Karthikeya 2: A Mis-directed Diwali Rocket
Star Cast: Nikhil Siddharth, Anupama Parameswaran, Anupam Kher, Srinivasa Reddy, Harsha Chemudu, and Adithya Menon. Karthikeya 2 review
Cinematography & Edited by Karthik Ghattamneni
Music Composed by Kaala Bhairava
Written & Directed by Chandoo Mondeti
During Diwali, most of us like to fire up crackers and eat some sweets. No matter what we do, one funny thing does happen always, at least one rocket cracker goes into the neighborhood aunty or uncle’s house whom we fear most. They end up hating us more and we run away from the situation to look innocent. Imagine, if we fire up a cracker and took all the necessary precautions and forgot to aim it properly in a container, and at the last moment, it flew into some stranger’s house. The stranger happens to be a person who doesn’t give up on a chance to fight or maybe this cracker-caused fire accident at their place. That person will hunt for you and with the power that stranger holds, you may have to pay the burden of your actions. Now adding some sauce to the situation, let’s say, you’re able to hide well enough and your neighborhood is filled with your friends, hence saving you or with people who don’t know you hence you’re safe enough as they don’t help the stranger in identifying you. Adding some more sauce, along with you some more fired rocket crackers at the same moment or some moments before or after, so you’ve a chance to escape. The stranger will be shocked and with the effort, it takes to find the true “culprit“, he or she would give up. If you repeat the act, next Diwali or any time else you burn crackers, no one can save you. But if you never repeat, you might get excused or someone else’s rocket will end causing similar or more damage to your house. In short, we can attribute this sequence of events to Karma, Justice delivered by the universe, or pure coincidence that could happen to anyone at any time. Perspectives defer from person to person. It is the same with believing in God and not believing in some supreme being or power’s existence as well. You believe in it, you may feel the presence and you never believe in it, you may never feel the necessity. At times, you may end up being 50-50 too. Chandoo Mondeti‘s story is high-end but his screenplay writing is like the example, we have just discussed.
Spoilers Heavy – Kindly refrain if you’ve decided to watch it anyways…
“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is…“
Yes, the rocket example for a story that involves a secret hidden by Krishna, who is considered as Lord by many seems amateurish. Agreed, but that’s how film is as well. That doesn’t mean the film did not have points that worked in its favour. Infact, this effort from Chandoo Mondeti, Karthikeya 2 team, Nikhil Siddhartha needs to be given applause for standing by the uniqueness that this story can offer and trying to deliver an experience through it despite budgetary, time, and pandemic issues. Going for such a concept heavy film needs to be appreciated. But just concept cannot make a film fun enough or a fulfilling experience. If you buy a ticket to a movie, no matter how much ever you spend, you deserve the complete entertainment that it promises as per your expectations post watching the promotional material. If I promise Baahubali 2 and deliver Rudramadevi, you’re in every right to express your disappointment. No matter the backstory or struggles faced by me in bringing it to you. Even I am expressing the same.
“The wise man let’s go of all results, whether good or bad and is focused on the action alone..“
This script has a major number of ideas that make for a long-awaited unique movie in Telugu Cinema, easily it could have been our own Davinci Code. It tries hard to be one too. The problem lies in the ideas not translating onto the screen as expected or anticipated by the filmmaker himself. Take this sequence, Krishna tells his follower Uddava to save his Kadiyam, at such a place that it is literally unattainable for anyone who’s not worthy. Why does it take 5,118 years for Karthikeya to come and solve the mystery? When there could have been so many others what kind of tests did nature put Karthikeya through to find him worthy? If you call it random – then the film’s plot point stating that everything is interlinked goes haywire. If you call it divine intervention – then again story’s basic idea or concept of looking at Krishna as the Most Intellectual Being ever lived and not as God would go for a toss. A random event in a random film or story doesn’t need such an explanation but here it does. For example, you can call Gopala Gopala/Oh My God film’s plot to choose God helping an atheist to understand him an oxymoron. Still, it works for that universe as lead sues God and he had to argue his own case. Here, at one point director also tries to explain that everything has science behind it. At the same time, tries to explain it with nature or universe or supreme power giving a sign. 5,118 years of wait or Krishna’s power to identify the right person wouldn’t be undermined by this?
