Director: Prashanth Neel
Writer: Prashanth Neel
Cast: Yash, Sanjay Dutt, Srinidhi Shetty, Raveena Tandon, Prakash Raj, Malvika Avinash, Achyuth Kumar, Ayyappa P. Sharma, Rao Ramesh, Eshwari Rao, Archana Jois, T. S. Nagabharana, Saran, Avinash, Lakki Lakshman, Vashishta Simha, Harish Rai, Dinesh Mangalore, Tarak, Ramachandra Raju, Vinay Bidappa, Ashok Sharma, Mohan Juneja, Govinda Gowda, John Kokken, Srinivas Murthy
Cinematographer: Bhuvan Gowda
Editor: Ujwal Kulkarni
KGF: Chapter 2 is a sequel on steroids – everything is bigger, grander, louder. Director and writer Prashanth Neel has little use for silence, stillness or subtlety. He delivers a film that seduces you with its terrific claptraps but also pummels you into submission with its frenzied editing, thunderous background music and its hypermasculine hero. Everything in this movie is dialled up to 11. For Prashanth, more is more.
This includes the size of the guns, which include Kalashnikovs and one that is so big that it needs its own tripod, the geography – the Kolar Gold Fields are even more sprawling – and the number of bad guys. Supreme among them is Adheera, played by Sanjay Dutt, who we are told has imbibed the Viking way of life, which I think is a way to explain his facial tattoos, braided hair and unflinching brutality. The mother angle, which provides the emotional fulcrum of the story, is more pronounced. The film's narrator says that one way to look at this saga is 'maa ki zidd.' Basically, the subtext of the KGF series is: Mere Paas Maa Hai.
The hardware is also more impressive. Apart from the guns, there are dozens of helicopters – in one scene, a helicopter is summoned not because someone needs to be flown somewhere but because Reena, Rocky's grand romantic obsession, is feeling hot. And Rocky himself is more badass in every way possible. His suits are more stylish. His attitude is more lethal and he is now saviour and king of the world. In one scene, he makes an offer to the prime minister to pay off the national debt. That's how much gold he has.
In Rocky, Prashanth and actor Yash offer us the utopian ideal of old-school machismo. The character has echoes of Amitabh Bachchan's Vijay in Deewaar or Vijay in Agneepath and Kamal Haasan's Velu in Nayakan – like them, Rocky has been brutalised by a traumatic childhood. Rocky's actions are driven by rage and a promise made to his beleaguered mother who raised him alone. In part one, we see her instructing him when he is still in her womb – she says: Mujh jaise besahara logon ka masiha banna hoga. This is a task that Rocky takes very seriously. But he is a masiha with swagger, a superb stylist and the irreverent humour of a Chulbul Pandey. Early in the film, when he takes over the gold fields, the son of an adversary vents his displeasure. Rocky replies with a hilariously mocking comment about nepotism. He's a killing machine with wit.
It helps that actor Yash has the charisma and physicality to pull off these fantastical scenarios. He is required to extensively smoke, remove and wear sunglasses, stride into life-threatening situations and butcher countless men but also to have a moral centre. This is a character about whom it is proclaimed in part one: Gang leke aane wale hote hain gangster. Woh akela aata tha, monster. Yash is a good monster. His flamboyant performance anchors the film.
Prashanth and his superb technical crew – DOP Bhuvan Gowda, composer Ravi Basrur, editor Ujwal Kulkarni and art director Shivakumar J – are pros at world building. Narachi, where much of the story is set, is a dusty, dark space even after Rocky has taken over and become a benevolent dictator. Prashanth's favourite tools are aerial shots, exposition, slow-motion and cross-cutting. In the midst of bloody action, he inserts childhood scenes or flits between two parallel scenarios, which raise the stakes higher. With this film, he also defies writing rules – the all-is-lost moment when you think the hero is vanquished takes place pre-interval here. In fact, the interval functions like a climax.
The trouble is there is still much more to go – more plot twists and more enemies. Post-interval, KGF: Chapter 2 meanders from one set piece to another without the advantage of solid connective tissue. The energy falters and an exhaustion starts to set in. There is also the laughably bad romantic track. The film is set between the 1950s and the 1980s but the gender politics seem to be from an even earlier era. Neanderthal perhaps. Rocky simply forces Reena, played by a vapid Srinidhi Shetty, to live with him in his palatial home because he says he needs entertainment. But of course they don't have sex because that would somehow be against his moral code. What's even more perplexing is that eventually she decides that this arrangement is just dandy and declares her love for him. I saw the film in a theatre packed with young men who were hooting and whistling and I wondered what they would take home from this relationship.
KGF: Chapter 2 is a film that requires commitment. It is, as Prashanth put it, anti-gravity cinema. Rules of physics or logic don't apply. In the climax, Adheera is fighting a ferocious battle wearing a fur cape and dark glasses and you cannot ask why. But if you commit, there is fun to be had. Not consistently but enough to make the popcorn taste better.