Kalki 2898 AD: A gutsy attempt at mixing dystopian world with Mahabharata

Nag Ashwin proves his capability as a versatile director, the movie works best when it focuses on Prabhas and Amitabh Bachchan

  • Starcast: Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Deepika Padukone, Saswata Chatterjee, Pashupathy, Anna Ben and others
  • Special appearances: Mrunal Thakur, Dulquer Salman, S.S Rajamouli, Vijay Devarakonda, Ramgopal Varma etc.
  • Story, direction, screenplay and dialogues: Nag Ashwin
  • Additional screenplay: Rutham Samar
  • Additional dialogues: Sai Madhav Burra and B.S Saewagna Kumar
  • Producer: C. Ashwini Dutt
  • Production Company: Vijayanthi movies
  • Cinematography: Djordge Stojilijkovic
  • Music: Santhosh Narayan
  • Genre: Science fiction
  • Running time: 3 hours and 1 minute

The track record of Indian cinema with science fiction/futuristic worlds is pretty abysmal. A major reason for it is the necessity of masala elements where the hero has to do romance, comedy and action while saving the world. Rakesh Roshan’s Krrish movies though not seamless did a good job in mixing Hollywood tropes with Indian Masala. Ayan Mukherjee’s Bramhastra was high on visuals, but a weakly written love story coupled with erratic characterizations made the movie just about an average watch. Last year Vikas Bahl made an attempt at directing a movie set in a futuristic world where the society is divided into two and poverty is at an extremely high level. Ganapath ended up being more about Tiger Shroff’s somersaults and was roundly rejected by the audiences.

Now you have Nag Ashwin’s Kalki 2898 AD also set in a futuristic world. The two-film old director has already created a niche for himself with Yevade Subramanyam and the biopic Mahanati on the legendary actress Savitri. Mahanati in particular is a challenging movie given that it is based on a very beloved actress who is admired by many, but he did complete justice to her life. With Kalki 2898 AD the director has pushed himself even more and let his imagination fly high. For example, he makes you believe that there would be a future where women would have zero autonomy over their bodies and the need for capitalistic gains will wipe out cities. In spite of obvious similarities to Dune and the Mad Max films Nag Ashwin delivers an impressive concoction of sci fi elements with mythology. But the women characters are a major weak spot, and the random love story of Prabhas with Disha Patani is a major speed breaker.

Kalki 2898 AD moves along multiple timelines starting from the Kurukshetra war. Amitabh Bachchan is Ashwatthama who is cursed with immortality by lord Krishna. On the other hand, there is the dystopian landscape of Kashi, the world’s last city. However, it is in complete shambles. The mighty Ganges is in a parched state and food is naturally scarce. There is a towering structure called Complex governed by Yaskin played by Kamal Haasan. He rules the place with an iron fist. Inside the Complex there are many fertile women who have been put on an experiment. Deepika Padukone’s SUM-80 alias Sumathi is an employee who is supposed to make sure that these fertile women get sufficient food and medicine. But there is a twist here; Sumathi who has been considered infertile for ages is now five months pregnant. Then you have Shambala a place for refugees from different faiths and cultures. They are putting their lives at stake for a better future.

Bhairava (Prabhas) wants to escape from the dreariness of Kashi and get into the Complex. He has AL car Bujji (with a fun voiceover by Keerty Suresh). There is a constant banter between them which gradually develops into a strong bond. Bhairava is a selfish man who is unaware of his destiny. As the story progresses Bhairava’s life gets intermingled with Ashwatthama, Sumathi and the people of Shambala.

For a movie like this a seamless blend of special effects and cinematography is very necessary and Kalki 2898 AD scores full marks in this department. The high-octane action sequences between Amitabh Bachchan and Prabhas in particular is a major highlight. Thankfully Nag Ashwin doesn’t show Bhairava as invincible, on more than one occasion we see him getting hurt. These scenes are also sprinkled with humour that bring a smile. Nitin Zihani Choudary’s production design also deserves a particular mention in how he creates an imaginary landscape that immerses the audiences.

Director Nag Ashwin also deserves distinction marks for how he integrates the Kurukshetra episode in the film. The emotional turmoil of Ashwatthama and his quest for repentance strikes a chord. Amitabh Bachchan delivers a stellar act overshadowing Prabhas on occasions.

