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Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) review: Amitabh Bachchan outshines Prabhas in this mythological saga with stunning highs and frustrating lows

Kalki 2898 AD review: Nag Ashwin directorial is a mythological narrative infused with a Hollywood-esque post-apocalyptic flair.

Kalki 2898 AD (Hindi) review: Amitabh Bachchan outshines Prabhas in this mythological saga with stunning highs and frustrating lows
Kalki 2898 AD review

Last Updated: 01.19 PM, Jun 27, 2024

Kalki 2898 AD story:

As of 2898 AD, the sole known city is the deserted Kashi, which is governed by a totalitarian elite under the leadership of Supreme Yaskin, a god king, from an inverted pyramidal megastructure situated above the city, called the "Complex." The plot takes place across several millennia, beginning with the events of the Mahabharata in 3102 BC, at the start of the Kali Yuga, and ending in 2898 AD, all set against the background of ancient Hindu mythology in India and a dystopian society. The mysterious figure Kalki, the Hindu god Vishnu's tenth and last form, appears at the story's centre.

Kalki 2898 AD review:

Mahabharata is one of the stories that we have seen on television screens in almost every decade since the era of small screens began in India. However, when it comes to the large screen, we haven't often encountered this mythological tale, likely due to the political context, as demonstrated in Mani Ratnam's 1991 film Thalapathi or Prakash Jha's 2010 film Rajneeti. Now, Nag Ashwin has shown the real Mahabharata characters coming to life in the avatars we have seen, heard, and read about them.


Kalki 2898 AD begins with the end of the Kurukshetra War, which shows Lord Krishna getting up front and straight with Ashwatthama after he attacks Uttara's womb (the wife of Abhimanyu) to end the lineage of Pandavas. Then, he explains to Ashwatthama that his punishment is to never face death, and he will also see the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu, which is Kalki. Therefore, he will not meet his end until that time.

As depicted in Eternals and Brahmastra, the world progresses towards human-caused destruction over centuries, culminating in 2898 AD, 6,000 years after the Mahabharata, when Kashi, the world's first known city, also becomes extinct. However, the Ganga dries up, food becomes scarce, and currencies transform into units. Several filmmakers around the world, including those here, have been exploring the post-apocalyptic era and its dystopian society. But Ashwin gets it right, and what's better than blending it with a mythology that's less explored?

The film, which spans three hours and one minute, freely develops a narrative that persists throughout the first half. However, we must commend the director for initiating the story at the outset and refraining from using flashbacks as a weapon, a tactic that has become overly common in recent times.

Kalki 2898 is a film that focuses on star value as well as character build-up, particularly Amitabh Bachchan. Not many people are familiar with Ashwatthama, an enigmatic figure known for his significant contribution to the Mahabharata story. However, the inclusion of Ashwatthama in the post-apocalyptic era, along with his nickname "Ashwa Uncle," is an unexpected development. The film overuses humour to such an extent that it ceases to be funny.

Interestingly, if you still think that Prabhas is the film's leading hero, then that's incorrect information until you reach the end of the film. In the film, the actor exudes supporting character energy and major comic relief. The actor has jumped from Ramayana mythology, Adipurush (2023), to Mahabharata, and to be honest, the latter emerges as the winner. Well, it's the filmmaker's vision; what else?! 

Speaking about Prabhas, the actor portrays Bhairava, a bounty hunter who aspires to abandon Kashi and relocate to Complex, a world that bears a striking resemblance to our own. However, his desire draws so much attention that it dominates the first half. The actor receives relatively little screentime, and the only purpose he establishes is to live in a candyland.

The film's major drawback, which occupies most of the first half, is that several sequences don't add any value to the world Ashwin creates. Disha Patani's sequence serves only as a random filler, providing relief from the desolate world Kalki inhabits. However, it significantly detracts from the screenplay's intended intimacy with Kalki.

Only the scriptures mention the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu, and despite the claim that we reside in Kalyug, no one can definitively identify the Kalki avatar, unlike the other incarnations that have a narrative and motto.

These fillers cause the screenplay to falter on numerous levels. However, the second half is nothing but a redemption arc where things just get better and better. Even the jokes are funnier, and the cast finally comes together for a mission that becomes as clear as a day.  

While Kalki 2898 AD is not a typical story in Indian cinema, it draws significant inspiration from the superhero genre and the post-apocalyptic world prevalent in Hollywood films such as Mad Max, Dune, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. Rather than criticising the creators for a lack of uniqueness in the weapons and visuals, my question is: has Hollywood overindulged the world to such an extent that even a sliver of imagination appears to be a source of inspiration from numerous franchises?

Speaking of performances, we continue to live in Amitabh Bachchan's universe! The legendary actor delivers performances that embody the many immortal characters he has played over the years. Even with his de-aged appearance, the actor still exudes charm in his portrayal. 

Deepika Padukone's Sumathi, who resides in Complex as one of the "infertile" women and serves as a helper to the "fertile" women, unexpectedly makes an appearance. This is the fundamental premise of the film, and it's challenging to elucidate without revealing spoilers, as it connects to Kamal Haasan's enigmatic character, Supreme Yaskin, a physically frail individual with a powerful intellect who ascends to become the deity of "Kalyug." However, when it comes to DP, the actor's portrayal seems to be a continuation of Jawan (2023), a character who finds herself pregnant, helpless, and trapped by those with malicious intentions. This is something like a cakewalk for the actor, who has taken on far more challenging roles, according to his characterization. 

On the other hand, Prabhas will remind you of that kid in a candy store who cannot afford any toffee but will never stop thinking about it. The actor spends the most time interacting with Bujji, his vehicle, which is reminiscent of Iron Man's J.A.R.V.I.S. Well, even the chemistry with Prabhas is far better than with anyone else.

Even Saswata Chatterjee, as Commander Manas of Complex, performs exceedingly well as the main antagonist, who takes the charge whenever he comes into the frame. 

There are several surprise elements in Kalki 2898 AD with cameos that will leave you astonished as they connect the post-apocalyptic world and the Mahabharata. It maintains the film's level, just like it did for Ashwin's previous outing, Mahanati, which was filled with actors making special appearances as legendary Telugu film industry artists.

The music of Santosh Narayanan's film is easily forgettable, but not the background score, which equals the film's pace and visuals. Speaking of the visual effects, which have significantly increased the film's budget, the cinematography by Djordje Stojiljkovic, who shot the stunning visuals, is among the best seen in Indian movies in recent times. 

On the other hand, Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao's editing takes the liberty of showing the build-up so much that it ends up lacking depth. However, the second half saves the day. 

I watched the Hindi-dubbed version of Kalki 2898 AD in 3D, and while the dialogues, especially the Hindi ones, are not impressive, the characters also converse in English. But, visually, it will leave you amazed. 

Kalki 2898 AD verdict:

Despite a faltering first half, the film redeems itself with a thrilling second act, stellar performances, and stunning visuals. Amitabh Bachchan shines as a timeless presence, while Prabhas adds a touch of comic relief. 

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