A MAGNUM OPUS IN VISUAL EFFECTS BUT FEEBLE AND REGRESSIVE IN STORY LINE
Directed by: Rajamouli Starring:
-Prabhas plays dual role, Shiva and
- Rana Daggubati as Bhallala Dev
- Ramyakrishnan as Shivagami
- Tamannah as Avantika
- Anushka Shetty as Devasena
- Satyaraj as Kattappa
- Nasser as Bijjaladeva
- Prabhakar as Kalakeya
- Sudeep as Aslam Khan Music by: Keeravani IPM Rating: ***/5
First things first. SS Rajamouli’s Bahubali possesses an undeniable visual opulence that requires no language to enjoy. In quality and detail, Baahubali rivals a Disney epic film. The background music and musical score has beats that are all-pervasive and invoke strong emotions in the viewer. Art wields a universal power of its own, and Rajamouli custom-tailored both the music and imagery to adorn his movie to perfection through Baahubali, his magnum opus.
Remember the character Somayajulu in Sankarabharanam (1980) chiding a music teacher for changing the notes of his composition to assimilate into the so-called modern India? Somayajulu explains that each note in music has a sound aimed at a different emotion, and to change such a foundation of music would be a sin. Rajamouli, with the help of his brother Keeravani, perfects this uncontrollable evocation of sentiment with pure notes, be it bhakti/patriotism or love. In a lot of ways, Keeravani’s music is the soul to this movie. It excites the viewers and draws them into the story-telling; that the movie is two and half-hours is forgotten. You watch it, unable to escape the drama teeming with visual beauty, technical charisma, powerful music, and dominating characters - all of which are extreme in their nature-be it compassion or war, loyalty or enmity, there is no middle path.
For example, the protagonist and titular character (played by Prabhas) is a hero who is handsome, vulnerable, tender, and strong; the antagonist can kill a deadly bull with his bare hands and brutal strength; a heroine who looks like an angel with a killer body; top it off with a queen powerful enough to rule a country solely using a strong sense of morality but patient enough to simultaneously sustain her physically and mentally weak husband (who is unfit to be a king), and a slave/soldier akin to Bheeshma in swordsmanship that is tied by duty and heredity to the throne, and you have the perfect palette of characters.
Basically, this movie has everything, including a huge budget.
What, however, lacking is a story that is new, innovative and thoughtprovoking. It is a trite, archaic, and often-told story in Indian cinema.
Devoid of its frills, this movie is just about two cousin brothers fighting for the same throne. One magnanimous and the other virulent, they are part of a feudal system which encourages slavery and patriarchy. This is depicted by Ramya Krishnan’s character (mother of the villain), who, despite rearing two kids while wielding absolute legal and regal authority, is a self-declared mother nurturing the future “heir” rather than a power-holder herself. Inspite of its grandeur, beauty and music, we as viewers never forget that Baahubali is a fiction, and that sometimes it’s even based on several fallacies.
A particularly unconvincing track is the love story that begins when Shivudu discovers a wooden face mask revolutionaries use to cover their faces. It comes rolling down the waterfall and for some weird reason Prabhas imagines a beautiful, sensual girl behind it (they all look the same right?). Why it can’t belong to a man is beyond anybody’s imagination.
Curious about what is above the waterfall, this mask acts as an extra incentive and Shivudu, during a dream song sequence where Tamannaah Bhatia’s character Avanthika sensuously lures him into climbing an impossible path, finds the aforementioned girl. He finds that she belongs to a revolutionary group that is trying to release a captured princess. Why should such young generation of people fight for this lost cause is unimaginable. Why would they have such loyalty for a person they have never met?
This whole track of Tamannaah’s character is ridiculous, and the love track laughable. The scene when Shivudu takes off pieces of her clothing during a fight to remind her of her own feminism may have been enchanting to the male viewers, but I simply found it of low taste and unnecessary. It was as if Rajamouli just found another way to expose his heroine. How can any girl not protest such an act from a stranger, especially a girl who is so courageous? Furthermore, the minute Tamannaah realizes Shivudu’s strength, she vanquishes her role as the savior of the lost princess and instead asks him to take up her cause!
