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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Karthikeya 2, Review: “Ptolemy told me”

Karthikeya 2, Review: “Ptolemy told me”

A pilgrimage for followers of Lord Krishna, and a mosaic of breath-taking locales awaits those who venture into theatre territory and buy tickets to see Karthikeya 2. Add to that some impressive VFX and animation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there is little else to justify making of the film per se. Combining religious events that occurred 5118 years ago, and much earlier, with a present day atheist doctor, it chronicles his journey across various Indian cities on the trail of an unknown object, some artefact that is linked to Lord Krishna. And all through the film, the running strain is that Indian ‘mythology’ is not mythology, but history. Krishna and Ram really lived on this earth, and that their stories, as encapsulated in Mahabharat, Ramayan and Geeta are all true.

It has been described as a supernatural thriller, a successor to the 2014 film Karthikeya, Telugu-language mystery thriller film, written and directed by Chandoo Mondeti, who has written and directed the sequel as well. An incident which occurred in Talupulamma Temple, near Tuni, inspired Chandoo Mondeti to pen the story of Karthikeya. Its commercial success spawned the successor, which was announced in 2017 and was to get rolling in 2018. But there was delay, and it was finally launched in 2019, pre-Covid, to get release today, three years later. A dubbed version, in Hindi, was shown to the media on the 12th of August. Watching it was not a happy experience.

In the very first shot, we see a man walking with an umbrella in pouring rain. He approaches a library in Athens, Greece, and enters, no questions asked, and nobody to stop him. He climbs the stairs. There is not a soul in sight. Then he heads for a particular cabinet, where we see books that are not of interest to him. And then he hits bull’s eye! The very book he came to find has been found. Flipping through the pages, he stops at one. His joy knows no bounds, because this page, and the book, is written by Ptolemy, Claudius Ptolemaeus, to give his full name, (born c. 100 ce—died c. 170 ce), an Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent, who flourished in Alexandria during the 2nd century ce. And on this page he finds clues to the ancient history of India, about the territory not being confined to the Arabian Sea but spreading to the Atlantic Ocean. There is also some clue to an ancient artefact which is of immense importance. He leaves in a hurry, and as he exits, a Caucasian man appears from behind him and gives him a knowing look.

On the flight back to India, the visitor to the library introduces himself to his fellow passenger, a comely young woman, as Professor Rao, an archæologist. When both emerge from the airport, the woman calls up somebody and asks whether she should tail Prof. Rao. We see the man, back to the camera, an imposing figure, who replies in the negative. That man is Shantanu Mukherjee, a member of the Secret Society called Conch, of which Rao is also a member, and Shantanu is the man who has taken over the Society. He has information that a deadly virus is about to cause a pandemic, and wants to get hold of it before it reaches the World Health Organisation (WHO). It appears that he wants to find a cure and market it, making billions, before anybody or any organisation can. How this virus is linked to Lord Krishna and a doctor called Karthikeya, is for you to discover, if you are brave enough.

Director and writer Chandoo Mondeti has also recently made a Telugu film called Bloody Mary, a crime drama with the lead character named Mary, which was released on the OTT platform Aha. I have no idea how Bloody is Bloody Mary, but the amount bloodshed and decapitation shown in Karthikeya 2 is equivalent to about a million litres of the heady cocktail. The Central Board of Film Certification has been extra considerate to this film, as it sometimes is, to certain films. As if the blood-curdling visuals were not enough, we have the deafening decibels of blood-churning music by Kaala Bhairava (an apt name, considering the score he has made), a Mondeti regular. As director, Chandoo shows some inspiration derived from Steven Spielberg, with the quartet of Karthikeya, his maternal uncle, Mugdha, and Suleman, go on expedition upon expedition to unravel the mysteries.

Mugdha is Rao’s grand-daughter. We are told nothing about the rest of the family. Assassins attack Rao and he falls near Karthikeya, who runs to get an auto-rickshaw, to get him to a hospital, but when he returns, Rao has vanished, later, it is revealed that he is captured and killed by Shantanu. Shantanu also wants Karthikeya killed, but, for inexplicable reasons, only kills Rao. The uncle is a Krishna devotee, while Suleman, a Muslim (obvious, isn’t it?) is a truck-driver, a crazy character who helps Karthikeya and Mugdha escape the law. Mugdha had engineered Karthikeya’s escape from a police station, where he had been detained at the ‘orders’ of the influential Shantanu. Suleman bribes police officials at a check-post with liquor – they were passing through a state that practiced prohibition – drinks himself, and gets Karthikeya drunk too.

Having no control over the narrative, Mondeti has a film that defies logic and fails to involve you at any stage. This is probably the first time that a film that has so much spectacle and thrills is anything but spectacular and thrilling. It propagates a certain ideology, and followers of that ideology might see a lot of merit in it. They are welcome. Just as anybody can make a film, anybody can like and enjoy a film. However, a critic’s job is to analyse and assess the film for what it is worth, cinematically. And cinematically, Karthikeya 2 is extremely disappointing.

What was the need to incorporate a Muslim character – only one - in a film devoted to a quest for the ornaments of Lord Krishna? And then, to depict him as a drunkard seems too deliberate to be the need of the story. It is overwhelming to see the character of Dhanvanthri Vedpathak, as a blind man, with a huge library, and a princely bungalow, who has written several books and read hundreds. He comes across as all but sighted, except for the blind act. The long lecture he delivers, towards the end of the film, is mainly a repetition of the theme of the movie. Yes, he appears briefly again, but this time his voice, which was original in the major scene, sounds dubbed. Gujarat was plugged in too obvious a manner, especially Dwarka

Nikhil Siddharth as Dr. Karthikeya "Karthik" Kumaraswamy is awkward and confused.  Anupama as Mugdha has an ill-defined role, but does okay. In a Special Appearance, Anupam Kher plays Dhanvanthri, and plays it with commitment to the cause of the film. Harsha Chemudu as Suleman is a caricature. Adithya Menon as Shantanu has the physique and the demeanour of a Boss. Tulasi as Karthik's mother is as loud as any Telugu films’ mother. Rest of the cast could not be identified.

Karthikeya 2 can easily rank among the worst examples of a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi. Whether the fault lies in the original or not, I have no idea. The rating below is for the locales and the VFX.

Rating: * ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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