Cast: Yash, Sanjay Dutt, Raveena Tandon, Srinidhi Shetty, Prakash Raj
Director: Prashanth Neel
Right through K.G.F: Chapter 2, I couldn't help but imagine what it must have been like for Prashant Neel to watch The Godfather for the first time. More than the whole film, I'd love to ask him someday about the impact its climax left him with as he watched it in what I imagine to be an old theatre, wherever he grew up. Like the iconic theatre scene in Cinema Paradiso, this moment must have been Prashanth's big life-altering moment, his metamorphosis where he not only discovered the magic of movies but also the concept of "mass" before it became a thing. Without sounding too dramatic, something must have clicked in him because there's no one here who thinks in intercuts like this man.
This is true with the earliest image KGF opens with in 1951. Not only is this the exact moment when a massive gold discovery takes place, but it is also here that an even bigger event happens—the birth of Rocky (Yash, rocking!). There are many scenes in the first film that uses intercuts to create the effect of an epic unfolding, but it only gets bigger in the second film. One can start with the sequence right before the interval, when one is witnessing a wounded Rocky losing his powers. He appears to have run away from his kingdom after losing a battle and he doesn't seem the man he once was. Your instinct from a 1000 mass films before this, tells you that a big moment is around the corner.
But the deal with K.G.F: Chapter 2 is not that it wants to be unpredictable. It instead dares you to imagine the biggest ever scene for a situation you've (rightly) predicted and then it asks you to double it. In a split second, Rocky grabs a Kalashnikov and chooses to call it "Khalaasnikov", with an emphasis on "Khalaas" meaning finished. It is then that we intercut to a beautifully edited mega sequence where the entire freaking West Coast of India is seized in a storm of bullets. The ears bleed a little, but you're ok with that. The satisfaction is such that it feels like all of life's problems are getting pulverized in one second.
But don't get fooled by Prashanth's obsession with intercuts, because the spirit of K.G.F: Chapter 2 is surely more Scarface than The Godfather. In one or two instances, you also see how a movie like Bombay Velvet could have played out with a different sensibility. This is a sense you get early on because the first half isn't really the adrenaline rush the first film left you with. It begins with the consolidation of Rocky's new empire with an inventive device that uses children to give you a recap.
Even the bigger moments take too long to start rolling, even though you don't doubt the seeds being planted for payoffs it's all building up to. But until then, it feels like an assembly line of big introduction scenes with every dialogue forced to sound like a punch. What doesn't help here is also how the Preethi (Srinidhi Shetty) character is written. It's obvious how the film's playing on the theme of a Ravanan-type (Rocky) holding his Sita (Preeti) captive in a strange kingdom, but it's a character that needed more details. Like a friend-of-a-friend at a sangeet (she's dressed like that too), you see her everywhere without having much to do.
But a flatter first half is one of the best problems you can have in a big film like this. It ends on a high but it also leaves you with an idea of just how big it's going to get when we return to the goldfields. It's here that Bhuvan Gowda's monotoned images find a level of consistency the first film lacked to the point where you can feel the dust in your eyes. What's cleverer is how the film's one-big-action-set-piece-
Rocky too isn't unidimensional like one had thought and with motifs of him drinking and an obsession with more, you witness the rotting of a soul that does not know when to stop. Even the way the mother's tragedy gets its echoes in the second half is a lot more formidable in the second film. And because of that, the cocky, arrogant Rocky transforms into a hero from a Greek tragedy. It's a tiny miracle really how even this monster of a man gets you to see a hungry, teary-eyed boy behind it all. And instead of another big mass scene, the film chooses to use callbacks to this vital emotion for the film's most crucial scenes. That's what makes K.G.F: Chapter 2 surprisingly perceptive. Not only is it capable of overpowering you with wildly-imagined mass moments, but it also has the place in its giant beating heart for a story about a mother and son who never had the luxury of hope.