Karthikeya 2 in Hindi is different kind of thriller

Nikhil Siddhartha plays the title-role in Karthikeya 2. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

The Telugu blockbuster in Hindi faced the same issue as some of the South Indian acclaimed films—a slender Mumbai release in the wrong movie halls, some as much as 20 kilometers away, and at inopportune show times like 10 p.m.! I had to wait till it was streamed on ZEE5 to watch the much-hyped film, lauded by trade analysts, exhibitors and distributors besides the critics, for its Hindi dubbed version alone.

As a film, it is a refreshing take on a mix of a thriller genre with Hindu history and mythology. It is the first of such thrillers (Kantara, the Kannada mega-grosser, is facing the same release issue in Mumbai!), while the Hindi Ram Setu, set to release in Diwali week, will complete a kind of trilogy. But this film is also a sequel in the sense that it has the same protagonist, Dr. Karthikeya (Nikhil Siddhartha), now a doctor while in the earlier 2014 film, Karthikeya, he was a medical student.

This movie talks about a famous curse on Lord Krishna that finally resulted in Lord Krishna’s anklet behind hidden by a sage, Udhava. It has the power to save humanity and the world from severe problems during Kalyug. A Greek traveler, Ptolemy, is privy to the information of its whereabouts and it is mentioned in a book, which archeological researcher, Dr. Ranganath Rao (K. S. Sridhar) finds by traveling to the Greek library. Professor Santanu (Adithya Menon) is also after the anklet and wants it to rule the world, while Dr. Rao is interested only in the word’s welfare.

Dr. Karthikeya is from Hyderabad and is a firm believer in medicine and logic. Due to a specific reason, he can communicate with snakes, though. When his mother (Tulasi), wants to go to Dwarka in Gujarat to fulfill a vow she had taken that gave her this healthy son, Karthikeya accompanies her with his maternal uncle, Sadanand (Srinivasa Reddy), who is actually more like his friend.

Santanu comes to know that Dr. Rao has the precious info he needs and threatens him, finally killing him. But before that, a wounded Dr. Rao has met Karthikeya, and so Santanu goes after him. He organizes so that the cops arrest Karthikeya, who will be released only if he parts with Dr. Rao’s secret. Suddenly, a lady rescues Karthikeya from the cops and takes him away, revealing that she is Dr. Rao’s granddaughter, Mugdha (Anupama Parameswaran).

Karthikeya realizes that he has been chosen by the divine forces, through Dr. Rao, for the mission to find the anklet, and embarks on it with Mugdha and his uncle, as his mother is into an 11-day devotional camp on Lord Krishna. By chance, he hears of a truck driver, Suleman (Harsha Chemudu) whose vehicle is never checked and hires him for the voyage that will take him to the various places the clues tell him to go. En route, they also visit the blind Dr. Dhanvanthri Vedpathak (Anupam Kher), who enlightens them further on Lord Krishna and pronounces that Gods must be understood as much as worshipped.

The mission is finally successful after many difficulties and Dr. Karthikeya and Professor Santanu both get what they deserve.

The film tries to balance religion and history with modernity, but skips over details that should have been convincingly fleshed out. For example, how did Dr. Rao know that what he was hunting for was located in a library in Greece? How did Santanu have so many cops across different states under his thumb? How did the ancient telescope tell Karthikeya where to go? Finally, this doctor hero is also excellent in combat and action! Sadly thus, for a film trying to reconcile mythology and history with 21st century facts, we have to take a lot of what is shown with more than a pinch of salt.

The film has superb camerawork with brilliant night shots as well as eye-catching locales in Gujarat and Northern India (by Karthik Ghattamneni, curiously also the film’s debut-making editor. Now this is indeed a rare phenomenon!).

Another major asset is the phenomenal, international-level background score by the legendary genius’ son, Kaala Bhairava (best known to Hindi cinema as a singer in the Bahubali franchise and for the hit song, Komurom Bheemudo from RRR)—its cadences lift the film to a different level, especially in the plentiful dramatic sequences. Kaala Bhairava also composes the songs, which are apt.

Writer-director Chandoo Mondeti infuses good credibility to this story but, as said before, skimps on the detailing that could have added to the appeal. The actors are more than competent. I loved the intensity of Nikhil Siddhartha, the unalloyed affection of Tulasi as his mother, the bright presence of Anupama Parmeswaran, and the light touches given by Srinivasa Reddy and Harsha Chemudu. Last but not least, Adithya Menon as Santanu and Venkatesh Mummudi as Abheera also impress whenever they come on screen.

One point: the character of Suleman, a Muslim who is part of the search for the anklet, highlights the seamless way South movies show religious integration without any in-your-face word spoken on Hindu-Muslim angles. The same happens when other religions (like Christianity) are involved. We last saw this even in RRR. This is something Mumbai filmmakers have rarely done and need to emulate.

In the final analysis, if you can overlook some illogic to savor a different kind of thriller, Karthikeya 2 will work for you. But it is, in my humble opinion, nowhere near the masterpiece level it is touted to be—and could have been.

Rating: ***

Abhishek Agarwal Arts & People Media Factory present Karthikeya 2 Produced by: Abhishek Agarwal & T. G. Viswa Prasad  Directed by: Chandoo Mondeti  Written by: Chandoo Mondeti & Gopal Ram (Hindi dialogues) Music: Kaala Bhairava  Starring: Nikhil Siddhartha, Anupama Parameswaran, Anupam Kher, Adithya Menon, Srinivasa Reddy, Harsha Chemudu, Tulasi, Venkatesh Mummudi, K. S. Sridhar & others





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