‘Kalki 2898 – AD’ : Big B’s powerful punches and stunning visuals shine above the film’s flaws

By Ronak Kotecha

Story: In the year 2898 AD, the tenth and final avatar of Lord Vishnu, Kalki, is poised to be born, heralding a new era amidst a dystopian world fraught with malevolent forces.

Review: ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ begins with a gripping depiction of the aftermath of the Mahabharata war, when Lord Krishna cursed Ashwatthama (Amitabh Bachchan) with immortality. This sets the stage for a fictional narrative within a star-studded cinematic universe, deeply rooted in Hindu mythology. A story about the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu, who is prophesied to arrive on a white horse, signaling the end of the Kali Yuga.

Writer-director Nag Ashwin crafts his story around it, but the film is a precursor to what you can expect in the future installments of this massive universe. To do that, he uses his imaginative prowess and transports the audience into a visually stunning world. This is the biggest and most obvious strength of the film. Ashwin, with the help of his cinematographer Djordje Stojiljkovic, takes us into the lone existing city of Kasi, ruled by the evil Commander Manas (Saswata Chatterjee) and led by God King Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Haasan), who lives in a mysterious powerhouse known as Complex. It’s a dark world where fertile women are killed and men are enslaved. The only ray of hope, perhaps, is Bhairava (Prabhas) and a motley bunch of rebels from Shambhala until they rescue one of the subjects from the Complex, SUM80 (Deepika Padukone), the bearer of the awaited avatar.

It’s a simple story thrown into a complex web of too many characters and subplots, some of which have little to do with the broader narrative. Ashwin’s plot meanders into unnecessary detours so many times that it gets tiring to wait for it to get back on track. The entire first half suffers from this back and forth, especially with Prabhas’ character. The futile attempts to generate comedy, even with a veteran like Brahmanandam (who plays Bhairava’s landlord Rajan), fall flat, much like his half-baked love angle with Roxie (Disha Patani) that could have been completely done away with.

Thankfully, the film picks up pace in the second half with Amitabh Bachchan’s re-entry. The veteran superstar wows us with his infectious energy in high-octane action scenes. Even with all the special effects and latest tools of computer animation, he manages to breathe life into his character and bring a level of realism into Ashwatthama’s unbridled power. Deepika Padukone shows commendable restraint and skill in playing a subdued character who is destined to eventually be powerful.

South superstar Shobhana provides good support as the wise Mariam. Saswata Chatterjee comes across as somewhat caricaturish in his role of Commander Manas. Kamal Haasan once again delivers a role that is strikingly distinctive and sends chills down the spine. Special appearances by Vijay Deverakonda, Mrunal Thakur, Dulquer Salmaan, S.S. Rajamouli, and Ram Gopal Varma leave a brief but memorable impact.

The film’s production design by Nitin Zihani Choudhary deserves special mention for creating a captivating visual landscape that enhances the immersive experience. Although the music score by Santhosh Narayanan is a letdown, the background score effectively complements the film’s narrative, elevating key moments.

‘Kalki 2898 AD’ is undeniably a larger-than-life visual spectacle that transports viewers into a vividly imagined universe. In fact, the film’s visual quality is so high that it overshadows many of its obvious flaws by engaging the audience into the atmospherics of the make-believe world of Kasi and the Complex. Moreover, it’s a concept that can spark imaginative experiences beyond the cinema. If you enjoy diving into a world of epic battles between gods, good, and evil, then ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ offers quite a satisfying audio-visual experience, even though it may require some patience. — TNN