2.0 review: A fascinating celluloid experience

2.0, on many counts, has broken the standards for Indian film production. The film promised us a marvel that unfolds on screen, based on the vision of Indian minds. By and far, 2.0 fulfills that promise. The visuals are, at several points, breathtaking. But what makes it fascinating is that the ideas are so Indian and the mix, is intriguing. For example, Nila (Amy Jackson), a robot, is in love with Chitti, another robot (Rajinikanth). But how are we shown this? A soft breeze cradles her face, gently pushing her hair away — a trope that is so ‘us’. It is this infusion of our film culture and ethos into on-screen tech (Shankar is credited for ‘imagining the VFX sequences’) that makes 2.0 an entertaining watch.

The story has Shankar written all over it — the fight against an establishment (in this case, the term applies in a broader context), the socially responsible hero, and above all, the visual grandeur. It’s all there. It is what makes Shankar films theatre experiences and there can’t be a better example than 2.0. In fact, 2.0 is a classic, commercial, masala film v 2.0. One can argue that sci-fi is a modified version of our masala films, just that we are reined in with an explanation that throws science at us. When long-winding terms and phrases are thrown at us, you trust what is being said because you don’t know otherwise. While 2.0 has its share of explanations, too many, they are dumbed down to vague terms, and this backfires. Thus, 2.0 becomes more of a fantasy rather than fiction — logic isn’t the strong suit. However the on-screen opulence makes up for it. The VFX has applaudable detail  — in the closer shots, one can almost see the dimension of the phones that mash into bigger forms and objects. But rip off the visual grandeur and the film is lost. The frames demand to be seen on a humongous screen, and if possible in 3D. You get to see a sci-fi version of Rajinikanth’s introduction card in 3D (It was cooler than Sivaji). I was sold right there. With our industries battling a bloody war against piracy, I think Shankar has won this round.

It doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t have its share of flaws. Fortunately, these were the usual suspects with saving graces peppered in-between. 2.0 ambles in a predictable fashion but at a good pace. The erring lip-syncs (visibly noticeable for Akshay Kumar and Adil Hussain), is distractive. Shankar does try his best to salvage with some clever shot placements for Akshay but doesn’t get a perfect score.

The film constantly instructs you how to react and Shankar goes overboard. It isn’t enough for us to witness the spectacle, we are also made to see the response to the same — usually someone agape in awe or fear. More than the indulgence, it was the representation that bothered me. After mobile phones are ‘taken’, normal people are appointed as commentators, their conversations briefing us on the gravity of the situation (A Shankar trait. Remember Anniyan?). While the men speak of how their work is affected, the women seem to use the phone only to interact with family or even worse, take selfies and talk about fashion. The crude representation extends to Sana (Vaseegaran’s wife) who, in the five minutes she gets, is a nagging wife who does nothing apart from complaining about how Vaseegaran hasn’t called even during an almost-epidemic situation. When she talks, it is almost as if a tape was waiting to be played. Sigh.

On the other hand, Shankar’s other film gags, which are a throwback to his own films and Enthiran, are far more enjoyable. The Superstar react to ‘Naalu peruku nallathu na ethuvum thappu illa’, an iconic Kamal Haasan line and also say ‘Selfie Pullaingala’ (A phrase from a Vijay song). It speaks highly of the star Rajini is. It is as if Shankar answers our thoughts when he gives Rajini a dialogue that goes, ‘Indha no 1, no 2 ellam pappa vilayattu’.

I wish 2.0 had explored the several meta angles the narrative presented more intrusively. 2.0 pushes the question that Merku Thodarchi Malai put forth — is it growth if it doesn’t include all humans and also other species that co-habit our land? Is technology paving our way forward or caging us in a world that we don’t have an exit from? It would have made for a far more powerful narrative that doesn’t just rely on its enticing visuals.

An edited version of this can be found on New Indian Express.

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