Prashanth Neel’s KGF: Chapter 2 is a derivative of Indian society’s penchant to hail men with a messiah complex. The trend can be seen in all realms – be it politics, culture, or sports. Cinema, even the sensible ones like Article 15, has constantly projected the need for a ‘savarna’ savior. In the Kannada language film, akin to similar blockbusters from the recent past (Pushpa: The Rise, RRR), the messiah is a brawny, testosterone-fueled man for whom, not one, a giant community would sacrifice their lives – no questions asked. It is a problematic narrative considering how it is set in a democracy and not in the Baahubali-era.
This degree of hero-worshipping is not uncommon in the southern industries, barring Malayalam. Blame it on the influx of dubbed content on prime-time Bollywood satellite channels, the sensibility has predictably crept into native Hindi speakers’ minds thereby normalizing a toxic masculine protagonist as the flagbearer of the new-and-improved ‘mass masala’ genre.
Midway through KGF: Chapter 2, a film surrounded by mind-numbing noise, I realized how the flavor is not quintessentially Bollywood-like. The Hindi film industry, for its own good, lacks humor-less demi-Gods like Rocky (Yash). The closest it comes is to be a figure like Raees (Shah Rukh Khan in the film by the same) or Salman Khan in the Tiger series. Unlike these men, Rocky is a living antonym of all things vulnerable. Clad in crisp formals and dandy shades, the man is a vision in the ‘70s and ‘80s-set film.
A sequel to KGF: Chapter 1 which was released in 2018, Prashanth Neel’s film has no story to talk of. There’s persistent commotion, high decibel sounds, cardboard antagonists, dim-lit frames, and a wailing, unrealistic mother who wants her orphaned son to do impractical things for unbeknownst reasons. Rocky kicks away in crisp, tight trousers that would’ve ripped off with a minor twitch of the legs if worn by a commoner. He gets an antagonist in Adheera (Sanjay Dutt) who marches in bizarre tattoos, artillery, and other apparel that are absolutely unsuited for the scorching Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). Adheera is the latest entrant to the list of movie villains who owns gazillion guns but refuses to fire a couple of bullets on his chief enemy, only to be beaten to a pulp by the very same man.
Rocky also abducts ‘his’ woman, Reena (Srinidhi Shetty), who was chilling with her friends in a café as any young, modern girl would. Why would he do that? He needs entertainment, we are told. No, Rocky wouldn’t have sex with her as he can’t sin before marriage. I believe Rocky’s definition of entertainment is to see the otherwise urban woman parade his mansion in flowing ghagra-cholis, perform aartis (that’s what a good woman’s role in the society, hints in the film), and make his babies. Reena also gets to mouth lines as ridiculous as, “Congratulations. I love you,” This is material that would have sounded awkward from the best of actors. It doesn’t help that Shetty isn’t much of a performer.
The latter half of KGF: Chapter 2 sees India getting an educated, young, woman Prime Minister. (I love how the phrase sounds). She is Ramika Sen (Raveena Tandon, who matches the film’s decibel levels with a carefully calibrated performance) – an ultra-aggressive leader. Although her larger agenda is unclear, the woman enunciates every spoken word with a thumping vocal variation and exaggerated expressions. Unlike Dutt’s Adheera – who is a bleak, boring villain in fancy-dress attire – Ramika is an interesting entity for Rocky to lock horns with. Moreover, she is a woman who wields power in a man’s world. I loved the arrangement but KGF: Chapter 2 proposes no creativity to make the prospect work.
Visualized quite well (DOP: Bhuvan Gowda) in terms of angles, a perennial sepia filter clouds the frames to indicate that we are in to watch a period film. The editing (Ujwal Kulkarni) is haphazard, and the makers’ attempt to garnish a crucial action sequence with certain stylized cuts falls flat. The music (Ravi Basrur) is listless and the love song, especially, is a major downer.
Swapping back and forth between three time periods, Prashanth Neel’s film is hell-bent on mapping an emotional arc. The film is no Mad Max: Fury Road or John Wick to ride solely on heart-pounding action and, therefore, he feels it is important to let everyone know why Rocky does whatever he does – however absurd it might be. Peppered with decades-old cliches and stale dialogues (even for the Kannada film industry’s arguably low standards), the key bonds refuse to elicit any spark. There is zero warmth between the mother-son this time and the chemistry between the romantic leads is ice-cold. It doesn’t help that neither of the women ever had a say in their lives. They were either hopeful of a man to actualize their wishes or had an array of men constantly remote-controlling their lives.
Prashanth Neel also throws in a needless angle by focusing on a Muslim family. Nothing comes out of it. The man dies, and the mother weeps, marking the end of their non-existent story arc. As KGF: Chapter 2 came to an end, I wondered what prompted me to endure so much screen fury. It is neither a vigorous actioner nor a true-blue swashbuckler with oodles of attitude. The hugely mounted Yash-starrer is a tone-deaf gangster saga that might set the cash registers ringing but is a preposterous sequel to an already-laborious original. And now to think of the possibility of another sequel, I sign off with the hope the Hindi film industry time travels to simpler times when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Koun were blockbusters. I would choose to complain about Rahul being ‘lookist’ or of Prem and Nisha singing way too many (melodious) songs instead of treating myself to a so-called pan-India extravaganza which felt more like an endless assault to my senses.