When it comes to setting benchmarks, there is none bigger than Shankar. His entire career has been about setting benchmarks for Tamil cinema and Indian cinema for other directors to follow. 2.0 is yet another example of how Shankar is pushing the limits of Indian cinema in a way no one even thought was possible. 2.0 is familiar territory for us audiences because we know all about the lead characters in the movie. There’s Vaseegaran, Chitti and the menacing 2.0. Therefore, Shankar does not spend much time of the script building up to or telling us about these characters. There is only a brief moment where Shankar let’s 2.0 take his time to make his presence felt. Instead 2.0 is more the story of Pakshirajan, his motives and how his anger is countered by the robotic brilliance of 2.0.
Shankar never believes in holding too much suspense in terms of the plot. He always reveals most of the plot punches in the teasers and trailers. He just awes us with the way he brings out those ideas on screen. 2.0 is no different. He has opened up most of the plot in the pre-release promos. It’s all about the well known concept of how the birds in our skies are affected by the ever increasing cell phone radiations. Shankar takes that basic concept and builds around it a story that involves auras, positive energy, negative energy, neutron synthesis, neutralization, SETI..etc. He takes the concept of the spirit from the Indian setting and tries to put it into a scientific template and convince the audience about its credibility. Quite a lot of screen time has gone into that effort and the results are not bad. The jargon might be off-putting for some audiences, but it does work at some levels.
The first half is mostly about introducing us to the threat that is looming. Many scenes are dedicated to showing the how big and serious the threat is. This is typical Shankar template at work and we can see the predictability with which it plays out, especially with how one person after the other is targeted. The first half mostly seems to move from one action encounter to another and then finally Chitti enters the fray. All the action sequences are well conceived and executed, but they seem bit empty in the first half because the drama that ensues between the se sequences hardly grips the audience. None of the characters that are newly introduced develop any sort of connect with the audiences and the action thus feels more or less empty. Adil Hussein and Kalabhavan Shajon somehow manage to leave an impression because of the seasoned performers that they are. The first half leaves us a bit apprehensive about how the entire experience will turn out.
The second half however picks up markedly in terms of scripting. This is because Shankar succeeds in giving us an emotional anchor with which we can connect. That comes in the form of Pakshirajan’s flashback sequence which clearly explains his motives. It is beautifully done. The birds, rain, rivers and nature all make for a very pleasant departure from the slick glossy hi-tech feel of the rest of the movie. Akshay Kumar’s look, body language and everything else that comes in that sequence touches us, makes us empathize with the characters and understand his motives towards the latter part of the movie. It is perhaps the best portion of the movie. This portion makes Pakshirajan’s character perhaps one of the most well-defined antagonists in Tamil cinema over the past few years.
Then, it is a race towards the climax and Shankar hits the home stretch in style. This is his comfort zone. He has reserved most of his ammunition for the final 30 minutes, and it is the best climax block you would have seen in recent memory. The achievements of the VFX department, headed by Srinivas Mohan, in this regard is extraordinary. They have done something that other Indian filmmakers will have nightmares even thinking about. We also cannot not mention Nirav Shah’s contribution towards this. Be it in making sure the VFX shots are believable, or in ensuring 3D depth throughout, he has done a marvellous job! Same goes for art director Muthuraj whose work has ensured that sci-fi feel for the movie, while also setting up properties to give us that constant depth feel. It is the synergy of these three departments working towards Shankar’s clear vision that has enabled 2.0 to happen.
2.0 would not have been possible if not for Superstar! Who else can be trusted for pulling off a robot who has a wicked attitude. Here, he gets very little space to express himself as most of the script is about the conflict and not about him. But, all he needs is a few seconds of liberty that Shankar gives him and he creates magic on screen in the blink of an eye. The 2.0 intro is one of those moments, and a few seconds where Vaseegaran dramatically transforms – Superstar shows that he is ‘the only one’, quite literally! That brings us to the dialogues of 2.0. It is functional for most parts, but Shankar and Jayamohan do let their imagination run riot at a few places, and puns are used generously, which most of us will enjoy!
Technically speaking the make-up department too deserves a round of applause, especially for Akhay Kumar’s birdman look which is very menacing on screen, even though we did feel a bit apprehensive about it when it was first shown as stills and pictures. AR Rahman is faced with humungous task of producing a score for a movie that is hitherto unheard of in Indian cinema. He tries hard, but we do get the feeling he falls a bit short of the standards he set in Endhiran. Save a few moments here and there, the BGM does not enhance the screen events. The ‘Raajali’ song, however, is testament to the fact that no one can imagine new combinations of sounds for a situation like he does. However, it is in the best interest of the film that none of the songs are played out in full during the film’s runtime. It would have been good if Shankar had decided to also box away the few comic moments he tried with Amy Jackson, they fall flat for most parts. But, she is aptly cast as a robot!
2.0 is a victory of vision, ambition and uncompromising attitude. There might have been many times when the crew was tempted to settle for something less perfect, but they earn our respect for holding on to their vision. Producer Subaskaran must be complemented for believing in the team’s vision and giving them the freedom to dream. Shankar and team have just set the bar high for all other Indian directors, they have shown that Indian cinema can dare to dream about reaching Hollywood standards. For that single reason, 2.0 has to be watched on the big screen. It is a compelling visual extravaganza that is the pinnacle of technology that Indian cinema has ever seen.
TalksOfCinema Verdict : Victory of vision and ambition!
2.O Movie Review Retrospect