Into the world of ‘Baahubali’…The ‘Avatar’ of India

The warriors Amarendra Bahubali (Centre), Ballaala Deva (Left) and Kattappa (Right)

After the release of the trailer of ‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’, one of us, an amateur in editing, made a video of the song- ‘Dandalayya(Telugu)’ by extracting shots from the Trailer and also the first part: ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’. To our surprise, the video attracted over 1.50M (5M now) views on the YouTube. This showed the thirst in the audience to experience the visual magnificence of S S Rajamouli. As the flood gates opened on 28th Apr, 2017, the movie opened to over 80% occupancy across the world.

‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’ is the second part of the Baahubali franchise, directed by S S Rajamouli, which shattered all the box office records in India. The movie is also among the top three movies on the box office in North America over the weekend.

In all his glory, Amarendra Baahubali (the good guy), once again introduces himself as the saviour anyone can bet on. Rajamaata (queen mother) Sivagami performs a ritual to prevent the drought of Mahishmati (the kingdom). The march should not be interrupted. But the elephants are agitated and pose challenge. Sivagami orders Kattappa (the faithful servant) to rescue the people in panic and moves forward. Now enters the saviour. The spectacular visual of Amarendra Baahubali pulling a gigantic cart of Lord Ganesha to tackle the agitated elephants glues the eyes of audience to the screen. In the background, the music of M M Keeravani makes everyone feel the majesty in it.

Perhaps no contemporary Indian film director has mastered the craft of using scenes to demonstrate the strength of characters, better than S S Rajamouli. Stepping on its trunk, Amarendra Baahubali climbs onto the now tamed elephant, in the introduction scene, to shoot the effigy of the demon of drought. S S Rajamouli now prepares us to enter into the surreal Indian kingdom of Mahishmati.

Conflict at the core:

The convictions of characters lead to the conflict

Mahishmati’s society is organised in terms of the varna system with Kshatriya Dharma for the rulers; a patriarchal society; differences in the skin colour of masses and the higher castes; and the advice of Brahmins while delivering justice. The appreciation of beauty of women and valour of men; the virtues of loyalty and promise; finality of Raajamata’s word; and the lustful eyes on the throne of Mahishmati are some of the features which define the state of polity and society of the day.

As conflict is at the core of every political drama, here too, the convictions based on the points of view of different characters lead to the conflict. The characters place their convictions above themselves: Devasena (the princess of Kunthala kingdom and love of Amarendra Baahubali) in upholding the dignity of women; Sivagami in preserving Mahishmati’s greatness and political order; Amarendra Baahubali in fulfilling the Kshatriya Dharma; Bijjala Deva and Bhallaala Deva (father-son duo) resorting to Machiavellian (or Kautilyan?) politics; Loyalty of Kattappa, as a servant till the end to the throne of Mahishmati; and the restlessness in Mahendra Baahubali (the son of Amarendra Baahubali and Devasena) to avenge the betrayal and restore the dignity of his mother- all dealt vividly, makes the visual opulence an epic.

Appreciation:

Undoubtedly, Baahubali has expanded the limits of Indian cinema and set new heights in terms of VFX and achieves a pan Indian appreciation for a regional movie like never before. The movie also introduced Indian cinema to the world scene.

Variations in the character of Ballaala Deva deserves appaluse

Variations in the character of Bhallaala Deva deserves applause, as the character looks ruthless, yet stable; similar to Raavana (from the Indian epic Ramayana) in regard to Sita as for Deva Sena, yet different; and possesses a conviction unmatched in any other characters. The subtle differences in the characters of Bijjala Deva and Bhallaala Deva are clearly established. Among equally mighty performances, Prabhas as Amarendra Baahubali stays as the main highlight of the film.

There is no stopping to S S Rajamouli when it comes to imagination. From subtle romance to aggressive war strategies to devising methods of addressing the grievances of common people, the imagination is top notch. The visual effects of the mesmerising ‘Hamsa Naava(Telugu)’ song leave the audience in awe. The thunderous coronation episode leaves one breathless at the pace of the sequence of events. The extravaganza of war scenes; the featuring of animals; and the realistic appearing computer generated imagery in portraying the Kunthala kingdom and the execution of two wars deserve applause. The focus on detail in the plot is immense, leaving no room for any ambiguity or guesses in the minds of viewers.

Rajamouli excels in portraying the larger than life character of emotional scenes, the emotional journey of the episode of Kattappa killing Baahubali is a testimony to this. The episode takes the viewers through a journey of empathy towards Deva Sena; regret towards Kattappa; hatred towards Bijjala Deva; disgust towards Bhallaala Deva; forgiveness towards Sivagami; and helplessness towards Baahubali. And all of it is experienced, while the audience hope for the good of Mahishmati.

The cinematographer K K Senthil Kumar displays great skills at numerous occasions in framing and also varying the light intensities through lightening of skies; forest fires; the silhouette of Kattappa killing Baahubali; the war in the Kunthala kingdom and the scenes of Sivagami- all of them add value to the visual and emotional experience and leave a lasting impression.

Criticism:

Raajamaata (queen mother) Sivagama’s character is central to the plot

The unexpected variations in the character of Sivagami from a strong woman upholding justice in ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’ to a weak vulnerable woman prone to manipulation by the Bhallaala Deva and Bijjala Deva is central to the coherency of the plot. However, the vulnerability of the personality could not be justified explicitly, leaving room for criticism, and appears to be forced on Sivagami for the survival of plot.

The war scene of the climax between Mahendra Baahubali and Bhallaala Deva is chaotic, unrealistic and less thoughtful as compared to the climax of the first part. Though the background elevates the emotion like through ‘Saahore Baahubali’ in the earlier scenes, the change in the tempo at the end is not equally impressive. The long duration of the movie towards the end makes it sound louder. A few scenes also make the emotion explicit through music, undermining the ability of actors.

The comic sequences between Baahubali and Kattappa are unexpected and also do not produce much laughter from the audience. Further, the dialogues and the dialect used are similar to the daily usage in today’s world, unlike the special significance of the theme and social setting of the drama.

Appreciating Mahishmati, over criticism is an inevitable choice. As the movie ends, Rajamouli leaves it to the will of Lord Shiva on whether the son of Mahendra Baahubali (and Avantika?) would succeed and rule Mahishmati. As lovers of Indian cinema, we hope for it to happen.

Click here to buy the book in Amazon India— The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali — Before the Beginning

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