“I am Chitti” and then comes that slick fractional pause of the hand in the air before pounding down on its fist on distilled authority, calling out, “Reloaded. Version 2.0”. This uncanny sense of style from Rajni sets thrilling vibes for a spectacular showdown to follow. Rajnikanth and Shankar have worked in their own separate ways but imagined this movie together. As a creator, Shankar stays consistently true to the image he had originally visualized when he first put pen on paper. As the actor, Rajnikanth exploits his comical eccentricity and adopts a free spirited approach to balance the underlying serious act. Though a magnum opus shining in its own right, it’s a bold attempt not to curtail any antics that applies dollops of guilty pleasure for the viewers.
What’s 2.0 all about? Is it the visual spectacle of destruction on large scale? Is it just grand sets with rich details? Is it a costume drama with stock dialogues on deception and nepotism? Or is it the self-indulgent animated feature creating a sense of artificial wonder?
2.0 is all about the unflinching belief of a righteous man and how the indifference of the entire human race fills him up with an uncontrollable rage after death. This movie is wrongly conceived as a rehash of Shankar’s pet theme – Vigilantism. In fact, it is not a rehash. It’s an extreme upgrade; it is vigilantism 2.0. It’s the vengeful destruction of an entire race simply because it is guilty as a society and not as an individual. Indifference is the biggest enemy for a meaningful growth of any civilization. 2.0 speaks just that and in its own maverick style.
In the movie “A Clockwork Orange”, the central character who is a hardcore vandal gets injected at the psychological level with an overdose of disturbing images of similar crimes he had committed. He would become so hypersensitive that it would make him even cringe at the measly thought of committing another crime. Imagine something we see, use, abuse and depend on everyday turning against us on a massive scale; so simple as birds or ants or mosquitoes or even plants conspiring against us in armies; something that was chillingly presented in movies like “Birds” and “Happening”. That’s an effective delivery device for fear. 2.0 uses the same technique with cellphones only in the form of a magnificent flying machine, a vengeful bird, masterfully conceived by Shankar, although the fear resulting from it could have been shown better.
2.0 tells the story of someone we don’t see often in real life – a compassionate lover of birds and how he watches them suffer and dwindle due to abuse of technology and couldn’t do anything to stop it. All other characters are mere chess pieces in the bigger game of right vs wrong. Shankar smartly removes the whole idea of establishing a detailed character study and takes an interesting route of causes vs consequences that would be enough to send the message. The whole backstory of Pakshi Rajan, played wonderfully by Akshay Kumar, is an emotional retreat from the outstanding visual treat during the first half. The stirringly sweet humming in Pullinangaal song brings out the charm in bird life and Pakshi Rajan’s mystical connection with them. The subtle scene where a sparrow revives a dead baby may be scientifically laughable but visually it cuts through your soul for a fleeting moment. This is why imagination is king. As he finds himself cornered in his attempt to change the society’s indifference to the damage of the ecosystem, he falls flat in agony and pounds on the ground channeling his rage in a fantasy of stabbing every human being standing in his way.
The rage depicted is so intense it transcends into something hauntingly beautiful after his death when you see the aura of all dead birds choosing him to join the cause. That is the greatest inflection point in this movie.
Shankar stitches the conflicts between the lead characters in such a masterful way. Vaseegaran as the wry, unromantic scientist wants to fight fire with fire. Chitti his lovable creation cannot go against its creator and would rather die in the cause. Nila, the unsung hero of the movie, formidable, secretively protective, follows its creator’s orders to a fault in spite of its love for Chitti. And 2.0, the rogue robot wants to conquer the world and be celebrated as the alpha bot for all women, that then becomes the driving force towards waging a war against the birdman. How all these conflicting purposes resolve the birdman’s wrath in a series of events in the second half is a treat as it unravels to that astounding climactic choreography. It’s not about who the viewers would root for. It’s about how the balance is being restored in the end.
Amidst all these thrilling elements, the one thing that stands out as a masterstroke is the electrifying presence of the raging bird on screen. Starting from the scene where it soars against the moonlit sky, the thunderous clawing of a tower, the struggle against the triangulating forces, shots of its shadow while gliding and turning its head like a vicious falcon looking for its prey are fragments of Shankar’s wild imagination.
Two of my favorite shots are the birdman’s rampant wingspread in the night-street sequence and the netting of the bird in the stadium. Brilliant shots those! I felt wanting more and the movie is too short for my liking. Some humorous wordplay here and there reminds of Sujatha’s sharp sense of wit although not as spontaneous and deep.
This venture works on various levels. With a unique plot, great sounds, well-stitched conflicts, wildly imaginative sequences and an underlying message, it entertains while the emotional seed for the rage that loops all these elements takes it one level up. In spite of average performances of supporting cast and a terrible attempt at making it a bilingual, the movie keeps itself elevated because Shankar smiles as a creator. I love it for the sheer gumption it shows without the slightest of restraints or regrets. Celebrate the rage in its full glory.