When Jaws came out in 1975 people lined up outside the theaters jamming the entire block and nearby roads and hence the term ‘blockbuster’ was coined. It was considered a watershed moment in motion picture history introducing the genius of Steven Spielberg to the world. Thanks to his spotless record, humongous budget and close to 3 years in the making, the anticipation surrounding director S.S Rajamoulis’ Baahubali was no less among the Telugu speaking population and man he delivers and how.
Spoiler Free Plot Summary:
Bruce Lee once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” – and a revenge story line is Rajamoulis’ that one kick. A seemingly harmless boy next door is up against a larger than life villain and has a self-realization 1 hour into the film and here comes the interval high, post interval our hero goes all guns blazing against the villain and comes out triumphant against all odds – this is pretty much describes all his movies and Baahubali stays honest to this tried and tested formula but at an epic scale even by SSR standards and split into two parts.
If you look at the two parts as one extra-long movie, then the end of first half is your quintessential Rajamouli interval punch. In this first part, you are introduced to the world of Baahubali, all its key protagonists and the backstory to build up the animosity between Baahubali and Ballaladeva which I assume will culminate with an epic battle in the second part.
Perhaps because he doesn’t go for out the box storylines and plays to his strengths, Rajamouli able to muscle up his often thin storyline with his seemingly limitless imagination. Every single frame in the movie is a piece of art, every single detail given utmost attention and dare I say, of ‘international standard’. Even when the story is not necessarily moving forward you can hardly take your eyes off.
If Rajamouli and team have discovered animation with Magadheera and Eega, here they start to play around with it and use it with finesse. Rajamouli plays around with brightness and colors expertly, he cleverly uses birds, trees and people to portray the relative enormity of the palace. The graphics in the movie are far superior to both Eega and Magadheera, not a single frame looks tacky or cheap.
More than the technology, the biggest strength to the visuals is Rajamoulis’ imagination. Take that beautifully choreographed albeit slightly cheesy scene where Shivudu transforms Tamannaah’s character Avanthika from a warrior to a damsel or the whole sequence of Shivudu scaling the waterfall. All these sequences are twice as beautiful to watch primarily because of Rajamoulis unadulterated and almost kid like imagination. His creativity is at his best during the war scenes, it clearly shows he has been heavily influenced by and admires the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. If at all there is ever an old fashioned war again, you better have Rajamouli to be your ‘Senapathi’, even the enemy force will stand in awe of his almost poetic warfare.
M. M Keeravani has been Rajamoulis partner in crime for all his movies and his music, especially the bgm is a huge asset to the movie. The movie has several scenes of high voltage action and peak emotions and Keeravanis music does more than justice to them, in fact in several scenes the music makes up for the lack of emotional punch and still achieves the impact the director intended.
While obviously the movie is about its two male leads, I must say that all three female leads have fairly meaty roles. Tamannaah’s shows the grit and the athleticism required by her character quite effortlessly, however she does overdo her Tomb-raider body language a bit. Anushka barely has a handful of scenes with her face visible and when she does get a chance she does pack a punch. The show stealer however is the veteran, the evergreen Ramya Krishna, she is royalty personified, emotes powerfully through her eyes and stands tall among the men. Speaking of men, both the male leads do an admiral job, the effort they put into this movie is clearly evident from their chiseled torsos. Prabhas combines boyish charm with warrior grit and has a magnetic screen presence as both Shivudu and Baahubali. This is Ranas’ single biggest stride as an actor, he is no more the single expression hero from Leader and is particularly impressive with his dialogue delivery. Nasser and Satyaraj are seasoned actors and bring their ‘A’ game to the table.
What does not work?
As I mentioned before, Rajamoulis is honest to his tried and tested formula of a revenge story, however partly because the first half and second half have different protagonists and partly because of the sheer volume of content, the movie lacks the emotional punch that is trademark Rajamouli . You are not really invested emotionally into any of the main leads and with the 2nd installment one year away I am not sure if the revenge this time around is going to be as gratifying for the audience.
I started off by comparing Baahubali to Jaws, but that is only limited to the kind of anticipation and audience frenzy both these movies have been able to generate. Rajamouli is no Steven Spielberg, but he knows his limitations, he knows his strengths and he unapologetically plays to them. Thanks to his commercial success he is in a position expand his horizon and as he does that tag along with him and be a part of a potentially trend changing moment in Telugu Film Industry. The question is not whether to watch Baahubali or not , the question is how soon can you watch it ?