The hero walks in slow motion. He stomps his foot on the ground with brute force. The villain takes a couple of steps back and cars fly all around.
If this was a scene in a Malayalam movie, I’d cringe. In a Tamil movie, I’d watch it with varying reactions depending on the hero. In a Telugu movie, I’d clap and split eardrums with my hoarse vocal chords irrespective of the protagonist’s calibre and body of work.
The story of Bahubali does have a pan-Indian appeal. It is distributed by one of the biggest production houses in Bollywood. It has had a tremendous impact and piqued the curiosity of movie-goers across the country. But, at its heart, it is very much a Telugu movie and no one makes a completely unabashed commercial movie better than the Telugu filmmakers.
SS Rajamouli(SSR) doesn’t have to try hard to make us believe that Bahubali(Prabhas) is capable of pulling something like the Valluvar Kottam all by himself.
We know that our Bahubali is capable.
There is no need for him to try hard to make us believe that Bahubali is the most virtuous, extremely well-trained and bravest warrior ever to have graced Magizhmathi/Mahishmathi and the kingdoms around it.
We know Bahubali is all this and much more.
But this is not a movie about the alpha male of those times.
It is not about Bahubali. It never was about Bahubali.
Bahubali-1 was about Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) and Kattappa (Sathyaraj). Though Bahubali-The Conclusion, is also about them, it is more about Devasena (Anushka).
Devasena is the real reason Bahubali became this alpha male. Devasena is the reason why Bahubali was ever made. If there was no Devasena, we wouldn’t have had the fortune of being a part of this epic journey.
Devasena, the princess of Kunthala, is like the fire. She burns, lights up, moulds, melts and chisels every single step in this movie but personally remains unscathed and unblemished.
This movie should have been called Devasena. Everything in this movie happenes because of her. If the Kalakeyas and Sivagami played spoilsport with Bhallala Deva/Palvalthevan (Rana Daggubati) ascension to the throne in the first movie, Devasena and the people of Mahishmathi make his ascension a big joke.
Amarendra Bahubali falls in love and wants to marry her. This creates the first rift in his equation with Sivagami.
Bhallala Deva’s unsatiated lust for his control over Devasena proves to be the biggest vice for which Mahendra Bahubali vows to take revenge.
Devasena’s promise from Kattappa becomes a major plot point that should not be disclosed for the benefits of the people who didn’t quite manage a ticket in this holiday weekend.
Bahubali loses his throne because he chose to honour his oath to Devasena.
Sivagami banishes Bahubali from the palace because he sided with Devasena’s mode of vigilante justice.
Even during the showdown between Bhallala Deva and Mahendra Bahubali that has one of the most visually spectacular scenes in Indian cinema, it is Devasena who is seen holding the reins of the battle.
Devasena is a warrior. She is an expert archer. She is a headstrong and independent woman who is very well capable of defending herself. She is brave enough to call a spade a spade. She is everything but a damsel in distress. She never needed a prince charming.
Bahubali needed her. While Amarendra needed her as a wife to feel complete, Mahendra needed her as a mother to find a direction in his life.
The Bahubali franchise is about Devasena. It had always been about Devasena. It had only been about Devasena.
This is a movie that has no spoilers and everyone knows how the movie is going to end. However, traversing linguistic and state boundaries, the most talked about cinema reference from South India after “Why this Kolaveri” was “Why Kattappa killed Bahubali?”
In retrospect, the reason makes sense. It was obvious. As obvious as the director’s reason to not bother expanding the character of Avantika (Tammannah). It was best for the movie.
SSR has taken his time to weave a story that masked all the flaws pointed out in the first instalment without compromising on his vision of Bahubali.
Initially, I believed that the songs were a major let-down and that they will not be on someone’s playlist for long. However, the visuals have enhanced the songs to such an extent that they will be revisited frequently because your mind will immediately conjure up those images that floated on screen.
The sails of a boat becoming wings of a flying vehicle. The war cries and the poetry in the visuals of a battle. A tree branch doubling up as a bed under the moonlight. Clouds becoming horses to the boat that becomes a chariot in the skies.
Not just the songs, there are many scenes that fall under the category of Wolf-Whistle-Worthy(WWW) moments. The slow-motion shot of Rana’s chariot getting crushed. The dance duet in the garb of archery and warfare. The massive elephant statue that stands tall as the symbol of the kingdom. The return of that Golden statue of Bhallala Deva in this movie.
Hats off to Sabu Cyril, the art director.
After walking out of certain English movies, I vividly remember talking to my friends and gushing about the fact that filmmakers from the West can bring any imagination of theirs come alive on the screen. They seem to have the resources and machinations to do so. I constantly rued the fact that our Indian filmmakers are many a time forced to compromise on their vision due to reasons that had nothing to do with lack of intent and talent.
SS Rajamouli has managed to create everything he had in mind. Probably he would have wanted much more, but let’s not be greedy. This is the closest we have seen how our imagination and grandeur of the images in our minds would look on screen.
The franchise is ambitious and will spawn various offsprings. Some might work, many might not. It is immaterial. Bahubali reminds us of how Cinema is a medium where a suspension of disbelief is quite normal and there is no hurry to usher in a change in that perception.
Bahubali almost single-handedly wipes off an entire battalion and we believe it. We believed it when it happened in our epics.
Bahubali is the Amar Chitra Katha for the millennials. It is that story of the king who had it all and gave it away to uphold his morals and principles.
It is that story of a king who was loved unconditionally by all the citizens of his kingdom.
It is that story of a king who saves another kingdom and gets to marry the princess of that kingdom.
It is that story of a king who outwits almost all the plans that plotted his downfall but falls to one great betrayal.
It is that story of a prince who returns to avenge his father’s death.
It is Lion King. It is Batman. It is Agneepath. It is Gangs of Wasseypur. It is Amaidhipadai. It is our grandmother stories.
It is what our Cinema sorely missed while there were attempts to make Cinema realistic for the sake of it.
It is what certain filmmakers thought Cinema had finally left behind.
It is what sections of our Cinema thought to be juvenile and audience pandering.
The Bahubali franchise is proof that the audience misses such movies. We like our Anurag Kashyaps and Balas. We encourage our Motwanes and Mysskins. We appreciate our Anand Gandhis and Manikandans.
But, we need our Manmohan Desais and Singeetham Srinivasa Raos. We need our Sathyan Anthikkads and KS Ravikumars. We need our Shaji Kailashs and Shankars.
Cinema is no longer only seen in theatres. Piracy has killed many a good film. Cinema needs movies that will force the audience to watch it on the big screen.
Indian cinema needs to bring back the audience who used to consider movies to be a family outing.
Indian cinema can do with a few more movies like Bahubali.
In such changing and trying times, we must remember that the strongest applause during Bahubali’s opening credits was not garnered by its actors or the music director.
It was the director of this magnum opus who got a resounding wave of applause when his name came up on screen.
We need our Rajamoulis.
P.S. I still wish we have a Bahubali based theme park. Rides conceptualized like the swirling chariot of Bhallala Deva, a rodeo on that humungous bison, a water slide on an elephant’s trunk etc… Our answer to the theme parks across the world based on Hollywood movies.