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Project K: First Indian Film At SDCC Drops An Epic Trailer

While San Diego Comic-Con feels relatively empty this year because of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, some of India's most iconic stars have taken over the convention thanks to the mysterious "Project K."

Recent years have proven that audiences, particularly in the West, are embracing Indian film and culture at an unprecedented rate. 2022 saw the release of the Telugu-language "RRR," which made a flurry of noise stateside, wracking up a Best Original Song win at the Oscars for "Naatu Naatu." And earlier this year, audiences in the United States and Canada showed up in droves for Shah Rukh Khan's spy-thriller "Pathaan," making it a box office success domestically. Now, all eyes are turning to the elusive "Project K," a film that has largely been shrouded in mystery. One of the most expensive Indian films ever made, "Project K" is filled to the brim with talent from across India — making it one of the most anticipated films in recent memory.

The producers and talent behind "Project K" have decided to make history by debuting the first look at the puzzling epic at San Diego Comic-Con — it's the first Indian film to grace the event. Director Nag Ashwin took to SDCC's iconic Hall H on Thursday evening to candidly discuss his forthcoming epic. Joining Ashwin was Indian cinema icon Prabhas, who most recently headlined the fantasy-epic "Adipurush." There, a medley of dancers and drummers performed on stage, giving fans in attendance a show worth raving about — Deadline was on hand to record it. 

But that's not all, as Ashwin has finally lifted the veil hiding away "Project K," revealing that his upcoming sci-fi flick is titled "Kalki 2898 AD" — a post-apocalyptic epic that will leave fans of Indian cinema thrilled with its first teaser. 

Project K is officially titled Kalki 2898 AD

"Project K" is officially titled "Kalki 2898 AD." With a new name comes a first look at the film, one that hints at the scope of Nig Ashwin's world. While plot details are slim, "Kalki 2898 AD" shows a post-apocalyptic world, one that's influenced by the visual language of Hollywood sci-fi tentpoles like "Dune" and "Star Wars." In Hindu scripture, Kalki is the final incarnation (or avatar) of the Lord Vishnu. Kalki is treated with reverence and appears as a savior, ready to save the world from darkness — a sentiment that the teaser for "Kalki 2898 AD" plays with. 

In the first look, viewers see an industrialized albeit, dreary post-apocalyptic world that is devoid of color and joy. Footage of humans suffering and in strenuous positions is juxtaposed with what looks like a court saluting something... or someone. We then get a shot of Deepika Padukone's mysterious character, who is in a line-up alongside several other individuals. Audiences then get their first look at Prabhas' character, who appears to take on the role of Lord Vishnu. Scripture says that Kalki's appearance will usher in a new era of peace and justice. As the teaser continues, viewers see more of the world that Ashwin has cooked up, highlighting both its technological marvels and scripture-influenced weapons and locales. 

The world of "Kalki 2898 AD" looks to be truly something special, as it marries Hindu scripture with modern-day, sci-fi visuals. The teaser is filled to the brim with nods to ancient scripture and mythology, suggesting that the film will take Vishnu's arc and repackage it with a sci-fi flare. It's a solid and daring teaser that shows how India cinema is constantly trying to reinvent and pay tribute to its nation's stories. 

Debuting Kalki 2898 AD at Comic-Con is a statement

While the first teaser for "Kalki 2898 AD" is light on plot details and doesn't show off the film's extensive cast — icons like Kamal Hassan and Amitabh Bachan join Prabhas and Deepika Padukone in the epic, it does inspire faith in the film. While mythological and scripture-focused films have always done well in India, "Kalki 2898 AD" is taking a daring route by updating Kalki's legend for a sci-fi-obsessed modern world. It's also notable how the film is pitching Prabhas' avatar of Lord Vishnu as a modern-day superhero, which is a creative decision that makes sense considering so many of India's superheroes are influenced by mythology and scripture. 

For director Nig Ashwin, debuting the film's first look at San Diego Comic-Con was a statement, one that tells the world that Indian cinema is able to play in a genre primarily dominated by Hollywood. "We're coming to [SDCC,] where all these superheroes are at, and all these stories are at, so we just wanted to say that we can also start here," Ashwin told Chris Morrow (via Twitter). And while Ashwin was hesitant to give away plot details to Morrow, he candidly called "Kalki" a "very Indian film at heart," a statement that should leave fans excited. 

"Kalki 2898 AD" is still a few ways away — the film won't hit cinemas until 2024, but it's already shaping up to be one of the most exciting projects in the world, particularly in the sci-fi sphere. With one of the highest budgets in Indian cinema (Variety estimates a production cost of $75M USD) and some of the country's biggest stars, the project has what it takes to truly break out on a global scale.