S S Rajamouli’s Baahubali-the beginning is a narrative of betrayal and revenge, the saga of triumph of the good over the evil. Set in a mammoth canvas never seen in Indian cinema before, the film reached epical heights with its stupendous commercial success. It can also be treated as a game-changer in Indian cinema mainly because of its world-class visual effects.
Dharma production is one the biggest banners in the history of Indian cinema, if not the biggest and when Karan Johar mentions something as grand, he means it. Baahubali – The Beginning is so far one of the most awaited films with stunning visuals, a plot larger than life and a story which will turn elders into children – a child raised as an everyman, destined to put an end to evil.
Aside from being called the most expensive film and India’s biggest motion picture ever made, there are several other mind blowing facts about Baahubali – The Beginning. Writer-director S S Rajamouli has proved what he’s capable of in his former cinematic ventures like Makkhi and Magadheera; and his larger than life tale of Sivudu (Prabhas Varma) assures that you will not leave your seat repenting. Generally, the attitude towards the popular, commercial Telugu cinema has mostly been very demeaning – full of melodrama and most importantly, irrational. But, Rajamouli through his emotional depth, technical proficiency has created a mythical tale which is believable, intriguing and fascinating in a rational way and that helps it transcend regional boundaries. The film is made in Telugu and Tamil and has been dubbed in several other languages including Malayalam, Hindi and English.
Coming to the technical discussion of the film which created hype among the moviegoers, team Baahubali has left no stone unturned to make the film a flagship. The producers, K. Raghavendra Rao, Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni have spent 85 crores solely on vfx, appointing almost 800 experts and the crewmembers from Jurassic World. Most of the scenes contain special effects, eventually pushing them to a larger scale and depth. The grand scale production designing by Sabu Cyril, K K Senthil Kumar’s stunning wide shots and bird’s eye views and Rajamouli’s directorial precision makes Baahubali truly a viewer’s delight. Rajamouli took 109 days just to shoot the waterfall scene, which won hearts. The ‘jal-parwat’, shot in the Athirapally falls, contains beautiful scenes of the mythical mountain that Sivudu longed to conquer and beyond that was the land of Maahismathi, the land of his origin. The whole team worked for almost one year on pre-production, thousands of sketches, blending mythical elements in the description of the kingdom (for instance , the gigantic statues as the emblem of valor reminds us ‘Colossus of Rhodes’) – their labor has given magically mythical Maahismathi a touch of realism.
The story starts off with raaj-maata Sivagami (Ramya Krisnan) smuggling out the newborn, Mahendra Baahubali, in order to save him from the royal goons. Sivagami drowns in a flooded river and the child lives and is nurtured by a tribe. The oath from Sivagami before her death and the godlike strength of Sivudu leaves little to be guessed of what is to follow. Sivudu, lured by an imagination of a lady, scales the gigantic mountain only to realize he belongs to the nobility.
The film suffers continuity as the romance between Sivudu and Avankita (Tamannah Bhatia) takes over in the midway, adding a fair length to the first half. However, the sequences are dragged, Avantika as a warrior princess stumbles and her transition from a tanned warrior to Delilah is totally unconvincing. The scenes where Sivudu playfully goes on peeling off her attire systematically further deviates from the story. The romantic tracks, however relevant they may be, are silly and the weakest points of the film. Shiva saves her from adversaries, takes up her mission and steps into the realm of Bhallaladeva (Rana Duggabati) to save the convicted queen Devasena (Anuska Shetty).
The rest of the story takes us to an adventure where Sivudu frees his mother, confronts Katappa (Sathyaraj) and beheads Bhallaladeva’s son, the prince. The interval point is terrific and film moves smoothly into the second half where it goes into flashback mode to reveal the familiar story of sibling rivalry in the royal household of Maahishmathi and who Sivudu actually is. The most outstanding accomplishment of the film is the war sequence where Bhallaladeva and Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas in a dual role) in pursuit of the head of the chieftain of invading ‘Kalakeya’ army, put up a great show. The thrilling in-camera shots with picture perfect special effects and the rational art of war makes the scene very much believable, unlike any other contemporary Indian war flicks. Those who have the patience for such bloodbath are surely to be riveted by the dramatic action in these scenes.
Prabhas stands out as the carefree Sivudu and the brave prince Amarendra Baahubali; Rana Duggabati simply injects fear with his eyes as Bhallaladeva and his hulking physical presence adds more to the intensity of the cruel king. Both let their tree trunk-like biceps do the talking, but we can’t deny their strong screen presence, especially throughout the second half. The political undertones of the rivalry between the two brothers are heightened by the expectations of the impaired Bijalla Deva (Nasser) who had previously denied the crown for his curtailed physicality. Tamannah Bhatia in her deglamourized avatar tries heart and soul to make an impact, but is flat as usual. Sathyaraj as Katappa and Ramya Krisnan as rajmaata Sivagami are simply at the top of their game. Anushka Shetty emotes through her powerful eyes as Devasena and has a strong impact on the narrative, unlike the mothers awaiting their sons to rescue them. We’re spared from witnessing another melodramatic mother figure with “mere bete ayenge…” ; phew !
The movie ends abruptly, leaving much space for anticipation for the second part Baahubali: the conclusion which will be released in the middle of 2016. The whole film serves as an exposition for the upcoming film and the ending lacks denouement, giving you a feeling that something is missing. A lot of questions remain for the upcoming part to answer. Bhallaladeva’s grudge towards Devasena indicates a failed attempt to win her heart (which he perhaps lost to his brother), a treacherous plotting to which Katappa gave into and perhaps another Kurukshetra is to follow.
If this is only the beginning, one can assume what the journey will be like. Baahubali beautifully blends elements from The Mahabharata, The Ramayana and The Lord of the Rings without really borrowing from any. Rajamouli’s expert handling of the simple screenplay, mining emotions from the cliché scenarios, magnificent visual storytelling and ending the first part of the royal saga with a thirst of curiosity only leaves us craving for more.
As for the next one, I can’t really wait to see what happens. Baahubali: The Beginning has raised the bar of excellence for upcoming Telugu films to follow with class apart art-direction, cinematographic precision, a decent and emotional pattern of storytelling with best in class vfx. Keeping in mind that the film emerges from the land of Rajanikant, one can justify the melodrama that the film contains. This is what a blockbuster should be like! Epic!
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