He who wields the megaphone rules the world!! He showed us glimpses of it in Magadheera. He showed us his visionary storytelling in Eega. He showed us how to make a commercial entertainer without A-list actors in Maryada Ramana. Now, he has come to usher in the new age of Indian Cinema. With Bahubali, S.S. Rajamouli has crafted what could arguably be the best fantasy/action film, India has ever produced with such finesse, he could easily be roped in to direct any Peter Jackson film. When we heard that the budget for this film was close to Rs. 250Cr, you can actually see where every rupee of that went. Every frame is a testament to this labor of love from Rajamouli and team.
First things first, comparisons with Lord of the Rings, Exodus, Hobbit, 300, Troy are all unavoidable due to the nature of the story and the level and style of CGI used in this film. Even though the film employs modern special effects, the story and presentation is so much dipped in Indian sensitivity, specifically Telugu audience sensitivity and the sequences which seem like straight out of a Hollywood film are actually a testament to the ability of the film to convincingly translate the Western film angle to Indian mindset with such ease and flawlessness. This is an Indian film… through and through. That itself is half the battle won.
Coming to the story itself, it has a lot of influence from Indian and Western mythology. One could call it a weird mixture of Mahabharata and The Old Testament. I am not going to spoil anything by revealing the story here, but it is at its core a revenge saga spanning 2 generations with a lot of palace level politics and betrayal thrown in for good measure. This is old school mythological drama set up on an epic scale.
There are a few signature styles of Rajamouli that are instantly recognizable. For instance, all his films have a slowly building up 1st half that sets up the mood and the characters and establishes the story in a straight forward manner. Then comes the turning point and you know the 2nd half is going to be a wild ride with everything including the kitchen sink thrown at you and it is here where the bang for the buck lies. Same is the case with Bahubali. This is what we all go to the movies for. As George Milies once said, Movies have the ability to transport the viewer to a different world and leave them mesmerized. Movies have the power to capture dreams. That is exactly what Bahubali achieves. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
Now coming to the flaws. Yes, there are a few of those. The romantic angle falls flat on its face and feels forced, as is the case with the item number which acts as a major speed breaker in an otherwise taut screenplay. These scenes are expertly executed, no doubt, but they feel out of place with the rest of the film.
But I guess given the budget of the film, the only way to recover that cost was to cater to the mass audience too. Something which still Rajamouli has yet to overcome.
The performances are all top notch. Prabhas exudes confidence and power through just his body language, as does Rana Dagubatti who looks menacing. Can’t believe he is the same guy from leader. Sathyaraj as Kattappa (read: Bhishma Pitamah) leaves a lasting impression. Tamannah is the only weak link of the cast. She is clearly uncomfortable in action scenes. Anushka Shetty is tremendous. She will be a major asset in the 2nd part due for release in 2016. So is the case with Ramya Krishnan. Superb!
The CGI is very convincing and could be called the best Indian CGI ever, hands down and I can say confidently that after the Lord of the Rings movies, this was the first film which managed to transport me into its world for 2 hr 40 min and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. A special mention for the BGM by M.M. Keeravani which compliments the visuals by Senthil Kumar to the tee. This is a must watch for any Indian movie lover. It will go down in the annals of history as the game changer, the one that started it all, The Beginning. It’s one small step for Rajamouli, one giant leap for Indian Cinema. The benchmark has been set. Bring on The Conclusion!