Bahubali: India's own home-grown EPIC FANTASY MOVIE that's a winner!!

With SS Rajamouli at the helm, Bahubali was always going to be an ambitious movie. But did anyone expect this South Indian movie to break records worldwide? It's created waves - and toppled records all over. and it's still going strong!

I always maintained that the home-grown stories of Fantasy are the best and Bahubali retells a somewhat familiar and yet different tale of a kingdom Mahishmati tucked away between craggy mountain peaks and sheltered by a roaring waterfall - caught in the middle of a power struggle between blood relatives for the throne. Rajamouli's epic vision blends elements of Lord of the Rings and Mahabharata into something unique, something that he owns completely and executes in grand style on the big screen. A home-grown epic fantasy movie that will knock down your defenses and any reservations you may have had - Bahubali features some stunning camework, whooping CGI effects and artistic attention to the majestic sets. Rajamouli's visual prowess and storytelling ability is second to none - like that of a free-spirited abstract soul only content with pushing boundaries.

Originally made in Telugu, the home base of Telugu viewers are all familiar with Rajamouli's touch of gold and would have expected nothing less. ( He's had a string of success right from his first movie - and has always been experimental in his movie-making. Remember Ee? It didn't even have a hero!! and was a runaway success, remade and dubbed in every other language!) What is heartening is the acceptance of Bahubali - not just across India but across the world. People just cannot seem to have enough of the heroes of Mahishmati kingdom.

Coming to the tale - right from the first arresting mind-blowing visual of the gigantic waterfall (CGI well done!) and Ramya Krishnan (Queen Sivagami) escaping a set of marauders with a baby, you're glued to the screen. The shot of the queen's sacrifice, holding the baby above the frothing river, is one that will definitely haunt you as you walk away from the theater. The baby, heir to the kingdom of Mahishmati grows up with the simple-minded river folks, always fascinated by the mountain peaks.

The boy becomes an adult - And Siva, played by Prabhas ( Hunk. Apparently he set aside three years working on this movie. and his body. And it definitely shows! the camera makes love to his rippling chiseled body frame after frame, especially those crazy flexing biceps that tear through a rudraksh band in a scene!) finally ascends the peaks - in a mind-altering dream song sequence chasing after a nymph (Tamanaah!) But he soon realizes the mysterious peaks hide some dangerous secrets - When he runs into the actual form of the nymph, a rebel called Avantika fighting a guerrilla war against the King's men. Feisty and tempestuous, Avantika only lives to free their rightful queen, imprisoned by the 'usurper' Bhallala Dev. But the narrative slows down here - and we spend sometime gamboling and frolicking about in the forests and snow-laden mountain peaks with Prabhas and Tamanaah - building up on an impossible love story. The build-up to this love story is weak and fraught with 'blind leaps of faith' that the director hops the audience will take. Avantika's characterization is hard to believe - swinging between a lover-girl swooning into her hulk's arms and dancing around trees and the the war-hardened rebel, dying to sacrifice herself for the cause.

So yeah, the first half of the movie seesaws between spectacular and hilarious in parts. The second half is where the story really picks up steam - with the scene changing to the palaces of Mahishmati and the older legends come tumbling out. The story of brothers Amarendra Bahubali (Prabhas , double role. More eye candy!) and Bhallala Dev ( Rana Duggubati) both vying for the crown is spelled out in full glory - Epic flowing battle scenes, conspiracies and plot within plots. In fact the last thirty minutes of the movie is one extended exhilarating battle scene - plunging everything into a hell storm of grandiose proportions. Military tactics, one on one individual face-offs, thunderous charge of the cavalry, blood and gore. The full works in glorious multi-colored CGI spectacle. The story of course stops at a cliffhanger that will have people flocking back to the theaters in 2016 when the flashback is revealed, the treachery and backstabbing becomes clearer.

As far as performances go, Ramya Krishnan steals the thunder. Her imposing screen presence, smoldering eyes and fiery dialogue delivery are spot-on. The movie is star-studded and despite the presence of other biggies and stars, Ramya effortlessly essays the role of queen mother who wrenches control of the empire in the middle of a chaos and brings it back from the brink of a civil war. After Neelambari from Padayappa, this role probably comes close enough to do justice to this talented powerhouse. Sathyaraj plays the role of the army captain Kattapa to perfection - the loyal house-guard bound by his word to the King but torn in his loyalties towards the rightful heir. A fitting role to the doyen in his late years - he puts a lot of younger guys to shame with his effortless sword-fighting and action sequences.

Prabhas. Hunk extraordinaire - does pretty well in the action stunt sequences, wears a goofy grin that endears himself to all sets of the audience while performing all the bravura deeds - like uprooting a huge rock shiva-linga or singlehandedly hauling up a towering golden statue and saving the lives of countless or riding into the battle and scything through the enemy infantry and cavalry like toilet paper. relatively unknown beyond the landscape of perhaps South India, this movie is his ticket to greater things. Rana, the other big hunk on the screen sadly only gets to grunt and smolder in anger watching and seething with jealousy at Prabhas' characters.

Of the two leading ladies, Tamanaah gets more screen time in part-one; dances and traipses through waterfalls well enough but looks barely convincing as the angry hurt foot soldier swathed in brown and leather in the rebel group. I'm still not convinced if she can act. Great eye-candy. check. Hero's love interest. check. That brings us to Anushka Shetty - hardly recognizable as the imprisoned queen, in tatters. She has very little screen time but her hurt filled vengeful eyes speak a lot of fire and damnation to the crown. Hopefully part-two, she will deliver!

As the movie is garnering praise for pretty much breaking every other record, let's not forget the monumental effort it has taken Rajamouli and his crew to pull this off. Hats off to the man's vision and realization of this epic. The scale and class matches Hollywood - apart from niggling issues with the pacing ( First half and then again the item song in the second half was...meh!) the movie is a fitting crown for SS Rajamouli's growing cinematic legacy. Much embellished that it already is, this one's a rousing winner all the way!


Raji said…
What about the Avalanche in AndraPradesh??? It was well shot, though!
Sachin Dev said…
Creative liberties. Refer to my comment about "Pushing the boundaries" :)

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