2.0: A Teaser for schoolkids!! Why?

The biggest cinematic event of the year made its first appearance two days back, and it was truly a historic day. India’s first native 3D film, the first time ever that a teaser had an official theatrical release with advance bookings (even though free) that were sold out – this was Superstar effect at its most magnificent. All that’s fine, but what does the teaser tell us about the magnum opus!

That 2.0 was going to be a VFX showcase was obvious from the day it was announced. Its predecessor Enthiran was a benchmark for Indian cinema in terms of visual effect standards. 2.0  just had to be bigger and better. But before getting down to the VFX, let’s look at why Chitti, who was dismantled back in 2010 for being far too powerful, is brought back into the world. What mission does he have this time? The answer seems to be quite obvious – there’s a big bird on the loose and it seems to have something against mobile phones! Well, it seems to be a giant amalgamation of mobile phones. And we see many birds circling a mobile phone tower which has a man hung from his neck through the middle! What’s it about birds, mobile phones and a man that creates a spectre to terrifying that Chitti needs to be brought back. Our guess is that 2.0 makes use of the well-known fact that mobile phone radiations have made survival difficult for many birds. The sparrow has disappeared from cities altogether thanks to mobile phone signal radiations. 2.0 seems to be a movie set somewhere in the future where mobile phones have become so all pervading that birds can no longer survive peacefully in earth and thus turn around and attack – this also justifies the by-line ‘The world is not only for humans’! The only doubt that remains is what is Akshay Kumar’s role in this? He looks much like a ‘birdman’ in some shots, and one wonders whether he is a scientist who takes it upon himself to save the birds from extinction?

We will get to know all that soon. What we know for sure is that apart from Chitti we also have the menacing evil ‘red chip’ Chitti making a major impact in 2.0. In fact, it looks like it is the destructive powers of the red chip Chitti that are called upon to counter the menace of the big bird! We know the kind of impact that the ‘black sheep’ scene had in Enthiran. Shankar has definitely added something along those lines here!

In spite ofwhat seems to be an interesting storyline and Superstar in top form, the teaser does leave us feeling a bit underwhelmed. Why? The VFX seem to be straight out of Cartoon Network! This is not an overstatement of the inadequacy of the graphics work, this is exactly how it feels, especially towards the ending seconds of the teaser inside the football stadium. It was shocking to say the least, that a film maker like Shankar allowed this to be put up on the big screen for so many audiences to see. The opening shot of Chitti skating along on the road shows Rajinikanth’s face like we have never seen it before, all puffed up and artificial! In fact, that look reminded many of the awful Chitti sequence we saw in Shahrukh Khan’s ill-fated Ra One! One gets the feeling that if it was not out of respect for Superstar and Shankar, people would have been tearing up this teaser by now. The biggest shock is that the VFX quality is not even a shade of what we saw in Enthiran!

Let’s give the benefit of doubt to Shankar for now. We know that he is the technical kingpin of Indian cinema. No one has set technical benchmarks as he has done over the years. We know that he is good at handling complex VFX sequences, as we witnessed with gaping mouths in Enthiran 8 years back. Surely, the same director cannot deliver such a half-baked product. What went wrong then? This seems to be a combination of many factors. VFX is a complex process involving many players. But, the most significant people are from the VFX company that does the post-production work on the VFX shots. If the company provides a below par output, there is little the director can do about it. Maybe this is what went wrong. Or, maybe the VFX wok is not done yet, there is still a lot left to be done in all those shots. Then why release this teaser at this juncture?

The answer to that lies in the complexities of the trade of cinema. For a movie that has been in the making for more than 3 years, we have got precious little news or footage. There has been widespread speculation that the project has been indefinitely delayed and is facing huge problems. This kind of speculation always leads to a sense of apprehension among distributors who show hesitation to get involved in the film’s business. Maybe this teaser was released to put to rest all the speculations about the film’s release – among the distributors and audiences! This was reassurance that the project is well and truly on!

But has this teaser reassured or created fresh doubts? It is obvious that the teaser has set the cat among the pigeons in many quarters. Everyone went there expecting VFX that would rival Hollywood and came back with the feeling of having watched a Power Rangers episode. We wonder whether the 2.0 team could have been a bit smarter and released a teaser without any of the VFX heavy shots? We are quite sure there are plenty of Superstar moments in the movie that would made the teaser highly exciting. After all, even after having spent 500+ crores, the biggest whistle moment in the teaser was a simple shot where Superstar said ‘Cuckoooo’! It just wen to show, you don’t need 500 crores to get the audience excite, you need Superstar!

For Indian cinema and Tamil cinema’s sake, we hope and pray that the teaser was released as a matter of compulsion or maybe sentiment (Vinayaka Chathurthi – Pillaiyarsuzhi etc.) with the VFX work being incomplete. But, if this is the quality of VFX that they intend to present on the big screen come November 29, then this could be the biggest disaster story in the history of Indian cinema! Hoping that does not happen – cuckooo!!