If only Rajamouli’s vision had been larger than life not just creatively or visually but also thematically, Baahubali would have path-breaking movie of global acclaim.
Nevertheless, we indulge in the script because of Rajamouli’s brilliant narrative talent.
The movie starts with the queen, Ramya Krishnan (best performance, according to me, in the movie) emerging from a secret cave down below the mountains behind a magnificent waterfall, escaping with a male child. She dies dramatically and her hand carries the baby by river, where he is found and reared by local tribals who bring him up as Shivudu (again, we are captured more by the theatrics and visual beauty than the factual probability) . For a child who is brought up in poor conditions, Shiva grows up to be a muscular and chivalrous, out-of-thisworld athlete that climbs mountains, lifts rocks, peels barks, jumps tremendous heights and deters snow slides. In addition, he’s a charming son and lover. It’s been a while since you have seen such a true blue hero in any film these days that it’s truly endearing to see one now. One such scene that brings tears to any mom is where Prabhas, unable to see his mother fill pots of water to do Shiva Abhishekam plucks the solid rock-Linga from its roots and brings it to the waterfall. With this one shot the director establishes the muscular strength of his hero and we moms in the audience shed buckets of raw tears as our maternal instincts overwhelm us. This part of the movie is also filled with gentle humor with Tanikella Bharani in a minor role as the priest and Rohini as Prabhas’s mother exchange tongueand- cheek dialogues. So, in a way, the film’s ancient plot is spruced through such minute yet unbelievably emotional adventures.
The story goes on to introduce Rana Daggubati as the evil cousin who chains up Anushka Shetty’s character (the lost princess) on a revenge venture. That story is yet to unfold in the second movie releasing in 2016. The half hour war drama is gripping, visually intimidating, and spectacular with a lot of thought in weapon design OR symbolic magnificence . It’s rare to catch such splendid action in any movie, be it Indian or Western. So, basically, what is ‘not so good’ about Baahubali? I mean, these ‘not so good’ points will not impact box-office since people are going crazy to watch the film (in fact, AMC and Greatmall have refused to show them as the producers demanded unbelievable ticket prices).
Major Areas of Disappointment:
1. Regressive Values: Rajamouli is of such extraordinary talent when it comes to eliciting emotions through visual, technical and musical channels. For such a talented man to fall back on a story which is weak, regressive and ridden with extremist values years before the 21st century is disappointing. The story of two rivaling factions for power, one honest and the other evil in a patriarchal society is such a beaten path. If the movie were stripped of its magnificent special effects, then the story would be extremely redundant. If only this talented man had used his innovative skills to create a story which is more relevant to the present!
2. Teatment of Women: Rajamouli falls back on the typical mass-attractions and extremes values to build his case and box-office success. All loyalties are extreme: Ruler/ruled, mother/son, good/bad, lover/loved, master/slave and so on. It’s strange that the solider in the movie, Kattappa, (a slave) has allegiance ONLY to the throne and not to its people.
Rana is mainly expressionless though looks mighty.
That the lost princess is a mother waiting for her SON to come and rescue her for 25 years just to prove a point is ridiculous! And because of her selfish loyalty to her son thousands of youngsters are sent underground to fight for her release as she refuses to take help from anyone else. Baahubali, albeit honest, kind and brave, indirectly endorses regressive values, such as caste and male chauvinism. Yes female characters are shown as strong and valiant (Ramya Krishnan especially who is brilliant in her role), but all lack true authority and independence. Their value is tied to a man in one way or another. My daughter was also very hurt about one more major issue in the movie. Looking at me soulfully she complained after the film, “Amma, if you were the lost princess (God forbid) in the movie, would you just wait for Anna (her brother) to come and rescue you? Couldn’t I come instead?” I couldn’t help but laugh. My daughter’s heart ached at the thought that only “sons” are given the chance of rescuing and helping parents. “Of course, you can, in fact you are my braver one,” I said shrinking inwardly with the thought of me being the princess rotting there for 25 years. Forget my son or daughter, I would have escaped myself at the first opportunity!
