Karthikeya 2 Movie Review: A film more interested in teaching than thrilling
Chadoo Mondeti's sequel to his 2014 mystery film is bigger, but definitely not better
Even the disclaimer of Chandoo Mondeti’s Karthikeya 2 is loud and yells the film's objective: “A WORK OF FICTION BASED ON HISTORY!” The film is, naturally, fiction, and it wants us to care about our Gods so much that it feels like we are consistently switching between National Treasure on Star Movies and a pravachanam on Bhakti TV. In fact, Anupam Kher, playing an accomplished man of science, delivers a passionate monologue about the greatness of Krishna, hailing him as a pioneer of several professions—from medicine to entertainment to technology. The problem is, the film wouldn’t be affected in the tiniest degree without this sensationalisation. In fact, the whole devotional angle of this film wouldn’t result in any impact on Karthikeya 2—which is supposed to be an adventure film—as the writing keeps trying to sustain the mystery anyway.
Starring: Nikhil Siddartha, Anupama Parameswaran, Srinivasa Reddy
Director: Chandoo Mondeti
So, how are the adventure ideas and scenes? Some are effective; many are not. Let’s go through some of the ideas: A newly discovered artifact doubles up as a key to an ancient tomb that has been the home of secrets for thousands of years—we have seen it already. Inside the cave, just when the characters wonder about the exact location of the treasure, the universe drops hints and leads them to their destination—we have seen this too. An evil big-shot is hunting for the same artifact—is this new? The plot devices are no different in their lack of novelty. What works though is the Indianisation of the adventure. For instance, the idea to introduce a violent tribe of Krishna’s devotees, oppressed back in the day, is quite interesting. This idea even questions whether religion and caste have been serving as catalysts for man’s savagery from time immemorial. However, I am not sure if this question comes from the filmmaker. This film needed many more such ideas.
Nikhil’s Karthikeya is a doctor in this film, and he still suffers from a ‘disease’ called curiosity. He places logic over faith. After busting the myth about a cursed temple in the first, a much more contained film, he now moonlights as, well, myth-buster. When he reluctantly visits Dwaraka with his mother, Karthikeya is framed for the death of an archaeologist who was on a path to prove the existence of Krishna. He embarks on a journey to defend himself and what follows is intended to be a gripping adventure.
The film saves the best for the last. The final 20 minutes of the film nearly compensate for the earnest yet hackneyed earlier portions. It’s only in the climax that we see the fruition of the film’s intentions to create a home-grown Indiana Jones; it’s when we get the confluence of spectacle and heroism. The scene is set on a frozen river in the Himalayan terrain. Karthikeya has to be saved from a sinking car after the ice breaks. He makes the jump and a saffron kanduva (scarf) and a muslim man’s shemagh come in unison to his rescue. This is the second time we see the union of these fabrics. The first time, they aid the central characters to escape from a possible threat. Both scenes allude to the strength of unity, and both moments—especially the second, more cinematic moment—are quick sojourns in a film that is committed to propagating the richness of Hindu mythology.
Thanks to Karthik Gattamaneni’s cinematography, easily the strongest aspect of the film, Karthikeya 2 comes close to realising its spectacular vision. A sequence that utilises light beams in an old temple right before the intermission stands out. Kaala Bhairava’s music, on the other hand, screams at you—to highlight the barbarity of an ancient tribe. While there’s a sense of epicness to it, I wish the filmmaker had allowed silence to enhance tension, especially in the sequence where Kartikeya has to carefully trudge through a village of deadly snakes. Nikhil Siddartha plays Karthikeya with exaggerated swag. At some points, it even feels like he is showboating for the camera, by the need to ‘appear’ heroic in every scene.
Karthikeya 2 is ambitious and aspires to be grand, both on the page and the screen. This is why the sequel must not be compared with the original, which harboured no such lofty ambitions and was content being a thriller. The sequel needed to wow us, but all we can muster is a “Meh”.