Review: ‘Kabzaa’ (2023), starring Upendra and Kiccha Sudeepa

March 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Upendra in “Kabzaa” (Photo courtesy of Anand Pandit Motion Pictures)

“Kabzaa” (2023)

Directed by R. Chandru

Kannada with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1945 to 1973, primarily in Amarapura, India, the action film “Kabzaa” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A pilot in the Indian Air Force becomes entangled in gang warfare when he avenges the death of his brother. 

Culture Audience: “Kabzaa” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and mind-numbing action movies that are too long.

Murali Sharma in “Kabzaa” (Photo courtesy of Anand Pandit Motion Pictures)

Completely idiotic drivel in every sense of the word, “Kabzaa” it’s just more of the same type of bloated, derivative action flick about power struggles with corrupt people, violent fight scenes, revenge plots, and some musical numbers thrown into the mix. This 134-minute onslaught of the senses is an endurance test to see how much your brain can be turned off or turned into mush by watching all of this garbage filmmaking.

Written and directed by R. Chandru, “Kabzaa” (which means “possession” in Hindi) starts off with a very sloppily edited and hastily told introduction of the main protagonists. In 1945, Tulasi Devi (played by Sudha) becomes a widow when her husband, a freedom fighter named Amareshwara, is killed by the British military. Tulasi and her young sons Sankeshwara (played by Jnan) and Arkeshwara (played by Chiru) relocate to Amarapura, India, where the this family of three work as flag sellers. Sankeshwara is older than Arkeshwara.

In 1947, India becomes an independent nation. “Kabzaa: then fast-forwards to Visakhapatnam, India, in 1960. Arkeshwara (played by Upendra) is now a successful pilot in the Indian Air Force. Sankeshwara (played by Suneel Puranik) wanted to join the Air Force too, but he sacrified his dreams so that he could help take care of their mother.

By 1971, a royal heir named Veer Bahaddur (played by Murali Sharma) has ascended to power and wants to create a new dynasty. He also wants to become the next chief minister of his state. His opponent is the incumbent chief minister Ghanshyam Pandey (played by Lakki Lakshman), who wants to hold on to his chief minister position at any cost. It sets the stage for a war between Ghanshyam and Veer that will inevitably lead to many people getting killed.

Three gangsters rule the crime world in Amarapura. Their names are Bagheera (played by Nawab Shah), Khaleed (played by M. Kamaraj) and Malik (played by John Kokken). Khaleed has a son named Sartaaj (played by Taha Shah), who is a willing accomplice to Khaleed’s crimes, including a murder spree that is intended to cause disruption to the upcoming elections. Also part of these dirty dealing is a corrupt police officer named Bhargava Bakshi (played by Kiccha Sudeepa), who is at war with some of the gangsters.

Sankeshwara kills Sartaaj for shooting an elderly woman. Out of revenge, Khaleed murders Sankeshwara in a grisly beheading. it should come as no surprise that Arkeshwara wants revenge on Khaleed. There are some predictable twists and turns to the story that reveal Arkeshwara will have more than one enemy.

During all of this madness and mayhem that takes place from 1971 to 1973, Arkeshwara courts and marries Madhumati Bahaddur (played by Shriya Saran), the “princess” daughter of Veer Bahaddur. Veer does not approve of this relationship, because he thinks that Madhumati should have a husband of a higher social status.

This disapproval leads to Madhumati becoming estranged from Veer and not being in contact with him. Madhumati and Arkeshwara have two sons together, but Veer is not in his grandsons’ lives because of the estrangement from Madhumati. Arkeshwara is still very close to his mother Tulasi, who is a loving and doting grandmother.

The murders and the revenge plots in “Kabzaa” are both bombastically over-the-top and soullessly formulaic There is really no suspense or mystery involved in who will live and who will die—although there is one particularly heinous scene of the two sons of Madhumati and Arkeshwara being set on fire, while Madhumati watches helplessly, as she’s held captive in a prison cell. This is not spoiler information, since these despicable murders of the children are already shown in the trailer for “Kabzaa.” The only spoiler information for this atrocious scene is to reveal who is responsible for these child murders.

All of the dialogue in “Kabzaa” is vapid. The acting is mediocre-to-bad. The action scenes are unoriginal. And it’s completely misguided to have cheerful musical numbers dropped in the parts of this very darkly violent film. Just when you think you’ve had enough of seeing all of these hollow characters, the movie ends with a cliffhanger that indicates the “Kabzaa” filmmakers intend to make a sequel to this train-wreck film. You have been warned.

Anand Pandit Motion Pictures released “Kabzaa” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on March 17, 2023.

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