to burn her two children alive, in front of her, as punishment to both Madhumati and Arakeshwara.

Arakeshwara, on the other hand, is struggling to get a hold of madhumati’s location and, under stress, calls her father to ask if he knows anything. Bhargava Bakshi, a police officer, and his team find and surrounds Arakeshwara to finally get him, but before the latter can do much, an unknown face, Siddhantha, pops up with his own gang.

He orders his men to kill off both the police officer Bakshi and Arakeshwara. The movie rolls the credits right after promising to come back for the viewers with part two of the movie.

Shriya Saran as Madhumati in the film, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)
Shriya Saran as Madhumati in the film, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)

Kabza Movie Review

The Kannada movie, Kabzaa, was released all over India and dubbed in over six Indian languages on March 17th, 2023. The movie is directed by R. Chandru and has actors Sudeep and Shiva Rajkumar in significant cameo roles. It is an action movie set mostly in the post-independence era.

The movie, right after the release of its trailer, has been compared to another Kannada film, KGF, which has led to major disappointment among fans as this one fails to stand up to the mark set so high by the latter. Even so, the makers managed to recreate the 1940s-1970s backdrop setting. Actor Upendra lives two completely different lives within the movie, and he does so very convincingly.

He has a strong screen presence and has single-handedly managed to lead the film. But no matter his actions, the fact remains that the premise of the story, a simple guy rising against all odds to be the mafia leader and rule the city, is boring and has been run into the ground.

The movie is a period action genre with the start of it drowning in patriotic elements, which also feel overused. The movie lacks a story, and it becomes painfully obvious with its back-to-back action scenes. And when the main guy is not fighting, he is delivering corny one-liners that have zero impact on the audience because the film is full of them.

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When Upendra is not in the scene, the film turns into this emotional cry fest with a very predictable storyline. The first half of the film is spent setting up the stage for Arakeshwara’s second life. This itself took forty minutes or so from the film and still failed to establish more complex and raw characters.

Kabzaa feels like a parody of the original KGF films with its superficial characters, nonsensical storyline, and stretched action scenes. The characters within the film have not been given a chance to connect with the audience, and even Arakeshwara’s rise as the crime lord does not feel very impressive.

Upendra’s character suffers because his only motivation is his brother’s murder, and when it comes to fighting for his unfair death, he never lost a fight and always came out on top. The lack of failures and his always having a way out took away the surprise factor and made the film more predictable.

The story is in no way gripping or original. It lacks creativity and novelty factor. A hero after getting betrayed by the nation’s failed justice system and eventually turning bad is a story we have seen one too many times and does not sound interesting at all.

The film took the action genre too seriously, even though it failed at choreographing original action sequences, and it barely paid any attention to any emotions other than anger. Madhumati’s father burning his daughter’s kids to teach her a lesson and take revenge seems psychopathic and almost funny.

Sudeep and Shiva Rajkumar’s cameos in the film are refreshing and raise hope for the next installment of the film. The film ended on a cliffhanger, but considering our hero, we are sure he will find a way out alive.

Upendra as Arkeshwara in the movie, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)
Upendra as Arkeshwara in the movie, Kabzaa (Credits: IMDb)

Our Verdict

The film is seventy percent action, but even those do not hold much power considering the striking similarities between the action scenes of this film and of the KGF series. The film suffers from a bad screenplay, too, as it mainly just has punchline after punchline, which gets boring after some time. The movie has such a talented cast, but the makers have let all that talent go to waste.

No other character in the film, apart from Arakeshwara, has any personality or depth. The makers have admitted to taking inspiration from the KGF series, but they clearly fail to realize the difference between taking inspiration and creating an exact copy of something. Overall the movie feels loud, repetitive, soulless, and not thought through.

It lacks good acting, writing, and even original action scenes. The songs are cringeworthy and have been seen before. Why did the movie include the period aspect is unknown, and why it did not market itself as a compilation of Upendra’s action scenes is also unclear. With a cast overflowing with such talent, it is only right to expect from the makers a better and original Kabzaa 2. 

Our Rating: ⭐ (2.9/5).

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By Tarunjyot Kaur

Tarunjyot Kaur is a content writer at OtakuKart and writes mainly entertainment-related content. she is currently put up in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She has done her Bachelor's in Psychology. In her free time, she likes to read books, watch movies and play badminton. You can get in touch with me at tarunjyot88@gmail.com.

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