First things First – How do you spell this name in English? Is it Baahubali? or Bahubali? or as the poster says, “a” with an accent? I am going with Baahubali as it seems closer to what the poster says. I had an opportunity to the catch the premiere show of Baahubali in Telugu in the Metro Detroit area.
Let me start off by saying that this is not a movie review and I am not going to provide a star rating, as I have always found the rating system completely subjective.
“Go watch Baahubali. Preferably in theaters or if it is just impossible to find a theater near you which is playing the movie, you may wait for the original DVDs to release so that you could get a copy of a Blu-Ray disc and watch it in a good home theater system…”
Phew. Now that’s out of my way.
When the director decides to take up a story of extraordinary valor, vengeance, betrayal of brethren, love and maternal affection, set in a fictitious & mystical land, just like what many Amar Chitra Katha stories and the likes have told us, there is really not a whole lot of novelty in the content he gets to work with. That, unfortunately is an aspect of Baahubali that I was simply not happy about.
Rajamouli claimed in one of his recent interviews on Indiaglitz, that he is an average film-maker but a very good story teller. What he meant by that was perhaps that he could take any story and present it in an engaging way to the audience.
When a movie relies a lot on visual effects and computer generated images (CGI) & animation, then the success of the movie is typically measured by what the audience remembers of it when they walk away from the theaters. If tacky & sub-par CGI work dominates the movie, then the audience is likely to remember the jarring mess more than anything else, no matter what the director manages to pull off in other departments. In Baahubali, none of that seems to be an issue. If there was any tacky CGI work or animated shot, it largely goes unnoticed and you are likely to ignore those aspects. Rajamouli is the sole reason for such a splendid execution of his vision and full credits to him.
The enormously huge waterfalls that goes beyond the clouds forms the backdrop of the first half the movie and plays a visually more impactful character than the main protagonist, Prabhas’s Shivudu character himself. And even though they may have shot the movie at Athirapally falls just to give a live setting to the artistes as opposed to enacting those water scenes in front of a green screen, the simple grandeur of CGI created nature is at its best every time you get to see the waterfalls, the mist, and the splashing of water on the moist rocks. You are literally transported to a new world and the mountain & water fall crazy person I am, I just loved every minute of that setting.
If the waterfalls played such a crucial role in the first half, it is the kingdom of Mahishmati that plays a similarly impactful role in the second half. But then, this is also the part where the CGI comes across half-botched at certain places. Don’t misunderstand me when I say that – You still walk away in awe of this kingdom & every single attention to details (the carvings on the pillars, the walls, the thrones that the ministers & kings occupy, their ornaments, etc.). To top it all, to me the CGI created animals were totally mind boggling. Almost to the point that if someone showed me a picture of a live animal and a Baahubali CGI one, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference..So, again, props to Rajamouli and his technical crew for imagining/visualizing & creating these animals & bringing them to life on screen. While I am ravishingly praising the tech crew, let me also add that the battle sequence towards the end of the movie was on par with any similar battle sequences you may have witnessed in 300, Gladiator and the likes. To Rajamouli’s credit, he also adds his own innovation – like the rotary blade in front of the chariot and the fueled canopy propelled by rocks to entrap a group of enemy soldiers at a time and engulf them in flames are a couple of such innovations that come to my mind to cite as an example.
My pet topic – the music. As much as a fan I am of Keeravani, I felt he didn’t do justice to an epic & a grandiose movie like Baahubali. No doubt, he has put in a massive effort. And his score worked in some emotional scenes, in those minimalistic melodious songs and to some extent in the battle sequence. But overall, the OST was a huge let down.
In terms of cast, both Prabhas and Rana were mighty impressive as the “hulky” warriors. Sathyaraj, Ramya and Nasser delivered their punches (Nassers’s polio struck left arm was another example of how much attention has been paid to prosthetic make-up, although I did find an inconsistency in the first sequence when he was shown and the CGI didn’t work well). The rest of the cast did its part. I know some reviewers were not impressed with Tamannah but I thought she did her part as a disturbed damsel well. A lot can be questioned about the sudden transformation in her character, which I thought was more of a flaw in the characterization itself & not so much of a failure of her acting skills.
For all the pomp and splendor the movie displays, why I feel Rajamouli cannot showcase himself as a bold film-maker just as yet and just because he made a movie like Baahubali is because, even an amazingly larger than life canvas like Baahubali that he successfully created & managed to inspire so many other people, showed, how wrongfully even a visionary like like him can yield to the masala elements that drive the perception of box-office success.
- Objectifying the heroine (Tamannah as Avanthika) – Why so many glaringly obvious shots of the heroine’s bare mid-region and her navel?
- Why an out-of-the-blue item song in an Arab market/harem setting with 3 skinny foreign looking models when none of those ever made sense – at – all??
- And finally, the whole creepy romance sequences between Shivudu and Avanthika. Why? Why?? In any other circumstance, what Prabhas’s character did (like stalking Tamannah, tattooing her arm & shoulder while she is subconsciously unaware and most disturbingly, disrobing her using his sword in a forceful way only to seduce her and eventually have sex with her) may qualify as soft rape..Not that this sort of an approach is uncommon in Indian movies. But in this movie, in the context of everything else we are supposed to get carried away by, I guess Rajamouli expects us not to give these things a serious thought. And yes, based on the reactions till now of all the general audience, I guess his expectations will be met.
For all the flaws, Baahubali is like a racy spin you get to take on a Ferrari. So what if the roads are a bit bumpy? This sort of an experience is a rarity in Indian movies and as a movie lover, one got to latch onto the opportunity when it presents itself.
Go catch the ride while it lasts. Lest, you will regret missing the opportunity – Watching it on TV may still be ok – but it won’t be a Ferrari ride. Remember that.