Director Shankar has had an illustrious career, mainly making vigilante-themed movies. It’s natural that he will pick the same genre that he has perfected for about 25 years when over Rs 500 crore is involved. India’s expensive movie is widely touted as a sci-fi thriller. But, beyond all those lofty concepts of physical science, futuristic computers, advanced robots and various other gizmos, lies a vigilante story at the heart of 2.0.
Shankar has taken his fascination for vigilante justice stories to a whole new level in 2.0. But there is a twist. He has flipped the conventional tropes of the hero and the villain. He has stunningly repackaged the well-worn motif of good versus evil with the help of gifted craftsmen in the business of filmmaking. The movie opens with the death of a man, who hangs himself from a mobile phone tower. Cut to next scene, mobile phones start flying off the shelves. And the game is on as Shankar is unburdened by the necessity to set up obligatory introduction scenes for essential characters of the film, thanks to its predecessor Enthiran (2010).
Rajinikanth’s Chitti fell short of achieving the recognition of superhero in Enthiran after unscrupulous scientist Bohra reprogrammed him into a killing machine. He was considered a threat to mankind and was dismantled after he inflicted a massive loss of lives and property. Chitti was last seen resting in pieces at a science museum. In 2.0, he is reassembled and is officially inducted into India’s superhero canon.
The top scientists of the country scratch their heads struggling to explain the phenomena of vanishing cell phones. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) and his female humanoid assistant Nila (Amy Jackson) track down the whereabouts of the mysterious force and even gets a glimpse of its powers. Vaseegaran wants to bring back Chitti to contain the mysterious force but Dhinendra Bohra (Yes, he is Bohra’s son) resists it. Dhinendra is one of the poorly written characters of 2.0. His character is treated like a utility just like his father’s in Enthiran. He is discarded soon after he serves his purpose.
In a less dramatic scene, Vaseegaran and Nila steal Chitti from the museum. He is brought back to ‘life’ just in time so that he can deal with a fear-inducing giant bird that is killing cell phone users. He is catapulted to superhero status when he is introduced zipping through roads on his inbuilt wheels.
Chitti follows the rules, obeys his master, and is not a narcissist. In short, he is no fun. But, the first half ends even before you know as Shankar keeps your mind occupied with brilliant visual effects. The 3D glass just enhances the cinematic experience as it makes you feel that you are right in the middle of the action.
The plot structure of 2.0 is a classic Shankar set up. It begins with the sample killings of some people. And a dedicated second half to tell the backstory of the vigilante in an emotional flashback that justifies the death of those who were killed in the first half.
The real fun begins when Chitti 2.0 comes on the screen. Rajinikanth as a narcissistic, megalomaniac robot infuses the film with a lot of energy. Shankar cleverly uses several throwbacks to Enthiran bringing in some much-needed comical relief. But the only regret is we don’t get enough of Chitti 2.0. And there is another surprise in the film, which you will enjoy when you see it.
Akshay Kumar sporting all those heavy prosthetic makeup has played his role with conviction. But he gradually loses steam once Rajinikanth comes into his element. Amy Jackson plays a robot with a lot of interest in Tamil pop-culture and gets some speaking-lines that get her claps and whistles from the audience.
In terms of plot, 2.0 is flimsy. But the smartness of Shankar’s approach to the movie is he lets the villain seek justice for the wronged species (read birds). And gets his hero to protect the ones that committed the wrongs. He even has the drool-worthy hero blackmail the terror-inducing villain into submission by threatening to kill the latter’s loved ones.
2.0 is the triumph of first-rate technicians who have achieved a technological breakthrough in Indian cinema. The 3D frames of cinematographer Nirav Shah transport the audience into the movie itself. And composer AR Rahman’s background, Resul Pookutty’s sound designs enhances the cinematic experience. The visual effects encourage the audience to generously overlook the gaps in the screenplay and simply sit back and enjoy the show. It’s totally worth it.