Is building expectations such a bad thing in this world? Just as how radiation is harmful for the birds, so too are high expectations for a movie fan looking to be blown away by a film whose makers promise you the moon, like the makers of 2.0, starring Rajinikanth and Amy Jackson did. Reportedly made on a budget of Rs 550 crore, 2.0 is the costliest film India had ever made and therefore, deserves to be treated with that much respect. As a reviewer, I have to consider the care and love with which director Shankar has envisioned this magnum opus. While it is easy for an Indian reviewer to break down a Hollywood visual spectacle, we have to tread very carefully in critiquing a one-of-a-kind attempt like 2.0 in Indian cinema. As a brave attempt in creating a visual delight, 2.0 earns high marks. But ambitious attempts don't always make for a good time at the theatre. Ask the makers of Thugs of Hindostan! 2.0: From Baba to Kaala, Looking Back at Rajinikanth's Films of This Century and How They Fared At The Box Office!
2.0, as you know, is the sequel to the 2010 blockbuster, Enthiran and brings back both the Rajinikanth characters from the first film. And like is the trend with most of the sequels made in India, it discards the heroine (Aishwarya Rai's character is restrained to a voice cameo) and brings in a new one (Amy Jackson).
The film begins with the suicide of a mysterious stranger (Akshay Kumar) who hangs himself from a mobile tower, as large flocks of birds surround him. Soon after his suicide, cell phones began to fly away from the hands of its users in the city, much to the puzzlement of the citizens. And the mayhem doesn't end here. Some unscrupulous businessmen and politicians also get killed in gruesome ways, while a large bird-like entity wreaks havoc over the city. The administrators look to the scientist Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) to solve the crisis. With the help of his new android Nila (Amy Jackson), Vaseegaran seeks the dangerous cause, and when he does, proposes to bring back Chitti (Rajinikanth again) to tackle the menace.
So who is this mysterious entity? Why does he want to destroy the city? How will Chitti 2.0 come to play?
Also, which movie did Karan Johar (2.0's Bollywood promoter) offer that convinced Akshay Kumar to lend his face to CGI monstrosities? And why, out of the Rs 550 crores of the budget, couldn't the producers spare even one crore to hire a good writer? So many questions we end up asking throughout the movie that never ends even after 2.0 is over!
Let's first address the elephant in the room. Does 2.0 look like Rs 550 crore has been spent on the film's visual effects? Unlike the blatant masala elements of the film, the answer here deserve some subtleties. Shankar and his VFX team have managed to give the audience a hitherto-unseen visual experience in Indian cinema. The special effects are definitely not something we have seen in our movies, but they aren't always great. The special effects work when they are used in a low-key manner. Like when a character in the film is holding a dying sparrow. Or a fight scene in the second half, where the villain beats Chitti while frequently metamorphosing into someone close to him (a hint of which is given in the trailer too). I was stunned by that one scene, which could easily be the best fight scene of the year in an Indian film.
However, when 2.0 goes too CGI-y, the effects look unconvincing and takes away the impact of the scene, which happened with the effects-heavy climax that goes on and on and never knows when to stop. The 3D aspect is really, really good even if 2.0 sometimes gets to My Dear Kuttichatan-level of pandering to the kids. Look out for that title sequence!
Also, have to give huge credit to Nirav Shah (cinematography) and Resul Pookutty, Amrit Pritam (sound design) for their huge contributions to help build Shankar's large vision.
And like nearly every Shankar movie, 2.0 has a heartfelt social message - how the radiation from the cell-phones prove fatally harmful to the birds, even it takes an over-long flashback scene to get to this point. Unfortunately, here's where the niceties of the review end.
I love special effects just like any ordinary movie-goer, but I love them as a garnish for a tasty dish, that is well-cooked rather than let the garnish itself be the dish, accompanied by some half-baked meat. 2.0 is saddled by a plot that is as formulaic as any Shankar movie, and which is generously borrowed from his previous movies, especially Anniyan. The lack of juice in the plot is forgivable, if 2.0 didn't feel so dull. It nearly took half the movie for Chitti to land and more than that for us to get a proper glimpse of Akshay Kumar's antagonist and know what's the deal with him. 2.0 also doesn't spend enough time developing the bond between Chitti and Vaseegaran, a big highlight of the first film, instead, delving into the creepy romance between Nila and Chitti. BTW, what's with those rapey vibes that Chitti 2.0 gives to Nila? Is this the hero that we had to root for? I would rather go cheer Angry Birds! Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar’s 2.0 Makers Move to Madras High Court to Prevent Its Online Piracy Issue.
Watching 2.0 reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's cult thriller Birds. It's about a town that gets mysteriously plagued by killer birds. The movie didn't even have good special effects and the late Hitchcock, the sly film-maker that he is, never bothers to explain the irrational behaviour of the birds. And yet it was such a terrifying film. I cannot say the same about 2.0's Birdman though.
Akshay Kumar's antagonist has this tragic backstory to make him a really sympathetic villain, which works in the flashback. That sympathy is soon forgotten when he gets into various CGI forms, using the very cellphones as weapons that caused his doom. The movie takes out the humaneness in him and stuffs his character with two-dimensional menace, while expecting us to root against him.
Watch the Trailer of 2.0 here-
The funny part is how Chitti manages to tackle him in the end. Not spoiling the movie for you, but he threatens to do exactly what the movie was totally against. Stop acting as if you have dual SIM, 2.0, and make up your mind about what you really want to say!
There is also a secondary villain, Sudhanshu Pandey's Dr Bohra, who is the son of Bohra (Danny Denzongpa's character) from the previous film. And because he is such a disposable part, the writers never bothered to write a new arc for him and basically wrote him as another stupid character, like his father. This apple didn't just fall far from the tree, but even got buried under it!
What's shocking about 2.0 the most is not anything above, but how forgettable the dialogues are. And this is a Rajinikanth film, mind you! Yet, what we have is him making some very bad phone and bird puns, like "Holy Crow!" Holy Shit!
AR Rahman, unsurprisingly, continues to deliver lacklustre songs, though thankfully, there aren't much. And like always, his BG score fares better!
While his Chitti received more whistles from the public, especially the 2.0 version, I was in favour of Rajinikanth as Vaseegaran. Stripped of his usual mass elements, Vaseegaran feels very humane, especially when he phone-romances his wife, and provides some of the best humour in the film. As Chitti V1.0, Rajinikanth is strictly okay, though he hams it up as 2.0.
Amy Jackson's role, while masking her lack of expressiveness, serves as the movie's plot convenience and also as Rajinikanth's cheer girl when 2.0 wants to pay tribute to its lead actor's charisma!
Fans of Akshay Kumar (dubbed by actor Jayaprakash in the Tamil version) will be disappointed with lack of screentime for the actor, considering how heavily the movie was promoted in his name. While he is basically nil in the first half, Akshay makes his presence felt in the second half. He gets to emote a lot in the backstory though as a antagonist, he feels like a discarded villain from a Flash episode.
- The social message
- The ambition
- The technical aspects, mostly
- The premise
- Uninspired narrative
- Lack of screentime for Akshay
In 2.0's own slang, the film has a very good firmware and a dazzling body, but loses battery rapidly and shuts off frequently. While I am in awe at the movie's ambitions and congratulate the team for nearly pulling it off, I just wish that beautiful canvas had a Mona Lisa to show off!