This weekend I watched what is touted as India’s biggest, most expensive, epic movie Baahubali and the movie lives up to its hype and then some more! A complete package of technical brilliance, gripping storytelling and outstanding performances by all actors. This is the first part of a two part movie, and the movie strikes the right balance of entertaining at the same time leaving you with enough intrigue for the second part.
Spoiler alert – story ahead
An age old story of denied rights to an undeserving weak character leading to the great war of their descendants. BijjalaDeva (Nasser) is denied the throne to the kingdom of Mahishmati due to his weak character which he attributes to his deformed hand. His brother dies an untimely death and his wife dies in child birth after delivering the prince Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas as the father). Sivagami (Ramya Krishna) the fair, just and ruthlessly courageous wife of BijjalaDeva(Nasser) also has a son BhallalDeva(Rana Daggubati). Sivagami assumes the duties of the throne without ascending it, after a bloodbath of revolting ministers with the help of Kattappa(Sathyaraj) an honor bound slave to the throne. The two cousins, sons of Bijjala Deva and his brother, are provided equal opportunity to prepare them for the throne but as expected, Bhallaldeva houses a grudge against Baahubali fanned further by his father Bijjaladeva.
This story is told as a flashback to Shivudu (Prabhas as the son) who is raised by the tribal chief. The movie begins with Sivagami carrying an infant, an arrow stuck in her back and fighting the soldiers chasing her. She jumps in the torrential waters and manages to hand over the baby to the tribals before being consumed by the waters. The baby is Shivudu (Prabhas), who meets and falls in love with a rebel warrior Avantika(Tamannah) tasked with rescuing the princess Devasena(Anushka Shetty) tied up in chains as a prisoner in the town square of Mahishmati. Shivudu manages the daring rescue but has to fight Kattappa and Bhadrudu(Adavi Sesh) who is Bhallaldeva’s son. Shivudu beheads Bhadrudu and now must face the wrath of Kattappa; but instead Kattappa bows down in loyalty on recognizing Shivudu as Mahendra Baahubali, the son of Amarendra Baahubali and Devasena. As Kattappa tells the back story of Shivudu’s ancestors, he leaves us on a cliffhanger for part 2 without telling the details of how he –Kattappa - back stabbed and killed Amarendra Baahubali(Prabhas the father).
End spoiler alert
The story resembles many Indian mythological stories – the main storyline directly follows Mahabharat’s enmity between Duryodhana and Pandavas. Bhallaladeva’s preferred weapon is similar to the mace the favorite weapon of Duryodhana. The story of Shivudu looks like the story of birth of Krishna, complete with the mother being imprisoned and the rescue in the flowing waters. The powerful, just and warrior queen mother Shivagami who rules without ascending the throne feels like historic Laxmibai transported to Mahishmati. The character of Devasena, who could have easily escaped but instead endures all the tortures to seek revenge may on the surface remind of Rakhi’s character of Karan Arjun but seems more inspired from Draupadi of Mahabharat who keeps the embers of revenge alive. Kattappa’s character has the tragic melancholy of Bhishma’s vow as it binds him to serve the throne even in their acts of injustice.
The story may not be new but in the hands of the master story teller Rajamouli, it transcends you into the world of Mahishmati for 2 hours 40 minutes keeping you completely entertained and leaving you wanting for more. The visual effects are stunning and never seen before in Indian Cinema. They deftly enhance the beautiful locations with computer imagery that the viewer cannot tell where reality ends and CGI begins.
The story and cinematography is supported well by all actors, both the seasoned ones like Ramya Krishna, Sathyaraj and Nasser as well as the younger generation with Prabhas, Rana, Anushka and Tamannah. Ramya Krishna outshines them all with her fierce, dignified portrayal of Sivagami, Sathyaraj as Kattappa brings out the anguish of the character as he is morally ashamed of the actions he has to carry through due to the vow that binds him to the throne. Nasser and Rana are the epitome of villainy with the right undercurrents of wickedness without being over the top. Prabhas is forceful and his sheer energy of performance overshadows his bulging biceps. Tamannah is beautiful and reminds of Hemamalini in Dreamgirl and is suitably fierce as the rebel warrior. Anushka’s brief appearance in the first half as Devasena is impressive, watch out as her story unfolds in part 2.
Costumes always play a huge part in bringing the characters to life and the love and attention to details of costume design shows. The beautiful silks bring the royalty to life, the use of nauvari style of draping saree for Sivagami brings in shades of powerful historic women like Jeejamata and Laxmibai. Tamannah looks like an apsara in the white costume and Devasena’s saree and make up makes her look like a mad woman consumed with revenge. The royal silk colors used for men are equally good, fashion designers take note of the colors for men’s ethnic Indian costumes!
It is never one big thing that makes a movie great but it is attention to all the small details that really elevates it. Be it the makeup, costumes, cinematography, or creating the new language spoken by Kalakeya’s tribe. Kudos to the whole team for making sure every small detail was given the attention it needed.
There are plenty of firsts this movie attempts – this may be the first time an Indian movie is made in two parts, it is the first time an Indian movie is shot with an all-digital Alexa XT camera, the Marketing team has done extremely well building up the excitement for the movie using digital and social channels for the last 2years.
The dream of Baahubali has become a reality through hard work, and calculated risk. Congratulations team Baahubali for this milestone movie!
The wait for part 2 begins……….