‘Kalki 2898 AD’: A Future We’ve Seen Before

Nag Ashwin’s sci-fi universe harnesses Indian mythology and a superstar cast, but its all-too-familiar packaging dampens its ambition.

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Poster of ‘Kalki 2898 AD’

Meher Manda


June 28, 2024


9 min

It is the year 2898. A truck of refugees floats across arid land to the world’s last remaining city: Kashi. In this world, there is only one God, autocratic ruler Supreme Yaskin, who controls the world’s resources in a gargantuan inverted pyramid called The Complex. The living flock to Kashi for a shot at survival — earning a million units, this world’s digital currency, can get you access to The Complex for life.

But most will never get inside The Complex, so this dystopian nightmare serves as a fertile backdrop to the prophecy of Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu. Hindus widely believe that when conflict overwhelms humanity, Vishnu will appear as Kalki to reinstate order.

In Kalki 2898 AD, Telugu filmmaker Nag Ashwin assembles an enviable cast of pan-Indian superstars — Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Prabhas, Kamal Haasan, Shobana, and plenty of cameos — and uses animation and sci-fi wizardry to build a tapestry of ecosystems. But while Kalki 2898 AD is a bold experiment in Indian filmmaking in narrative and technical prowess, its acquired influences makes it less of a stride in Indian futurism and more of a mimetic exercise.

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