There are some movies that are so grossly Indian that they seem ridiculously cheap and stupid. These movies are aimed only at turning profits and impressing crass local theater crowds. There are some other movies that are so Indian that they make you feel proud to be one. SS Rajamouli’s Bahubali is one of those movies that reminds you why we still need to watch Indian movies, in this age when Indian cinema is trailing so far behind its western counterpart.
The first movie of the Bahubali saga introduces us to the kingdom of Mahishmati and the titular protagonist Bahubali. After being smuggled out of Mahishmati as a child and being raised by a fishermen community under a waterfall, Shiva’s uncontrollable need to find out what is on top, leads him to try unremittingly to climb the waterfall, till he succeeds. In doing so, he steps into a dangerous world he wasn’t expecting and gets involved in a fight between rebels and a kingdom, to which he is closely linked.
The visual effects are mostly good, but they are extremely unfinished and raw at some portions. Its not hard to spot VFX mistakes even in the first viewing. The trademarks of a south Indian movie are their blatant disregard for projectile motion, and the omnipotence of the hero, both of which are abundant in this movie. Jumping from cliffs is a mere joke here. Perhaps the most ludicrous part of the movie is the weird intuitions that Shiva’s mother feels whenever he is nearby. This is rivaled only by the romantic subplot between Shiva and Avantika, a major part of which involves him tattooing her without asking. There are various cliches, a superfluous item song, and numerous imitations of scenes from Hollywood (primarily 300, Avengers and Avatar), that are not so sleek as the original. The story is very straightforward, there is a clear distinction between the bad people and the good, and there are no unexpected surprises and twists anywhere.
Even though the visual effects fail in some scenes, Bahubali sets a new VFX benchmark for Indian standards. Although its pretty obvious when CGI is being used, that doesn’t stop those scenes from seeming beautiful. It’s just the difference between reality and beauty. One of the biggest strengths of the movie is its brilliant background score; the visuals and the score together keep the viewer riveted to the screen. The perfect casting is also another crucial element, since everyone, especially the two bulky male leads and Ramya Krishna playing the martinet queen of Mahishmati, look their parts, and their decent acting skills adds to the experience. Despite the simple story, the screenplay is exceptionally engaging, with its non linear format throwing around clues to keep the viewer curious at all times. Rajamouli elicits awe and wonder with brazen displays of every emotion, my particular favorite being the scene from the poster where Prabhas lifts a stone idol of Shiva. The movie obviously lacks subtlety, but this flagrant and undisguised presentation of every point is done mostly with a unique flair, that doesn’t make it seem so shameless. Rajamouli’s immense efforts to make the movie, are palpable during those magnificent war scenes in the second half. More than anything, Bahubali must be witnessed for its sheer scale and grandeur.
With every scene, SS Rajamouli shows off his aversion to subtlety and his adept handling of the exaggerated depictions. In fact, this lack of subtlety and predilection for over-the-top scenes is what gives Bahubali the unique Indian flavor, making it a mass entertainment movie, which is exactly what it claims to be. Bahubali stands as a testament to how its possible make a big-budget blockbuster without making it mindless and lackadaisical. I will rate it at 8 on 10. Watch it on the big screen.