“A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe“
Well, him being able to jump off thin ice and walk through the snakes’ bridge and being able to identify the telescope, peacock artifact completing the flute of Krishna‘s shrine can only come across as his skills to cross the difficulties but not as proof of his worth. Any other intelligent person might have been able to pull this off. A person fully injected with anti-venom could have walked through snakes bridge. Any frequent traveler could know that thin ice cracks at what weight and what time. A person’s worth is proven by his choices to act in difficult situations but not by his bravery. It is just one attribute and a person who belongs to a secret society cannot just select Karthikeya Kumarswamy because he saw a peacock feather floats into this man’s hand at a random time at Dwaraka. It requires much more convincing than that. Davinci Code skips this worth part and opens the secret to be solved by anyone who can understand the maze, and clues perfectly. When you add a worthy attribute to your lead character then the convincing factor needs to be far more convincing than convenient. In a movie like Pathala Bhairavi (1951), mantrikudu uses a device to find the “worthy” one. He acquires that device by doing penance for years together and sacrifices his life too. The device grants him his wish not because the hero is worthy but because the villain’s desire is so strong. Hence, he wins everything until divine power intervenes, by chance, because of the hero’s bravery. Not just because he has been randomly chosen as “worthy”. His deeds deemed him brave and astute enough to reverse the wrong-intentioned man’s evil ploy. He still goes through failure to prove himself “worthy”, that is, he loses to the same man in a jiffy and then finds a way by himself, passing the test of time. Hero is asked to choose between riches and love, as well. The man who fell into the trap laid by a cruel person for riches sacrifices them for love. In a 1951 film, a movie made with literal “Chandamama Katha“, we got the clear-cut difference between being a worthy winner and being brave enough to turn the tables on his side. Karthikeya 2 needed any such kind of sequence.
“We behold what we are and we are what we behold“
Actions speak louder than words. An act of kindness or a simple act of choice that makes Karthikeya as good as Arjuna to really be able to acquire knowledge from Krishna should have been incorporated in the film. Krishna doesn’t give Gyan to others in Kurukshetra, he does it to only Arjun. If Karthikeya Kumaraswamy is worth getting that hidden knowledge encrypted in a Kadiyam, then he should be Arjuna, shouldn’t he? When you take popular mythology and try to play it as “unproven historical fact” and not fiction, then for audiences to connect with, also to add to heroism, “mass to the character”, equating him with Arjuna should have been the best bet. In Khaleja (2010), Trivikram Srinivas equates his hero, a taxi driver Sita Ramaraju to Lord. He wanted to show that because of a good deed that saves people, a normal man can achieve God’s status. He had set up “nature/universe hints” right away in a monologue and gave visual proof of that to a true believer because of Siddha’s true belief, penance. For him, those signs are a must! Hence, even if all that’s coincidental, Ramaraju’s first appearance in front of Siddha becomes proof for him to believe in Ramaraju. But the main lead only believes that he can solve the issue after understanding the issue and the meaning of “why him“. Raju randomly got connected to the issue and he is brave enough to take on anyone. That randomness and villain’s choice to target him motivates him not because he believes he is God. Whatever he does in Pali becomes a miracle because the people there want him to be his God and that’s never his choice. While there could be some logical explanations behind them, the director and writer showed how conveniently we can believe in our perception with Raju defending and Peddayya arguing in favour of their belief. Karthikeya Kumaraswamy needed this kind of discussion with Anupam Kher‘s, (brilliant Little cameo), Dhanvantari character or his Uncle or his mother, or even the Abira clan monster leader. The same conversation in Karthikeya with Tanikella Bharani helped the audience to take a side and under this man as well. Just to say how great Krishna is, we don’t need Anupam Kher. Hero just seemed like a man who takes information and runs after a treasure. This character needed to be much more than that for us to really back him.
