‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: Lavish Tollywood Sci-Fi Epic Is an Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle (2024)

With “Kalki 2898 AD,” Telugu cinema filmmaker Nag Ashwin rifles through a century of sci-fi and fantasy extravaganzas to create a wildly uneven mashup of everything from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” to Marvel Comics movies, underpinned by elements from the Hindu epic poem “Mahabharata.” It’s billed, perhaps optimistically, as the first chapter of the Kalki Cinematic Universe franchise —which makes it part of a larger trend, since it launches the same weekend that Kevin Costner’s multi-film “Horizon” saga does in the U.S.

International viewers unfamiliar with the specifics of the ancient Kurukshetra War between the Kauravas and the Pandavas — think Hatfields and McCoys, only with chariots and spears — may want to brush up on Indian mythology before approaching “Kalki 2898 AD,” if only to make some sense of repeated references to that clash. Such foreknowledge could be especially useful during the CGI-amped opening scenes that illustrate how Lord Krishna cursed the warrior Ashwatthama to an eternal life as punishment for a grave misdeed, but allowed him a shot at redemption if he someday assisted in the birth of Kalki, the tenth and final avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

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On the other hand, moviegoers throughout the world should have no trouble identifying (and in many cases appreciating) Ashwin’s numerous visual and narrative allusions to “Dune,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Star Wars,” “Black Panther,” “Blade Runner,” “Mad Max,” the Harry Potter movies and a dozen or so other pieces of intellectual property. Extended and unwieldy hunks of “Kalki 2898 AD” are devoted to world-building and character-introducing in parallel plotlines that take a long time to intersect. As a result, there are too many sluggishly paced stretches where the passing of time is keenly felt and the storyline is obscured by confusion. But the aggressively spectacular (and, again, CGI-intensified) action set-pieces are generously plentiful and undeniably thrilling, and the lead players are charismatic enough, or over-the-top villainous enough, to seize and maintain interest. Will that be enough to justify two followup flicks? It’s hard to say from early box-office reports.

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After the fateful encounter on the centuries-earlier Kurukshetra War battlefield, “Kalki 2898 AD” fast-forwards a few thousand years to Kasi, a familiar looking but impressively detailed dystopian slum described variously as the first and the last viable city on Earth. High above the huddled masses, there is the Complex, a humongous inverted pyramid where, not unlike the elites in “Metropolis,” an Emperor Palpatine lookalike ruler named Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Haasan) and other members of the in crowd savor an abundance of luxuries — including, no joke, their very own ocean — while served by manual laborers recruited from below.

Bhairava (Telugu superstar Prabhas), a roguish bounty hunter who rolls in a tricked-out faux Batmobile equipped with a robotic co-pilot, yearns to earn enough “credits” to buy his way into the Complex, where he can crash the best parties, ride horses through open fields and avoid all the debt collectors hounding him in Kasi. He seizes on the opportunity to make his dreams come true when a colossal reward is posted for the capture of SUM-80 (Deepika Padukone), an escapee from the Complex’s Project K lab, where pregnant women are routinely incinerated after being drained of fluids that can ensure Yaskin’s longevity.

While on the run through a desert wasteland, en route to the rebel enclave known as Shambala, SUM-80 is renamed Sumati by newfound allies and, more important, protected by the now-ancientAshwatthama (Amitabh Bachchan), who has evolved into an 8-foot-tall sage with superhuman strength, kinda-sorta like Obi-Wan Kenobi on steroids, and a sharp eye for any woman who might qualify as the Mother, the long-prophesized parent of — yes, you guessed it — Kalki.

Bhairava and his droid sidekick Bujji (voiced by Shambala Keerthy Suresh) follow in hot pursuit, and are in turn pursued by an army of storm troopers led by Commander Manas (Saswata Chatterjee), a cherubic-faced Yaskin factotum who always seems to be trying a shade too hard to exude intimidating, butch-level authority. Ashwatthama swats away the storm troopers and their flying vehicles like so many bothersome flies, and exerts only slightly more effort by warding off Bhairava and his high-tech weaponry. (Shoes that enable you to fly do qualify as weaponry, right?)

For his own part, Bhairava has a few magical powers of his own, though it’s never entirely clear what he can or cannot do with them. After a while, it’s tempting to simply assume that, in any given scene, the bounty hunter can do whatever the script requires him to do.

But never mind: He and Ashwatthama do their respective things excitingly well during the marathon of mortal combat that ensues when just about everybody (including Manas and his heavily armed goons) get ready to rumble in Shambala for the climactic clash.

All of which may make “Kalki 2898 AD” sound a great deal more coherent than it actually is. Truth to tell, this is a movie that can easily lead you at some point to just throw up your hands and go with the flow. Or enjoy the rollercoaster ride. And if this really is, as reported, the most expensive motion picture ever produced in India, at least it looks like every penny and more is right there up on the screen.

‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: Lavish Tollywood Sci-Fi Epic Is an Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle (2024)


‘Kalki 2898 AD’ Review: Lavish Tollywood Sci-Fi Epic Is an Unabashedly Derivative Spectacle? ›

Extended and unwieldy hunks of “Kalki 2898 AD” are devoted to world-building and character-introducing in parallel plotlines that take a long time to intersect. As a result, there are too many sluggishly paced stretches where the passing of time is keenly felt and the storyline is obscured by confusion.

What is the Kalki 2898 AD about? ›

How many parts of Kalki 2898 AD? ›

'Kalki 2898 AD' Director Nag Ashwin Reveals Plans for Part 2, Including an Epic Face-Off Between Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan (EXCLUSIVE)

Who composed the music for Kalki 2898 AD? ›

The official title was announced in July 2023. The film has music composed by Santhosh Narayanan, cinematography handled by Serbian cinematographer Djordje Stojiljkovic and editing by Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao. Made on a ₹600 crore (US$72 million) production budget, it is the most expensive Indian film.

What is the total collection of kalki in worldwide? ›

According to the film's producers, Kalki has already surpassed the Rs 900 crore mark at the global box office and has clocked in an estimated Rs 521 crore at the Indian box office.

What is special about Kalki? ›

Kalki is described in the Puranas as the avatar who rejuvenates existence by ending the darkest and destructive period to remove adharma (unrighteousness) and ushering in the Satya Yuga, while riding a white horse with a fiery sword. The description and details of Kalki are different among various Puranas.

What is the prophecy about Kalki? ›

According to the prophecies, Sri Kalki will appear on a white horse, wielding a fiery sword, and will destroy the wicked and protect the righteous. His arrival is said to coincide with the end of the Kali Yuga, which is believed to be a time of great turmoil and suffering.

Which god is born in 2026? ›

Kalki Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Lord Vishnu in coming future. Kalki would be the tenth and the last incarnation of Lord Vishnu at the end of Kali Yuga.

How many languages does Kalki 2898 speak? ›

Kalki 2898 AD BO Collection day 10

The science fiction was released in theatres on June 27 in six languages, including Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and English. The movie was directed by Nag Ashwin and produced by Vyjayanthi Movies.

Is Nani in Kalki 2898 AD? ›

Addressing queries from Telugu media, Nag Ashwin clarified that while Nani had previously collaborated with him it was not feasible to include him in Kalki 2898 Ad's initial installment.

Will Kalki 2898 AD be a hit? ›

According to Deadline, Kalki 2898 AD has grossed an estimated $95 million worldwide after its second weekend in theaters. In North America alone, it has garnered approximately $16.5 million. These earnings make the film the tenth highest-grossing Indian film of all time.

Who is the villain in Kalki 2898 AD? ›

Actor Humhu's performance as a villain in 'Kalki 2898 AD' received praise. He discussed working with Prabhas and Deepika Padukone and hinted at an exciting sequel. Fans can look forward to his theatrical production and a new film project.

How much does Prabhas charge for Kalki? ›

He became a rage after the super success of Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. There were reports that he had initially charged a massive Rs 150 crore for Kalki 2898 AD, but then later he decided to cut down his fees to Rs 80 crore.

Will Kalki come in 2025? ›

The ascending of the Kali Yuga (the current epoch in which they are presently living) will end in 2025 CE. The manifestation of the next Yuga (the ascending of Dwapar Yuga) will occur in 2325 CE, with a transitional period of 300 years. It is expected that Vishnu will take the avatar of Kalki.

Is Kalki already on earth? ›

Lord Kalki will be expected to incarnate on the Shukla Paksha Dwadashi Tithi(12th day of the bright fortnight) in the Hindu month Vaishakha. According to some beliefs, he will appear at the end of this Kali Yuga which is about 432,000 years away.

Is Kalki dead or alive? ›

According to the Kalki Purana, Kalki marries princess Padmavati, the daughter of Brhadratha of Simhala. He fights an evil army and many wars, ends evil but does not end the earth's existence. Kalki then returns to Sambhala, initiates a new yuga for the better, and then will go back to heaven.

What is Kalki Avatar book about? ›

Kalki Hari, a simple village boy with extraordinary powers learns that he has a bigger purpose to serve in the universe. Lord Kali has taken over the province of Keekatpur. Kalki along with his brother Arjun, friend Bala and a mysterious man Kripa constantly fights for his family and his people.

What is written about Kalki Avatar? ›

The Kalki avatara, the final avatar of Vishnu, is described as a powerful force that will purge the world of evil. He is prophesized to defend the pious and eliminate the wicked, the mlecchas (barbarians), the heretics, the thieves, the atheists, and the impious with his sword and his eight divine powers.

What is Kalki book about? ›

Book overview

Kevin has written down a beautiful novel, a retelling of the avatar of Lord Vishnu, Kalki, in a not so “mythological” manner. He has immense strength, which has been proven time and again by events like defeating enemies twice his size, faster healing of wounds and very sharp fighting skills.

What is the movie Kalki about? ›

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