Kalki 2898 AD: How Nag Ashwin has infused Mahabharat characters into a dystopian world

PUBLISHED DATE : 11/Jun/2024

Kalki 2898 AD: How Nag Ashwin has infused Mahabharat characters into a dystopian world

[Updated: June 13, 2024] Indians, especially those who follow the Hindu faith, need no introduction to Kalki (also known as Karki), who is considered as Lord Vishnu's tenth and last incarnation and one of the three primary Gods of the polytheistic religion. In contrast to Brahma, the creator, and Shiva, the destroyer, Vishnu is known as the preserver or protector. It is widely believed that when the world draws closer to its end, he will take on the form of Kalki. 

"When almost all the persons in this world will turn out in future as Mleccas and when the wicked Kings will oppress them, right and left, Thou wilt then incarnate Thyself again as Kalki and redress all the grievances! We bow down to Thy Kalki Form! O Deva!" - Devi Bhagavata Purana, Chapter 5


Tollywood filmmaker Nag Ashwin, who rose to PAN-Indian fame with the National award winning Telugu movie Mahanati (2018), has infused the lore surrounding this Kalki character, in his upcoming Rs. 600 Cr. movie Kalki 2898 AD. The film had a trailer drop last evening, and the video reveals that the story takes place in a dystopian Kasi, a city replete with adversity and survival struggles for the mankind. 

Timeline wise, Nag Ashwin has set the story in line with the actual events of the Mahabharata i.e. 3102 BC to the beginning of Kali Yuga i.e. 2898 AD. In particular, the character of Amitabh Bachchan i.e. Ashwatthama is one that makes a significance appearance in the Mahabharata.


During the Kurukshetra war (also called the Mahabharata war which is a dynastic war waged between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas)Ashwatthama is on the side of the Kauravas, and goes to attack the Pandavas after sunset which is against the rules of the war. Seeing the Pandavas being guarded by Lord Shiva, he retreats and instead takes his vengeance on the sons and brothers of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. 

Arjuna who is one of the Pandavas, and a protégé of the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu i.e. Lord Krishna during the Kurukshetra war, counterattacks Ashwatthama with a powerful weapon known as the 'Brahmastra', as does Ashwatthama himself. Learning that a collision of two Brahmastras could turn catastrophic, Arjuna retreats his weapon but Ashwatthama is unable to hence he redirects the force to the unborn child of Draupadi. 


Note 1: Ashwatthama is also the son of Guru Dronacharya who was a master of advanced military arts, including the divine weapons known astras. Dronacharya taught the Pandavas including Arjuna, Kauravas, Jayadratha, son Ashwatthama, and was one of the primary counsellors and warriors during Mahabharata.  


This earns Ashwatthama the wrath of Lord Krishna, who curses him with a life of blood and pus for 3000 years until the end of Kali Yuga, and Ashwatthama is forced to surrender the forehead stone he was born with. Amitabh Bachchan's character in Kalki 2898 AD roaming around with plasters all over except his face, his reminiscence of a war field, and his reunion with the forehead stone are all nods to these Mahabharata facts.


Note 2: Ashwatthama was born with a divine gem on his forehead, which gave him power over all living beings lower than humans. The forehead gem also protected him from hunger, thirst, fatigue, old age, diseases, weapons, and deities. The gem made him almost invincible and immortal.


Nag Ashwin additionally gives Ashwatthama a redemption arc by making him the protector of an unborn Kalki. According to the Kalki Purana, after listening to accounts of violence and injustice occurring in the universe, Lord Vishnu promises to be born to one Sumathi. The Kalki 2898 AD trailer shows that the villains of that era have placed a bounty on one SUM-80, as a nod to Kalki's mother Sumati.

While Deepika Padukone is shown to be understood as the pregnant SUM-80, expected to be giving birth to Kalki, industry buzz suggests that she actually plays princess Padmavati, who has swapped places with the real Sumati (Mrunal Thakur) to protect the birth of Kalki. This might however not be true, since Hindu mythology states that princess Padmavati is the bride of Kalki, and did not exist prior to his birth. 

Prabhas' Bhariava character is understood to be one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu too. Disha Patani's Roxie character is based after Goddess Vaishno Devi, who according to the Hindu mythology had love interest towards Lord Vishnu's 7th avatar Ram. Vaishno Devi was told that if she recognized Lord Vishnu in one of his other forms, that avatar would marry her but that does not happen, as with Bhairava, Roxie in Kalki 2898 AD. As with Deepika Padukone's Padma theory, buzz also has it that Roxie is named after Ramaa, the second bride of Kalki according to Hindu mythology. 


Note 3Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune is the wife of Lord Vishnu, and she takes different forms in order to be with him in each of his incarnations. Padmaa is an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, while her sister Alakshmi, is said to have incarnated as Ramaa to be the second wife of Kalki. 

Tamil star actor Kamal Haasan plays Supreme Yaskin in Kalki 2898 AD, who is the villainous mind behind all the suffering in Nag Ashwin's story, and has humans fighting for points if they wish to part of the complex, where everything is in abundance. Supreme Yaskin's tribe also believes him to be the only God, and is out to kill SUM-80 before she brings Kalki into this world. 

According to the Hindu scripts, any being who reigns during the age of the Kali Yuga, and acts as the nemesis of Kalki, is known as the villainous demon Kali. 

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