This movie gives you a run for your money, but eventually falls short in holding on to its narrative; which, when it started, promised a lot more bang for your buck. Still, as a sequel, ‘2.0’ is a much improved film from ‘Enthiran’ and with its subject of cell phone addiction, topical as well.
The movie begins with what we think is a farmer in a parched, drought stricken landscape, hanging himself from a cell phone tower. A striking and foreboding image, it turns out that the man was an environmentalist, a Professor of Ornithology, who had studied the effects of cell phone radiation on nature, particularly on birds, and who had come to the conclusion that what we needed was just a couple of cell phone companies to run our connectivity. Instead, he found that the Government of India encourages their communication department to help proliferate these companies, and the consequence of this policy is endangering us, as the radiation from the thousands of towers damages our minds and our eco-system. Unfortunately, what with our pathological dependence on mobiles, and our 24X7 hour need to have them attached to our ears and eyes, this scientist wasn’t listened to, and died a broken man.
But suddenly, one fine day, all phones are mysteriously plucked out of the hands of users and sucked into the atmosphere in their tens of thousands. Like a murmuration - a flock of starlings that fly in synchrony to make cloud like formations across the sky - the phones move across the horizon, leaving their owners grounded and suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.
The CGI work in the film is consistently top class, and the 3D sensory images of mobiles hurtling towards you from their despairing owners is surreal. It is as if a giant switch has cut off the virtual world from all netizens, and people have to make the adjustments to a pre-21st century universe. Landlines are scarce, and only Government officials have them in their offices, leaving the State connected, but almost nobody else.
Till this point in the film, the narrative is gripping and the visuals very well executed. But the curse of the ‘Interval’ in Indian cinema is soon upon us, and sure enough ‘2.0’ makes the transition to a superhero movie. The cell phone apocalypse allows the State to argue that the 'andro-humanoid’ robot from the prequel, ‘Chitti’, who had to be dismantled and placed in a museum at the end of ‘Enthiran' because it went rogue, should be reassembled by its creator, Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth).
The flamboyant Vaseegaran is busy with his humanoid experiments and now has a very pretty 'super-android' assistant called Nila (Amy Jackson). Having learnt his lesson from inserting human feelings into his last creation, the scientist has now made sure that Nila cannot have empathy towards individual humans. Still, after helping reconstruct ‘Chitti’ (Rajinikanth again), the two androids warm to each other, and even occasionally charge each other’s batteries, technically speaking.
The problem with ‘2.0' takes place after the appearance of the cell phone villain, Pakshi Rajan (Akshay Kumar), and the repetitive nature of the endless battles between him and ‘Chitti’. Frankly, the scenes here are not very different from the urban habitat destroying superhero and super-villain combat at the ending of an ‘Avengers’ film. Like in those big budget productions, here too, there is massive collateral damage to cars, buildings, and in this case, disruption to a football match at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The disappointment with ‘2.0’ is because this film had an introductory polemic on the use of mobile phones that was shaping up in an interesting manner.
The symbiotic relationship between ourselves and our phones finds inventive expression in the craft of this movie, with excellent visual and sound design. Some mobiles float just out of reach of their owners, tantalising them with their proximity and giving out caller tunes matched to birdsong. Some desperate owners have their phones stuffed into their mouths. Other, expensive, diamond studded personal phones, scar the faces of their greedy owners.
‘2.0’ is dystopian for the first half of its duration, and mind numbingly wearisome in its second.