Is “Kalki 2898 AD” a Game Changer for Indian Cinema?

First of all, let me address the fact that I love Pan-Indian Movies and thoroughly enjoyed Kalki 2898 AD. The film’s release has sparked a lively debate: Is it a game changer for Indian cinema?

The discussion reminds me of the transformative impact of Bahubali (1), which marked a significant shift towards Pan-India movies. With each new release, there’s a surge of excitement with phrases like “India’s answer to Hollywood,” “Indian cinema on the global stage,” and “transformative for the Indian film industry” being thrown around.

India boasts a rich history and mythology, providing a wealth of stories to tell. However, the question remains: “Is the world ready to embrace these narratives?” In my view, the answer is not straightforward, and we face several challenges:

  1. Domestic vs. International Appeal: Indian films primarily cater to a domestic audience of 1.3 billion, with international appeal being a secondary consideration. This focus often results in films that may not resonate with global audiences.
  2. Song and Dance Sequences: While beloved by Indian audiences, the ubiquitous song and dance sequences can be off-putting to international viewers. These elements are often seen as interruptions to the storyline. For instance, the dreamy sequence at the Complex in Kalki 2898 AD felt like a diversion designed to showcase some skin rather than advance the plot.
  3. Writing Quality: There is a pressing need for stronger writing talent. Language barriers and cultural nuances impact how jokes and narratives translate across regions. As someone who does not understand or speak Telugu, Tamil, or Malayalam, I hoped that Prabhas’s jokes in the first half of Kalki 2898 AD were better in the original Telugu. In Hindi, they were disappointing. India is full of talented writers; we need to tap into this potential to enhance our storytelling.
  4. Originality and Copyright Issues: Concerns persist about copyright issues, with instances of scenes resembling those from Hollywood films. This can detract from original storytelling. There is a cartoon circulating in WhatsApp groups suggesting that Kalki 2898 AD copies elements from Star Wars, Dune, Mad Max, Transformers, Avengers, and The Matrix. The first comment my American friends made was, “Are those light sabers from Star Wars?” or “Wasn’t the Shambala sequence a copy of Zion from The Matrix?” We must find our unique way of depicting our stories.
  5. Music Composition: Music in films also faces scrutiny for originality and global appeal. While Indian music has a unique charm, it needs to evolve to meet global tastes without losing its essence.

While films like Kalki 2898 AD create spikes of interest and contribute positively to the Indian film industry, they fall short of being true game changers. They highlight the potential and creativity within Indian cinema but do not fundamentally alter the landscape of global cinema.

In conclusion, while Kalki 2898 AD is a step in the right direction and a testament to the potential of Indian cinema, it is not yet the definitive game changer. The journey towards global cinematic dominance requires addressing these challenges and consistently delivering content that resonates universally while retaining our unique cultural essence.

JPS Nagi
July 2024

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