Saturday, December 2, 2023

KGF 2 – Bigger, massier and better

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April, 2022 has been the month of pan-Indian films. First, RRR crossed the 1000 crore line and now, by the looks of it, KGF 2 is going to outperform RRR. A section of ‘fans’ in Bollywood and other regionals industries has already ordered their respective industries to learn from the aforesaid films. I am not getting either into the politics or the economics behind those demands.

Using any adjective to explain the frenzy around KGF 2 would be an understatement. You see, a film like KGF (1&2) is extremely consequential to the Kannada industry. Though Kannada has been witnessing a new wave of films, its mass films were, to put it mildly, subpar. Till now, most of the Kannada mass films had a fatal issue. They did not have the grandeur of Telugu mass films. There was something that held Sandalwood back from going full throttle on the outlandish. I am not talking about the budget. It is about beauty. The beauty of the mise-en-scène. The production values. For a larger-than-life story to be effective, we need such a huge incentive to suspend our disbelief. KGF 1 got it right. Now, KGF 2 follows suit.

The sequel continues from the events of part 1. Rocky has killed Garuda and is the new leader of KGF. How he consolidates and wards off the enemies form the crux of the plot. See, one need not be the Einstein of Palmistry to know where the plot is going. But the fun is in how ingeniously Prashant Neel concocts the events. In fact, it is this ability to go out on a limb and provide something extraordinary out of a predictable sequence that makes KGF 2 so special. Take the scene at the PMO or the one at the police station. Anyone who’s grown up on a diet of South Indian mass movies knows what is going to happen. But Prashant’s skill in piling up one mass moment over another overwhelms our ability to discern events. Rather we are comfortably whistling at the screen.

Neatly choreographed action set pieces were a major selling point of KGF. The sequel does not disappoint on that count. It is breath-taking in its vision and inventive in its execution. Even weapons attain a kind of cult status in the film – ranging from the iconic hammer, to Kalashnikovs, to a gun so big that it needs its own tripod (aptly named as Doddappa aka Big Daddy).

The film was in the news for its 19-year-old editor – Ujwal Kulkarni – who has done a splendid job in giving KGF 2 a form distinct from other mass films. Clearly the Baptism Murders sequence from The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) has inspired the way KGF was cut. While this was a whiff of freshness for a mass film, its overuse has led to a kind of staleness in some parts.

When it comes to the cast, Yash, like in the first part, oozes swag. Raveena Tandon, as the Prime Minister, is a good choice as the nemesis to Rocky. Her characterization has helped to maintain the morally ambiguous tone of the film. Sanjay Dutt as the baddie Adheera reminds his own Kancha Cheena from Agneepath (2012, Karan Malhotra) where the sheer physicality that Dutt brought to the screen filled any lacunae in writing. However, Srinidhi Shetty’s character was a slight disappointment. The Rocky-Reena love angle is one of the weakest parts in the entire franchise. But one could argue that it could never be a huge disappointment since the bar for romance was already low. In a way, the maker’s decision to cut down on cringe romance is a welcome move. As our films become pan-Indian or even International, creators are making it a point to reduce the cringe and the sleaze.

The film has a killer soundtrack with the songs Toofan and Sulthana being the crowd favourites. Ravi Basrur clearly understands what is expected of him – to amplify the mass-iness. And he ensures that religiously by throwing subtlety to the winds and embracing a self-aware loudness.

KGF 2 largely delivers on what it had promised – an exhilarating, massy period action drama. But in places, it falters. Notably the car chase in the beginning. In an action set piece, establishing the geography is of utmost importance. It makes us understand the stakes as well as who and what is where. Without it, action does not have any coherence and would be less entertaining. The chase scene is so haphazardly cut that it was confusing. Likewise, the extremely loud sound design at places was only good at inducing headaches. Finally, the mega twist that nobody wanted. It looks more like an afterthought or an appendage.

Despite these issues, KGF 2 is a great theatre experience. More than anything, one could see effort in every frame. The effort to spin something fresh out of the run of the mill. And that makes KGF 2 a winner. Now, let us patiently wait for part 3.

Sreedhar Vinayak is an alumnus of IIT Madras. He writes on cinema, history, myth and law.

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