Has modern science made faith in God impossible? Are Hindu mythological stories contextually irrelevant today and only used for propagating the system of unquestioning faith? Or, is it actually a part of our forgotten history? Does belief in miracles and traditions require us to oversee scientific evidence or facts?
These are some triggers Karthikeya 2 is sure to instigate in the minds of viewers. Karthikeya 2 (released in 2022) is a Telugu mystery-action-adventure film written and directed by Chandoo Mondeti. The film serves as a sequel to the 2014 film Karthikeya and stars Nikhil Siddhartha, Anupama Parameswaran, and Anupam Kher, although one need not have watched Karthikeya 1 for contextual reference of its sequel. The plot revolves around Dr. Karthikeya who is on a quest to find the lost anklet of Lord Krishna.
The ancient Indian city of Dwarka which was ruled by Lord Krishna is known in Hindu culture for its religious and archaeological significance. The Hindu writings say that, when Lord Krishna departed the Earth to join the spiritual world, the age of Kali began and Dwaraka and its inhabitants were submerged by the sea. Krishna delivered the Uddhava Gita to Uddhava (his dear devotee, counselor, and friend) to console him after his forthcoming departure. It commences with Uddhava's perplexity after he saw the impending destruction of the Yaduvamsha community, in which Krishna himself was raised. When he could not fathom why he had not prevented the destruction from happening, Krishna expounded the Uddhava Gita in response.
The film begins with a beautiful animation sequence of these events followed by Krishna's conversation with Udhava. "The Kali Yuga would unfold to be an era where argumentativeness passes off as intelligence, recklessness becomes courage, robbery is the new order, loudness defines one's knowledge, the rulers become robbers" (can any truer words be spoken?). He then entrusts Uddhava with his anklet, which is equipped with the solutions for all the deadly problems and calamities mankind is going to face in the succeeding Kali Yuga.
In the present day, Professor Ranganath Rao, an archaeologist, visits a library in Greece. Through a book written by Ptolemy, he discovers the anklet bestowed by Krishna to Uddhava. Meanwhile, back in Hyderabad (India), Karthikeya (aka Karthik), is a doctor who believes in science and logic. With a curious mind and a passion for demystifying eerie places, he places truth over (blind) faith. Following a series of events, Karthik takes his mother to Dwaraka. One night, he crosses paths with a mortally wounded Ranganath Rao, who tries to tell something to him but vanishes by the time Karthik gets help. The following day, Karthik is arrested by the Police, who accuse him of Rao's murder. A girl, Mugdha, (revealed to be Rao's granddaughter )rescues Karthik from police custody. A mysterious man from a devoted yet aggressively violent tribal community attacks Karthik but stops when he sees an idol of Lord Krishna. The rest of the plot involves a wild adventure when an archaeologist named Dhanvanthri entrusts him with locating Krishna’s anklet, which the head of a secret society, is also after. Rao’s granddaughter Mugdha, Karthik’s uncle and a truck driver, join him in his pursuit of the anklet.
There are some scenes and dialogues that hit very hard, especially given today's controversial wave of interest in Indian culture, history, and belief systems. As devotees, do we actually understand the importance of the attributes the supreme power possesses? There's one scene where Dhanvantari explains that Krishna should be considered a human rather than God. He goes on to say one had to understand Krishna for the excellence he achieved as a human for being an extraordinary engineer by building his palace in midst of the sea, a kinetic engineer for being able to control the Sudarshana Chakra, a doctor for being an expert in Ayurveda, a musician for being adept with the flute and other instruments that play an instrumental role in helping people through music therapy and so on.
The charm of Karthik's character lies in the fact that he’s not a typically bulked-up Tollywood star. It's a short role with limited scope for Anupama Parameswaran, but her constant screen presence as Mugdha makes up for it. The lack of dreamy duet songs and masala victory songs keeps one's eye on the storyline despite its thick plot. Some overly dramatic action sequences, situations, and hurdles in the film have been handled much too easily, but the narrative and engagement compensate for those shortcomings.