Bahubali

When the film was originally conceived, SS Rajamouli must have clearly imagined that this was going to be a visual spectacle. It was going to be promoted as a grand epic and therefore the entire effort would be spent on that. Clearly, that’s what they have achieved. Bahubali is a spectacle of great imagination. Yes, and yes, there’s clear nod to Avatar, to 300, to Lord of the Rings and all that. But it’s not just Rajamouli who has seen these films, all the rest of us have seen these epics as well, but none of us were able to internalise the idea the way he has done and produce such a localised output. We have seen an insipid Dasavatharam and a fraudulent Kochadaiyaan. Thinking about it, Kochadaiyaan should have been the Bahubali. If a Telugu filmmaker without a bankable star cast can claim such a budget, Soundarya with Rajinikanth and AR Rahman could easily have.

But then, this review is not about Kochadaiyaan. The point is, where those ‘highly promising’ visual effects in Kochadaiyaan resulted in the crushing disappointment, Bahubali delivers with thumping accuracy. Few places make you notice the graphics work. Otherwise, the real and design merge seamlessly, the intended grandeur coming out spectacularly on screen and quite often leave you gaping wide eyed at the screen. We have seen similar falls in Avatar, similar castle in the Lord of the Rings, similar 120-feet tall statues in Lost, Lord of the Rings again and Colossus of Rhodes, but when seen here in Babubali they take a more personal tone. The falls is as much a character as the people are, and it breathes life on every frame. The statue is as colossus as that of Rhodes, and as megalomaniacal./

Likewise, we have seen those avalanches from several films, some good some bad. Here it isn’t all that good, but it engages you nevertheless. Similarly, the climactic battle, nearly 40 minutes in all, is riveting, not just because of the visual splendour, but also because we care for what is happening in the battle and its outcome.

What is lacking in this epic is, alas, a cohesive script. Of course, the story is pedestrian and often reminds you that beneath all that façade of those Roman columns, it is, after all, a Telugu film in its soul. The female lead needs to be disrobed and drenched in rain. The hero needs to be omnipotent and omnipresent. Heck, there’s even an item song. Some scenes even reminded me of Magadheera, but they were all fine. What affected me deeply was some of the very basic scripting errors that Rajamouli makes through the narration. Some characters suddenly appear and some scenes arbitrarily develop, making you wonder what’s happening, until it is ‘explained’ by one of the characters. That shouldn’t have been the case.  Guardian’s review mentioned about Rajamouli keeping an ‘Epic Checklist’ and ticking each item whilst planning the production. Giant Falls – Tick, Battle with wild animals – Tick, Avalanche – Tick, Giant Statue – Tick, Slaves – Tick, Epic Climactic Battle – Tick. I wonder if he ever had a Screenplay Checklist. (I can’t go into the details without discussing spoilers, so I refrain.)

Those are for the connoisseurs of the craft. What he lacks in the scripting department, Rajamouli more than makes up in the execution department. The sets are beautiful and the visual details are pedantic. Ably assisted by Satyaraj and Ramya Krishnan, two riveting performances and Sabu Cyril’s art direction, Rajamouli deliver an epic of Biblical proportions that redefines commercial cinema in India and shows how blockbusters are supposed to be delivered. The film ends with a climactic clincher, a shocking revelation that makes you long for the conclusion part. Actually, you don’t even need that suspense to want to watch the next part. You’d want to see those falls again, you’d want to see that castle again, you’d want another romance like that of Siva and Avantika. Oh, I can’t wait for The Conclusion. May be I’ll go back to The Beginning!