Larger than life characters, gobsmacking visuals and whistle inducing action, S.S. Rajamouli takes us back in time to a period of kings and queens and their intriguing battles of love and betrayal. When it comes to ambition, Telugu cinema has always punched above its weight and here again Rajamouli, who gave us the absolutely entertaining Makkhi, once again pushes the boundaries. No, it is not a unique story. For the Hindi film audience, it is the evolution of Pataal Bhairaviand Simhasan kind of cinema that we used to get from the South in the 80s.
The difference is the way he has imagined the past and has imbued it with technical finesse that almost matches the world standards. Not just the tacky visuals, tacky humour has also been immersed into Godavari. And it is literally just the beginning for he has imagined it as a two part magnum opus. But surprisingly the film doesn’t suffer from blockusteritis or the blockbuster complex as we call it.
In this part of the world, Baahubali has acquired a negative connotation but Rajamouli sets it right. It differentiates between a king who simply kills and the one who is a saviour. Reimagining the episodes of Mahabharat and the myth of Krishna, he introduces us to an infant who knows to keep his head above water. He is thrown into the underworld but he knows his space is up there. When he takes on the God, we know what he is made of. When he jumps for one hill to the other for a feminine form, we realise he is more than just brawn.
However, the scenery overpowers the narrative in the first half and one wonders whether like Raavan it will also suffer from moisture issues. The pacing is problematic and the emotions seldom travel from heart to the head and vice versa but as the conflict surfaces, Rajamouli gets hold of the material and ultimately goes for the jugular. There is blood and gore but is backed by emotion. It treads the path ofGladiator and 300 kind of cinema but finds its own voice.
Known for thinking out of the box in the mainstream space, here again Rajamouli rises above the generic conventions. One feels let down when Avanthika, a fiery soldier has to turn all coy and feminine within the space of a few frames to surrender to an almost stranger. Later Rajamouli proves that it was a deliberate mischief to play to the conventional gallery because the way he has shaped queen Shivgami’s character it douses the misogynistic apprehensions.
Also, he has shunned the history text books to create this fictional period space. So he has to just take of intrinsic logic. One can ask how his characters move between different climate zones so quickly or how bare-footed Sivudu suddenly gets the shoes in the jungle, but overall you can’t find fault with his creative licence.
However, Rajamouli is hoping what his VFX team has dreamed up as the imaginary terrain of Baahubali will blind the viewer to the film’s weaknesses and to a large extent, this tactic works. The CGI landscape, like the waterfalls and the rather magnificent Mahishmati, are spectacular. There are a few laughable spots, but they are few and far between. While Baahubali doesn’t feel as real as Middle Earth, it is a beautifully-imagined fantasy landscape that has been rendered in impressive detail, particularly by Indian standards.
Prabhas and Rana as the brothers with arms fit the roles of warriors with opposite world view. With them the ‘ground breaking’, chest thumping action remains believable. But it is Satyaraj as the battle-scarred slave who proves to be a scene stealer. So is Ramya as the intrepid queen who has a heart. However, Tamannaah’s transition from a feisty warrior to a feminine consort has not been as smooth.
Except for some strange accents at places, the Hindi dialogues are satisfactory. When Hindi cinema is telling the stories of different parts of India why the films from the South are dubbed into chaste Hindi? Some local flavour can help. When the name of the character is Kattapa the audience knows where he is coming from. No such issues with the immersive soundtrack though with Kailash Kher shining through