'Kalki 2898AD' Review: An aesthetically stunning film with a matrix of narratives

‘Kalki 2898AD’ has a simple story at heart, a tale from the future about the arrival of the tenth avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. But it is decked up in a herculean, futuristic setting for three hours that partly thrills, confuses and also exhausts the audience. An immersive experience in terms of its scale, the dystopian, mythological science fiction also has a flood of characters and cameos whose arrival and relevance are tough to keep track of.
‘Kalki’ is set more than 800 years into the future in 2898 AD. In Kasi, which is the last city on a severely resource-drained Earth, Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Hassan) rules humanity from a structure called ‘Complex’. His people seize fertile girls and SUM80 (Deepika Padukone) is one among them.

Deepika’s central role is de-glam, but she lends SUM80 a suiting personality. Photo | Instagram (kalki2898ad)

Meanwhile, the mythological Ashwathama (Amitabh Bachchan) is waiting for someone’s arrival for his redemption after ages. Another group of people, in the city of Shambhala, are also planning an assault. An unbeatable bounty hunter named Bhairava (Prabhas) is a curious character entangled in this web.
For those who love complex world-building, retelling of mythological stories on vast canvases and apocalyptic tales, director Nag Ashwin’s film can be quite a spectacle. The exceptional production standards are also breathtaking. Amitabh Bachchan has brought his A game and is the one who steals the show. Deepika’s central role is de-glam throughout, but she lends SUM80 a suiting personality. Kamal Haasan, Dulquer Salmaan, Anna Ben, Shobhana, Vijay Deverekonda, Mrunal Thakur, Rajamouli, Ram Gopal Varma… the cameo list is humongous though not with a quality follow-through for all of them.

The fight sequences between Ashwathama and Bhairava are fun, though Big B’s antics are more impressive than the rebel star’s. It’s Amitabh Bachchan who towers in this Prabhas film, more than the Telugu actor. The humour in the film falls flat almost all the time, especially in Prabhas’ sequences. The creative liberties taken by the writers are interesting, but it’s hard to feel emotionally invested or connected to any party in the story. The end credits provide hope to the franchise-hungry audience. And if you want to offer the ‘Kalki’ cinematic universe a chance, give the film a try. You might not care about the cliffhanger climax now, but what if you do when a stronger second part with a richer universe comes to life?