By Kelas Lloyd

Hall H is about bringing the spectacle. A panel that gives the people who worked to get into that giant room an experience like no other is rewarded with everyone talking about it for years to come. One that’s meh is forgotten. One that’s bad, well, let’s not go there. When the party for Project K Wednesday night that promised an immersive experience was nothing of the sort and in fact incredibly generic (though the food was fantastic), my hopes became lower for the panel. When the panel didn’t start on time, I started to get nervous for them because they had the positioning and buzz to win Comic-con for a lot of people this year if they brought it.

And then Project K, Kalki 2898-AD, brought it.

Multiple male drummers lined up on the stage dressed in reds, blues,and grays. Background music started to play and they waited. The lights dropped, they began to play,and a parade of women in white bearing candles streamed through the aisles, and you could feel the energy of the entire place shift. The color palette and dance itself were more muted than I’d come to expect from Indian productions, creating something that felt a bit more stark and otherworldly with the play of light and dark, and it set the stage perfectly for the trailer that was to come. Without words they conveyed the aesthetic and mood that I’m expecting now from Kalki 2898-K.

The trailer itself looks fantastic too. It’s short but powerful, and the cheers of Hall H got us an encore showing of it. In fact a lot of what happened in Hall H backed up what Kamal Hasaan, one of the actors had to say: “What makes Indian film so great for us is the energy the audience brings to the cinema.” It was clear many in the audience had never been to a Hall H panel before, that this panel brought a new crowd to it, and they were already so sold on this entire project. They were here for this, and for the cast and crew, and it was electric.

But the panel didn’t forget that there were a lot of people in the audience who might not know who the cast was, and went the extra step. They brought a reel that showed off all of the actors, contextualizing them so no one could say they didn’t understand why all of this was a big deal. Certain comic-book franchises could learn from this; instead of just name dropping a soon-arriving character that had a small bit role somewhere and expecting a tiny amount of people to get hyped while the rest go to Google, something short to give context makes content far more accessible and builds the excitement for everyone sitting in the room.

There’s not a lot of information on what exactly the movie’s about. “What is Project K?” is the tagline for this movie, repeated constantly throughout press emails as well as being the one spoken line of dialogue in the trailer. What we know from the panel is that it started with conscious mythological inclusion and then went from there, with a lot of conversation on how director Nag Ashwin wanted this to be unique and different since they were breaking ground on what Indian sci-fi would be. Prabhas, a rock star in Indian cinema, acknowledged that he’d been getting sick of the blue screen work, but the results made it worth it. Amitabh Bachchan, a veteran of Indian cinema who joined via Zoom, had no idea what to expect. He also noted he had no concept of Comic-con before they were invited and his son got very, very excited about it.

In fact, most of what we know about the movie came from the panel themselves once the question and answer portion started up. Kamal Haasan, who plays the villain, said “without a negative there is no positive. It is important and difficult to think about the future while dealing with the present.” When asked to summarize the movie in three words, Nag Ashwin said, “the end begins.”

The panel itself focused mostly on how the cast and crew was a team that worked together to bring about something new. One of the questions from the audience was ‘why now’ for the first epic sci-fi movie, and the answer from Nag Ashwin was that franchise movies are just starting up in Indian cinema so now was the time. I feel like there has to be more to it than that, but obviously the panel was starting to run short on time so close to the end.

What is clear from the panel is genuine anticipation from the cast and crew about this movie. They have high hopes. It didn’t feel staged the way sometimes enthusiasm from a panel can feel. While many of them don’t know exactly what this will be or how it will look, this movie was made, produced, and acted by Indian cinema veterans and experts, and so far they and we have every reason to anticipate this movie’s release sometime in 2024.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!