Features Friday, July 10, 2015 - 05:30
  By Hemanth Kumar   Follow @crhemanth   Rating : 4/5 Cast : Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah, Anushka, Nasser, Sathyaraj Directed by : SS Rajamouli Produced by : Shobu Yarlagadda, Prasad Devineni Music : MM Keeravaani Release Date : July 10, 2015 In an era when films don’t inspire awe or respect, like they once used to, SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali makes a strong case to believe in the power of dreams. Nothing is impossible to achieve and the film is proof enough that Telugu cinema has finally arrived at the cinematic altar, although a tad too late, to raise its head high and redefine the rules of the game. Rajamouli accomplished that to a good extent with his previous film, Eega and he has truly evolved as a filmmaker with Baahubali. How else would you describe a grand spectacle that Baahubali is? It’s a spellbinding film almost till the end, and then it ends so abruptly that it leaves you with so many questions that it feels inconclusive, which in itself is a gutsy move. Baahubali is a folklore which focuses on Shivudu’s (Prabhas) journey to discover his true identity, which sets him on a path to fulfil his destiny. He lives with his foster parents at the edge of a mammoth waterfall and right from his childhood, he is told to stop thinking about what lies beyond the waterfall. With time, his curiosity about what lies beyond the waterfall increases and that, in turn, drives him to explore unchartered territories. One fine day, he comes across a mask, which sparks even more curiosity to scale the waterfall. He does just that in search of a mysterious warrior woman Avanthika (Tamannaah). Elsewhere, in the kingdom of Mahishmathi, ruled by Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), we are told that Devasena (Anushka) has been held captive and like everyone else, she’s waiting for Baahubali (also played by Prabhas) to put an end to the atrocities in the realm. The rest of the story is about how Shivudu discovers his royal lineage and the legend of Amarendra Baahubali himself. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that Baahubali, the film, is a tribute to the Chandamama Kathalu, which were filled with magnificent tales of warriors and kings. In a way, the film has reinvented folklore, as a genre, for the current generation, nearly three decades after Telugu filmmakers stopped telling such stories. It’s a visual spectacle right from its onset and it boasts of several stunning sequences which are loaded with visual effects. A case in point being the kingdom of Mahishmathi itself. Everytime the camera looms over the kingdom, the sheer magnitude of the landscape is palpable. And then, there’s the much-talked about war sequence itself which is the epitome of what happens when a filmmaker executes his vision to near perfection. It has no parallel in Indian cinema and that in itself is the single most bang-for-the-buck segment in the end. Like Rajamouli’s previous films, Baahubali has a strong emotional undercurrent throughout the film. A young man who is yet to discover his destiny; a tyrant king who is engulfed with rage and arrogance; a woman who never gives up on her burning desire to kill the king; and above all, a warrior who would do anything to protect the people in his kingdom. Bhallaladeva’s struggle for power to wrest control over Mahishmathi makes him blind to all rules of justice and on the other end of the spectrum is Baahubali, who commands respect and affection from everyone. Apart from Bhallaladeva and Baahubali, the other two interesting characters in the film are Devasena and Shivagami (Ramyakrishna); however, we are only given a glimpse of the complexity in their characterisation. Both Anushka and Ramyakrishna shine in their roles and it makes you want to see more of them. And the same goes for Tamannaah, who might very well be the Indian avatar of Katniss Everdeen (from Hunger Games). This is also the first time that a Rajamouli’s film had such strong characterisations for women and it’ll be interesting to see how they have an impact on Baahubali’s life in the second part of the film. For the first time in his career, Rana Daggubati makes you stand up and take notice of what he is capable of doing. Take that scene where he interacts with Devasena for the first time - the baritone of Bhallaladeva’s voice and the subsequent build up to the interval scene makes you wonder what’s brewing in his mind. And then, there’s PRABHAS. The actor looks every bit a king and a warrior as Baahubali, and it’s a treat to watch him in the battlefield. And by the time the credits roll, you know that no other actor would have carried off this role with such panache. The film gives us plenty to talk about Senthil’s exemplary cinematography, Sabu Cyril’s production design and the visual effects, supervised by Srinivas Mohan, which are by far the best in Indian cinema. Most of the song, scored by MM Keeravani, as used a background theme songs to describe the characters and that works quite well. Watch out for the terrific background score in the war sequence and it’ll make you want to scream with joy. Kudos to Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni, who produced the film under Arka Mediaworks, for believing in Rajamouli's vision to make a truly epic film. All said and done, the film still feels incomplete and true to its name, Baahubali - The Beginning is more of a prelude to what’s in store for the audience for the second part, which is due for release in 2016. There are several unanswered questions and the backstories of Devasena, Bhallaladeva’s rise to power, Shivagami, Kattappa (Sathyaraj) and Bijjaladeva (Nasser) power games, and Avantika are yet to be revealed. The first part of Baahubali gives an explanation to Shivudu’s question - “Nenu eppudu choodani kallu, nannu devudi la choosthunnayi. Nenu Evarni? (The eyes which I have never seen before are looking at me as if I’m their god. Who am I?)” And the climax comes to an abrupt end which itself is quite a surprising move by Rajamouli. Perhaps, a move like this has never been attempted before in Telugu cinema so far and it leaves you wanting for more in the end. For the uninitiated, Rajamouli’s films usually unravel like an orchestra. The beginning is slow and then the tempo rises to a crescendo when the story comes a mid-point. The second half is the key to his storytelling and Baahubali is a classic example of his style. The lows are intentional and they provide the perfect launchpad to elevate the hero’s characterisation at the right moment. Back in 2009, when he made Magadheera, it led to a notion that this is best we can do given our resources and budget. And in less than six years, he has grown so confident about his vision that Baahubali feels like the best Indian film industry can offer given its limited resources compared to Hollywood. He has arrived on the national scene with a bang and how! In the end, it’s not about the budget or time spent to make the film. It’s not even about what one might think of Prabhas or Rajamouli or every other actor present in the film. Baahubali is not just a film, it’s an idea. An idea that makes you gasp in wonder and makes you fall in love with movies all over again. An idea that you can dream big and not be afraid because there are no limits to what you can dream of. At a runtime of 2 hours 39 minutes, the film feels short once you get hooked into the storytelling. If you thought the climax was abrupt, despite watching it for more than 2.5 hours, it is meant to be that way. For now, Baahubali just gives us a glimpse of life and power games in Mahishmathi. The real drama is in Baahubali - The Conclusion. And going by the first part of the film, it looks like the wait will be totally worth it. (Hemanth Kumar is a Hyderabad-based film journalist. This review was first published on idreampost.com)
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