Prabhas as Bhairava has a role that comes with different shades. There is humor, and he also comes across as not so likeable. Prabhas does complete justice to both. His interactions with Keerty Suresh’s Bujji add a lot to the movie.

Kamal Haasan as the evil Yaskin has a brief role but he sends down a chill with his intimidating act.

Santhosh Narayanan’s music lacks good songs but he more than compensates it with a powerful background score.

Kalki 2898 AD has many cameos from actors and directors. Out of these Ramgopal Varma and S.S Rajamouli are fun to watch. There is a Baahubali reference where Prabhas jokingly says about how he gave 5 years to that project, it definitely raises a chuckle. Among others Mrunal Thakur is impressive in her brief role.

A big flaw of Kalki 2898 AD are the two female leads. Disha Patani is only used for glamour and one completely out of place song. Deepika Padukone on the other hand plays a pregnant woman mirroring her real life. She is mostly required to look petrified, and the expressions irritate after a point.

The movie’s runtime could have been crisper with lesser cameos. For example, Dulquer Salman and Avasarala Srinivas don’t add anything significant with their presence.

A caution: Too many good directors going into the dystopian landscape is something that the industry should be careful about.

Ganapath: A Show Reel For Tiger Shroff’s Somersaults

The film begins off as a dystopian drama with some promise but soon becomes a generic Tiger Shroff vehicle with no head or tail 

Ganapath (Hindi)             1 out of 5

Starcast: Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon, Amitabh Bachchan, Rahman and others

Writer and director: Vikas Bahl

Producers: Vikas Bahl, JackkyBhagnani, Vashu Bhagnani and others

Production Companies: Good Co and Pooja Entertainment

Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Genre: Action/dystopian

Vikas Bahl’s Ganapath starts off with a voice over of Dalapathi (Amitabh Bachchan with his trademark baritone). He talks about how a destructive war has led to a world divided in two parts. On the one hand you have the ‘Silver City’ where the rich and mighty are ruling the roost. Their leader is the cold hearted Dalani. On the other hand you have the ‘Garibon Ki basti’. The people living here don’t have sufficient food, water or money. However they are living in a certain hope that a saviour called Ganapath will get them out of this hell. This was prophesied by Dalapathi before he dies. Ironically their saviour Guddu aka Ganapath (Tiger Shroff) is living a super rich life in the Silver City.

Tiger Shroff’s introduction shot shows him waking up with many skimpily clad women swooning over him. This has to be one of the worst hero introduction scenes ever. Guddu works for John English (Ziad Bakari). John English is an aid of Dalani. Things take a turn when John’s girlfriend (Elli AvRam) tries to seduce Guddu and both of them are caught red handed. The rest of the story is about what Guddu’s actual identity is and how he ends up being a messiah for the ‘Garibon Ki basti’.

There is no denying that the story of Ganapath had the potential to be an impactful action drama with some social commentary. However the problem is that director Vikas Bahl had given more focus on Tiger Shroff’s physical agility rather than a well structured film.

Tiger Shroff’s action and swag is very much on point but we have seen Tiger do all these in his previous films so there is nothing new for the audiences. A primary reason why Siddarth Anand’s War remains Tiger Shroff’s best performance so far is that his action in that film was backed by a strong emotional undercurrent. Here it is mostly missing except for a heartfelt speech in the climax. But by that time audiences are well past caring for what is happening on the screen.

Further adding to the woes is the unnecessary Mumbaiya slang which doesn’t make any sense. Kriti Sanon plays an underground rebel warrior called Jassi. Her introduction scene is filled with a few  impressive stunts but soon she ends up being a mere girlfriend with little agency.

The love story between Guddu and Jassi is another sore point. Guddu’s flirting with Jassi is cringe worthy to say the least.

Amitabh Bachchan’s extended cameo is powerful and we wish that he had more screen time. Tamil actor Rahman makes a good Bollywood debut. He brings in much needed intensity to the story.

Another sore point is the shoddy graphics. They make Ganapath look like more of a video game than an actual film.

The fight sequences have been choreographed well but there is no novelty particularly for those who have seen Tiger do action before.

Characters from the ‘Garibon Ki basti’ feel like extras from the sets of Bahubali and KGF films. Their only job is to wait for the saviour to arrive.

To sum it up Ganapath is Vikas Bahl’s worst film till date. This movie makes Shaandar look like a masterpiece.