“It is better to live your destiny imperfectly than imitating someone else’s perfectly..“
Trying to add a treasure hunt to a debate over beliefs vs truth seemed to force fit in this film. Because if a person says that he believes only what he sees, then observing light that existed 13.2 Billion Years ago, should encourage us to believe that when you’re looking into the sky you’re looking into the past and the belief that our ancestors exist as stars, could be far-fetched yet “truth”. While it is impossible to be true it does sound probable. Maybe we never belonged to this Earth and we might travel from someplace here. Maybe these mythological stories belonged to that Earth and while adjusting here, we have accustomed to believing that what we exist is in our reality and all other past stories are myths. Maybe what our Saints have written in those mythological books describing Yugas are us travelling from one earth to another when it’s time to leave and find a new home. In Quran, Bible, and many holy books, not just Hindu mythology, we find the human race running away from a huge flood and constructing a new home elsewhere as Lord showered his Anger. See, the truth vs belief can be dragged to any length and all these are just some random thoughts. Can you prove them? So, asking to just believe and not giving reasons seems highly amateurish and outlandish. Rather than trying to make this screenplay as an outlandish belief vs truth debate force-fitted into a mystery-solving maze or treasure hunt, it could have been what Karthikeya has been. A straightforward myth vs truth story. In “Mackenna’s Gold” or in “Indiana Jones” (1981), if you bring the blind faith concept, they just seem confusing. This film’s screenplay ended up just being that. Indiana Jones goes after mystical treasures using historical facts, not “unconfirmed” ones. At the same time, in The Mummy (1999) franchise, leads go after treasures hidden in myths. You can see the difference between a scientific artifacts-based screenplay and a complete fiction-based one by watching both. Leads in both universes are utmost believers, even in Davinci Code, lead confirms that artifacts hold secrets. In National Treasure (2004), not for one moment does lead expresses distrust. So, when you take up a distrusting lead you have to go Govinda Govinda (1994) route, where lead transforms by confirmed existence and not by someone claiming to believe. If a conformist who only trusts his eyes becomes a believer in a non-confirmed world just by chance, then is it a worthy transformation or depletion of character? Shouldn’t he be at battle within himself that coincidences at random shouldn’t be taken too seriously? Shouldn’t he be disappointed in himself for not being able to solve his own self-mystery? Over-thinking vs Character growth. Both are thin ice sheets and you need to keep them alive while writing a script. Thinking from a character’s pov even if it appears as over-thinking should help in realizing what is the actual growth or graph of a character. Chandoo Mondeti missed on that aspect here.
“Refusing to yield to dualities is your sacred duty. Do it; stay unmoved by them. Or your mind’ll be in constant turmoil…“
Nikhil Siddhartha’s performance has improved a lot from his other films. He seems to be at ease in Chandoo’s world as Karthikeya. Anupama Parameswaran has been wasted and her character again falls prey to the lack of any character graph. Donga Donga (1993) movie by Mani Ratnam a simple cat and mouse game movie added character graphs to his leads. Even in Lara Croft movies, we find some sort of character graph, and Best Marvel movies like Ironman, Captain America The Winter Soldier and Civil War, Avengers Infinity War & EndGame, try to add that graph to long-standing characters. Anupama Kher has been excellent and others are regular. Karthik Ghattamaneni delivered on visuals but editing hasn’t been great or apt. Many random cuts in between shots to hide lip sync and unnecessary jarring cuts irritate. BGM by Kaala Bhairava could have been far better, the same loud BGM cannot be used in every crucial scene. On the whole, when you search for honey you cannot be afraid of honey bee bites, similarly, when transformation or hint at transformation is key, the writing cannot be an Indian Jones treasure hunt. The treasure hunt should have enough knowledge to transform a person and this film without that aspect ends as a misdirected rocket cracker.
Theatrical Trailer: Karthikeya 2 review