World premiere screening at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday May 25 – (spoliers avoided)…
IF YOU’RE a fan or admirer of writer-director Anurag Kashyap, you should enjoy this film.
This is his 27th film as a director and in a long career, as an actor (occasional and more in theatre), writer and producer, he has come to Cannes on 14 occasions and is probably best known in the West for the Netflix series, ‘Sacred Games’ (2018-19) and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (I&II – 2012) which also enjoyed a Cannes premiere.
His film ‘Kennedy’ has all his trademark idents as an auteur filmmaker – there is a high body count, violence, mystery, humour, fascinating characters and situations. And the western classical score (by the Prague Phillarmonica Choir) softens a grim but entertaining tale. Cue Sunny Leone character laugh.
It is, in essence, a revenge cop drama with Kennedy (Rahul Bhat) at the centre of all the action.
We meet Kennedy going about his daily business, perhaps not daily, but anyway, it is killing people – he can do this with impunity or ease, as he is an ex-police officer. Most people think he is dead and gone, though Mumbai police chief Rasheed Khan (Mohit Tahalhar) suspects something is up.
When Kennedy’s boss needs someone to be taken care of, shall we say, he is dispatched. He is the master of disguise, and leaves no trace of evidence – as he knows his craft, like any great master who pays particular attention to detail. He also doesn’t ask questions and simply does as he is told and shows a cold dispassionate front to those who know their number is up when confronted by him.
In the early part of the film, the associations and connections are not so clear and there is also the question of Kennedy’s conscience – his murder victims and a mysterious character (as spirits in human form) haunt him.
Accept this murky, amoral world and enjoy it as a fable and a construction and articulation of Kashyap’s world, and we reckon you will enjoy the ride.
If you start to ask yourselves lots of questions – how did Kennedy get away with that? What is the interplay or relevance of the cultural politics – and there is, in the sense that Khan has been promoted under a previous regime and the newly elected authorities aren’t too keen on him anyway and there is a pivotal gangster, who is from the same community and you start to lose the essential enjoyment of a tale being told with Kashyap’s signature style and verve. By all means ask questions, it’s the answers you might search for, in vain.
Some of this, perhaps, all of it, is steeped actually in reality too – for some of these incidents are loosely based on real events and occurrences and while the context may be slightly altered, some of those familiar with the Mumbai crime scene in the 1980s and 1990s may well appreciate the context in which this film sits.
Bhat is tremendous – and he makes almost everything Kennedy does – interesting (even watching him peel a banana would be…). He holds the whole film together and one wonders if it would be quite such an enjoyable ride, had someone else filled his shoes.
Sunny Leone is also captivating (and perhaps even a little underutilised – more please…) and very believable as a gangster’s Canadian NRI moll, ‘Charlie’ – who plays a pivotal role in pushing Kennedy to one of his most elusive and prized targets.
It isn’t altogether clear why Kennedy is as he is psychologically, until the final third of the film, when we go back in time. The flashback to 2014 explains how Khan and Kennedy grew up in the same batch as young, able police officers sent on dangerous operations – and the central two incidents that set Kennedy on the path we see him follow for the bulk of the movie from the very beginning. One of these revolves around the redemption, Kennedy believes he is seeking.
Given a midnight screening in official selection at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, and avoiding some of the subjects that both Kashyap and Bhat discuss in our interview with them, we think it’s safe to say that Kashyap is in fine form and that this world you enter is a very dark but satisfying one (as a viewer). SR
ACV rating: **** (four out of five)
All pictures courtesy of ©Zee Studios and Festival De Cannes
More Pictures & video: Festival de Cannes – https://www.festival-cannes.com/en/f/kennedy/