Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) movie review: Nag Ashwin offers a chaotic sci-fi epic; stellar 2nd half redeems a dull beginning | Bollywood

Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) movie review: Bring a South and North crossover film, and it’s enough to get the movie goers excited. Kalki 2898 AD enjoyed all the pre-buzz for its superlative action, VFX, storyline and what not… but the 3-hour long film turns out to be rather chaotic and complicated, and it confuses you more than you can comprehend. (Also Read: Kalki 2898 AD (Telugu) review: Giants Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan overshadow Prabhas, Deepika Padukone in Ashwin’s gutsy epic)

Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) movie review: Prabhas plays Bhairava in the film.
Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) movie review: Prabhas plays Bhairava in the film.

We’ve seen enough and more ‘good vs evil’ stories in India cinema, so the basic outline of Kalki 2898 AD is nothing extraordinary. You didn’t understand the trailer? Wait till you watch the film, you might just come out of the theatre still feeling the same – not understanding it one bit!

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A convoluted plot

Writer-director Nag Ashwin’s wild and wicked premise of blending reality with fiction tests your patience. At first, it might look like a great idea to start the film with the climax of Kurukshetra battle where Ashwatthama was cursed by Lord Krishna to live till eternity to understand his mistake yet give him a chance at redemption. But as the story progresses, and more fictional elements take over, you realise how lame it actually is to have such a convoluted plot that it almost becomes impossible to absorb it.

600 years after the Kurukshetra battle, we are taken to an absurd world with three fictional places — Kashi, Complex and Shambala. Each with a purpose. But what’s that? We don’t know. All that’s told to us is that Kashi is the only city that exists and it’s ruled by Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Haasan), an evil force that operates from Complex (an inverted pyramid hovering over the city). Yaskin wants a serum from a fertile woman.

Here enters an impregnated lab subject SUM-80 aka Sumathi (Deepika Padukone), who escapes from Complex, and bounty hunter Bhairava (Prabhas) is out to catch her along with his AI droid sidekick BU-JZ-1 aka Bujji (voiceover by Keerthy Suresh). He encounters Ashwatthama (Amitabh Bachchan) who must protect and rescue Sumathi at all costs, as she is bearing the unborn child, Kalki, the tenth avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, who is believed to have descended to earth to protect the world from evil forces. That’s the core of Kalki 2898 AD, but it stretches a little over three hours.

An overdose of action

The first half is an absolute snoozefest with so many dull scenes and mindless action with laser guns that you wonder why on earth are these people fighting. A little more focus on human drama would have been better here. There are characters that come and go, and you can’t figure what’s unfolding on screen in those action sequences one after the other.

Even as the first half gets over, we don’t know what the story is, where it is headed and what are these characters up to. It’s the second half that intrigues you and has some exhilarating scenes. The action sequences between Prabhas and indestructible Amitabh Bachchan are brilliantly choreographed and form the highlight of the film. Especially, their face-off in the last 20 minutes helps the film to redeem itself to an extent.

A visual spectacle

A visual spectacle by all means, Kalki is equipped with world-class VFX that doesn’t disappoint. With sets mounted on a huge scale, there are spectacular sequences of large structures, mid-air action and robotic characters that add to the sci-fi drama. Kudos to Djordje Stojiljkovic for a brilliant cinematography.

Even when visually, everything is working fine, Kalki suffers from an inconsistent pace, and looks patchy at several places. There are times you are invested in a character or a scene, and the screenplay abruptly shifts to a different track altogether.

Also, there is a series of cameos — Vijay Deverakonda, SS Rajamouli, Mrunal Thakur, Dulquer Salmaan, Ram Gopal Verma, among many others. But you don’t care less when the story is so weak and the screenplay, so scattered.

The performances

Prabhas might have been sincere in whatever he does onscreen, but there’s no depth or substance in his character arch. Firstly, he gets the most underwhelming entry scene and then to see him do lame comedy and crack jokes that don’t land, I felt bad for him. Saaho and Radhe Shyam had already done that damage, Kalki didn’t need to again put him in that caricature-ish space.

Deepika is convincing and holds her ground, though she has very little to do in terms of dialogues and action. She is mostly being rescued by someone or the other but her screen presence makes you feel her pain. Kamal Haasan is there for barely two scenes but his prosthetic makeup makes it worth the talk. Trusting the makers when they say Part 2 will have more of him.

Saswata Chatterjee as Commander Manas and Anil George as Counsellor Bani have pivotal roles, but never standout. And it’s best to not even discuss about Disha Patani’s sidekick role that only added to the boredom in the first half.

Amid all this, it’s Amitabh Bachchan’s performance that truly bowls you over and leaves a lasting impact. For his age, the kind of rigorous action he does on screen, and that outer exterior of an 8-feel tall man that he walks with, is outstanding.

Filled with references

Nag Ashwin seems to have picked several nuggets from Bollywood, Hollywood and other south language films, and you can’t help notice these references. The labs in Complex and Yaskin’s serum injecting scenes remind you of Vivek Oberoi’s Kaal from Krrish 3. Prabhas pushing a button on his shoe and flying in the air is another version of Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish.

Refugees and rebels in Shambala praying collectively to a holy tree instantly paints a visual from Avatar. And a fight sequence with Punjabi song in the background proves that Arjan Vailly hangover from Animal continues.

In a nutshell, Kalki is a heady mix of mythology, science, fiction and action that works in parts, but for most of its runtime, you feel you have been sitting in the theatre for days. All I can say it, if I manage to survive this, you may want to give it a shot only for its scale, visual appeal and watching Amitabh Bachchan pack a punch.

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