In the name of entertainment, Rajamouli falls back on the oldest trick of item numbers with not one but three western girls doing a lurid number with Prabhas in an unnecessary sequence where the director himself has a special appearance. Obviously it was meant only for the frontbenchers (or maybe all benchers, considering the claps and whistles in the auditorium I was in). In an age and generation where movies like PK, NH 10, and Mardaani are hitting the theatres with great success, Rajamouli should grow up and embrace better values than cheap thrills. The threewomen/ Prabhas item number is unnecessary and didn’t add any merit to the story except of course providing forbidden joy to the tongue-out sexually frustrated male-watcher.
3. Color Prejudice: I had a huge problem with the way opponent warriors were shown in the movie, specifically their physical attributes. In a world where we are trying to make all skin colors beautiful, the most crucial battle in the film is marred by symbolic degradation of human beings. It displays the faces of all the opponents to Baahubali’s kingdom as having black, charcoal face paint. They are all also physically disfigured, and hence unappealing. Why can’t the opposing leader (just another king that wants to usurp a kingdom) be handsome or at least normal? Wasn’t Alexander the Great the same in his intentions? Columbus? Ashoka? Even Akbar? Somehow I could not digest this depiction. Why were only the bad guys all very dark? All victorious men did what this warrior confesses to openly in the film: loot, plunder, rape and destroy. Rajamouli, though perhaps unintentinonally, frequently employs dangerous prejudiced exhibition, which is very unfortunate. It preaches a subconscious message to adults and more importantly to kids. that dark skin is equated to ugliness, depravity, and hatred.
So, did I enjoy the movie? Of course I did. Did I like the music? For the most part, I really did. Did I enjoy the graphics? Yes. I truly, truly loved them. Will the movie be a super duper hit? Yes, surely. But, will it make people think differently and change cinematic influence forever? Unfortunately, No.
Tamanna looks very seductive
but doesn’t leave a mark as an actress.
Ultimately, Baahubali is not a great movie when put on the caliber of say 3 Idiots, Jurassic Park and The Titanic? It does not exhibit politically correct and progressive values. This movie, howsoever brilliantly shot with a huge budget and larger-than-life graphics, still remains regional. Globally, it is not credible because of its sheer paucity of greater values like equality (of humans, races, sexes), universalism, historic and scientific reasoning. And when progressive thinking is subdued to pop and mass culture than a movie cannot reach its absolute heights irrespective of its visual effects. The fact that Baahubali could have reached those heights easily is what that makes the movie disappointing.
Movies are most watched and valued in India and act as a great source of change. Indians spend millions of rupees for this kind of entertainment. Hence, if a director like Rajamouli says something in his creative way, people will listen. Unlike Hirani who focuses mostly on socialist through comedic entertainment, Rajamouli is extremely creative and talented in building drama. And he has reached a stage now where he can create movies that can make a statement not just visually but progressively as well. That he chose not to reach that potential with Baahubali is sad. I was disappointed with his regressive story and pale love track.
SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT BAHUBALI
(Source: online news reports)
With its huge budget, brilliant special effects and advanced VFX technology involved, Baahubali is expected to set a new
benchmark in regional cinema in particular, and Indian cinema in general, which hit the screens on July 10. The multilingual
period film, directed by SS Rajamouli, has already found a massive fan-base.
Baahubali was shot both in India and abroad, in locations like Mahabaleshwar, Hyderabad, Rajasthan, Kerala, Kurnool and
All through the shooting of the movie, lead actor Prabhas took 40 eggs daily for breakfast. Prabhas also met WWE superstars
about his daily regimen and workouts. The actor got equipment costing Rs 1.5 crore shipped to his home, where he built a
Baahubali is also featured in the BBC's documentary on 100 Years of Indian Cinema.
It is said to be one of the most expensive movies in the history of Indian cinema. Baahubali had a budget of 2.5 billion (US
The same team that worked on the VFX and special effects for Jurassic World was roped in for Baahubali.
The lead actor of Baahubali, Prabhas even postponed his marriage for the sake of the movie.