Cast: Yash, Sanjay Dutt, Raveena Tandon, Srinidhi Shetty, Prakash Raj
Director: Prashanth Neel
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, but K.G.F: Chapter 2 isn't exactly an unpredictable film.
There is a scene just before the climax where Reena (Srinidhi Shetty) leaves her palatial mansion and comes to the mines to meet Rocky (Yash). She tells him she's feeling unwell, she doesn't like the food, she's been advised not to walk etc. Rocky doesn't get the hint. She then says she's craving mangoes and tamarind. He still doesn't get it, but by now his confidante Khasim (Harish Rai) has caught on. And then she says, "Your mother is coming," touching her stomach. Just as Rocky begins to understand that Reena is pregnant, against the background of a loud coup by Adheera (Sanjay Dutt), you know what's about to happen. Yep. Reena takes a bullet to her clutched stomach and drops dead. This sparks the beginning of the end.
The genius of K.G.F: Chapter 2 is its ability to build anticipation for the most obvious and over-squeezed Indian cinema tropes and then go on to deliver satisfying pay-offs. It is also the film's biggest bane, because apart from the build ups, there isn't really much else.
K.G.F: Chapter 2's first half is entirely smoke blown up the hero's ass — the voiceovers call him a tiger, a hawk, a snake, a tornado, a hero, god and all sorts of things. The various characters — a TV channel editor-in-chief, the son of an author, the main villain, mini-villain, sub-villain, protégé about to die, mother of the protégé about to die, house keepers, thugs, children and so on — sing praises, in dialogue, for the hero. There is also a sequence of a mother giving build up for her infant son, singing proudly while coughing blood.
And then there is the not-at-all-humble Rocky speaking about himself. Take this, for instance. Rocky calls Khasim asking him for a favour. Khasim says, "Yes, what do you need?" Suddenly, Rocky launches into a generously punctuated delivery of self-aggrandising monologue: What I want now is what I've always wanted. Even as a young child being beaten on the streets of Bombay….and on and on. Imagine making a trunk call, asking for a favour and then speaking yourself up in a base voice. I shudder. Rocky doesn't.
The most irritating thing about this part of the film is that in the world of K.G.F, no one ever gives a straight answer, no wonder they're all so tired. If there was a 'who knows the most idioms and metaphors' contest, writer-director Prashanth Neel and his dialogue writing team would win it by miles.
Also generously included in this is a love track. Rocky kidnaps Reena and imprisons her in a fancy bedroom full of designer clothes. He calls her his "entertainment," perhaps Prashanth Neel breaking the fourth wall and answering critics' questions here. Yet, the moment she's shown by some children that he's a man with a heart of gold — which doubles up as the "previously on KGF" bit cleverly interspersed into the film — she miraculously develops Stockholm syndrome and falls in love. Srinidhi tries her darnedest to be the indignant-yet-cute love interest. But, even the best of actresses cannot save a character so vacuous and writing so unimaginative; Srinidhi stands no chance.
By the 80th or so minute, I found myself exhausted to the bone, desperate for a hot cup of coffee to keep me awake and some faith in humanity to return to my seat and finish the job I started. Thankfully, the interval came soon enough and got the break I deserved.
The post-interval film, or K.G.F: Chapter 2.2, is better and it moves faster. Rao Ramesh as CBI officer Raghavan and Raveena Tandon as Prime Minister Ramika Sen bring a semblance of the real world into a film that was too seeped into an over-indulgent underworld, populated by men who think the world of themselves. Even within scenes where Raghavan is giving build up for Rocky in front of the Prime Minister — he was a child in Bombay, he was beaten for eating, he was beaten for talking, he was beaten for standing, he was beaten for standing up for himself…you get the drift — there is some element of action that moves the film forward. The set pieces are grander and more impactful. The climax is a well-choreographed action sequence that escalates consistently.
Compared to K.G.F: Chapter 1, this film is technically stronger. Stunt choreographer AnbAriv scores yet again this week, after a diametrically opposite but equally effective work in Beast. Sound designer and composer Ravi Barsur has gone all out — loud and rip-roaring even for the most mundane scenes — helping a great deal in keeping the audiences awake. Cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda is clever with the muddy monotones, generous with slo-mos, and his love for Yash shows. Production designer Shivakumar makes the film look grand.
Overall, if you're a fan of the genre, the second half might be redeeming for you, even if the first half is testing. In that, K.G.F: Chapter 2 is loyal to its prequel, its genre, its narrative and its purpose. If you can buy into it, it's cathartic.
For me, though, K.G.F: Chapter 2 was just a rocky stack of moderately enjoyable action blocks, strewn sporadically in the second half. That just wasn't enough.