Look. I'm no dummy.
I know better than to be suckered into marketing schemes for upcoming films, especially when those films are coming out of India. I know that when I see an amazing trailer, or a clip of some insane action from an Indian film that I'm probably getting the best three minutes of the movie surrounded by two and a half hours of interminable fluff. I know this.
When the entirety of your film's marketing campaign is predicated on selling your film as a period action piece, and it takes you almost an hour and a half to get to the section reflecting that marketing, and even then it only consumes about twenty minutes of screen time, I have to call bullshit.
Kaashmora is the latest film from second-rung Tamil language action star Karthi, who is known mostly for one really solid performance in the film Paruthiveeran, which was one of the early Tamil features that ushered in the modern era of gritty Tamil gangster cinema. Over the last few years Karthi has steered his career back toward the mainstream with largely populist masala fare, and Kaashmora definitely fits into that second category.
Karthi plays the titular character, a flashy exorcist who has made a career out of high-profile de-ghostings of the rich and famous along with numerous TV appearances promoting his skills. In Kaashmora we spend nearly 90 minutes learning about the character's business, his political leanings, and the sway he holds over local superstitious bigwigs, all staged with the help of incredibly broad (typical) comedy and over-acting on all parts. The problem is that the central conflict of the film has almost nothing to do with that part of Kaaashmora's life.
At the halfway point of the film, Kaashmora finds himself trapped in a haunted castle by a vengeful headless ghost names Rajanayak (also Karthi, head shaven and quite masculinely bearded) bent on destroying the spirit who anchored him to this place. Kaashmora and his mostly useless family spend the next 75 minutes or so trying to wriggle out of this mess that they find themselves in with very little success. Stuck in the middle somewhere is a 30 minute flashback that explains the ghost's dilemma and introduces the film's third lead, Rathnamahadevi (played by one of Tamil cinema's strongest female performers, Nayanthara), just in time for us to almost care about her.
The whole structure and execution of Kaashmora is an exercise in how not to engage an audience. An incredibly overlong prelude leads into the main conflict, which has nothing to do with the first hour of the film, is explained through a lightning fast flashback that concludes with a supernatural grudge match between two characters we just met. The whole thing is incredibly tiring and I'll admit I had to fight to keep my eyelids from falling before the intermission even rolled around.
I'm used to the wild tonal swings in Indian mainstream films, I'm used to the bizarre, out of place comedy tracks that interrupt the main narrative, I'm even used to the shoddy CG because in the end it's really all about whether or not the film is compelling and/or entertaining enough to make me forget that it looks like it was animated by a high school CAD class. Unfortunately, Kaashmora stretched my suspension of disbelief - and my patience - beyond reasonable limits and ended up as a really disappointing bait and switch.
I knew it.
I knew the second I saw the first concept art that featured Karthi in his period look standing atop a mountain of bodies on a battlefield that there was no way this film could live up to what my imagination was filling in around that image. When the trailer rolled around, it was good, but I'd already started moderating my expectations downward. By the time I actually sat down in the theater to watch the film I had decided that if the actual film left me half as entertained as the first image I encountered, I'd consider it a success.
Sadly, no matter how low I dropped the bar, Kaashmora still managed to go lower, which is a huge disappointment.