The first time we catch a glimpse of Rajinikanth in 2.0 is him as scientist Vasigaran, a character well-known to audiences who’ve seen Endhiran (Robot in Hindi). He emerges out of a lab — the one we saw in the first instalment, but it looks a little fancier now — and waves a perfunctory hello. It’s perhaps the most unassuming of hero-introduction sequences and in stark contrast with the grandeur that is to follow.
2.0 revolves around an object that every one of us flaunts — the mobile phone, and a terrific ‘what if’ idea surrounding it. What would happen if, one day, every cell phone in the entire city simply vanished into thin air? Everyone is perplexed, and it takes the scientist Rajini to figure out that it could perhaps mark the arrival of what he describes as the ‘fifth force’. In order to save the city from impending calamity, Vasigaran needs to unleash his robot – Chitti.
Director Shankar is a master at triggering entire sets of sequences with a plain ‘what if’ thought. We’ve seen it in the unforgettable Mudhalvan (Nayak) where he got a reporter to become a Chief Minister for a day. We’ve seen it earlier in Indian in which Kamal Haasan was cast as an old man who tried to change the system. In 2.0, the ‘what if’ after-effects of the disappearance of mobile phones pan the entire first half – and it’s entirely to the director’s credit that he keeps us hooked. Just savour the mind-boggling image of millions of cellphones swirling in the air and forming a giant wave. Or, wait for the second half, when you’ll be treated to an action sequence between two giant creatures in a packed stadium. These are the kind of packed visuals you’ve got to watch in 3D, as the makers expect you to, and the kind of imagery that we’ve perhaps never seen before in Indian cinema.
Rajinikanth comes to the party in four avatars, but die-hard fans of his style and ‘punch’ dialogues might still feel a little disappointed because of the overdose of special effects in his action sequences. He rocks the sequences as the ‘bad Chitti’, but one wishes that the other characters, especially the new ‘kutti’ Rajini, were given more screen time to strike a chord. There’s also a transformation scene similar to the one in Anniyan, but somehow, it lacks the punch here. Amy Jackson plays a female robot trying to learn what modern humans do – it is indeed a cool idea to have her mouth popular Tamil film dialogues.
Akshay Kumar delivers a fitting performance as the ‘bird man’ and gets a lengthy flashback, a signature present in most Shankar films. Akshay also gets to be part of the only song in the film – the beautifully-written-and-sung ‘Pullinangal’ (composed by A.R. Rahman) which cleverly uses the sounds of birds to add to the flavour. Cinematographer Nirav Shah’s frames also help in lending a gentle touch in this particular segment, while packing in a lot of detail in the action sequences.
2.0 has been in the making for a long time, and the makers kept attributing the delay to the special effects’ department. When you watch this two-hour-48-minute drama unfold on the big screen, you understand why. This business called 3D…that’s the future. If director Rajamouli proved that you could delve into the past and create engaging stories with rajas, Shankar affirms that a peek into the future and a storyline revolving around robots can be worthwhile as well.