Abzee on Bahubali


Finally saw Bahubali… after almost everyone I know knew of everyone who’d seen it. One runs a risk of having been overhyped with an event film such as this. Not so with Bahubali, I am glad to note. It is a beast of a film that shatters and soars over any and all expectations and then some more.

Would have preferred seeing it in the original Telugu/Tamil version though. For despite the fact that the Hindi dub is done well, one can sense the loss of nuances, especially given that there are multiple caste and class representations which would come with its own dialects and variants… something that is lost in the Hindi translation which opts for a curiously non-vernacular Hindi.

On to the film, nothing that I have seen in Bollywood (except Mughal-E-Azam which is a stunning achievement purely on a logistical level and given that its production design is all set-decoration and zero CGI) comes even remotely close to the scale, grandeur and execution. SS Rajamouli realizes an entire world, derived though it may be in parts from the best of Mahabharata and LOTR and Hollywood swords & sandals, but all uniquely his own. Using time honoured tropes then to tap into our emotional subconscious, Rajamouli fashions a splendid and breathtaking legend of mythical proportions; one which eventually is also able to have you invested in its characters. From one character’s Krishna-meets-Moses origin story to another’s Bhishma-like trajectory, V. Vijayendra Prasad’s story exploits just enough of the familiar in the use of an altogether new and arresting mythology. The stories of valour, the tales of sacrifice, the edenic love… everything comes together in a surprisingly seamless symphony of clichés.

What jars then are certain inconsistencies and compromises. Prabhas’ casting is a functional one, but it poses a problem when the narrative expects us to buy his transformation from the Krishna-like lover to the Shiva-like agent of destruction. Given that he is pitted against Rana Dagubatti who looks like he’s breathing fire, poses an even greater imbalance. Then there is the much-dissected taming-of-the-shrew sequence involving Tamannah. It is a curious sequence in a film that otherwise provides us strong female characters- where one literally assumes the Vasudeva role ensuring the life of the protagonist, and another’s resolve in true “Mere Karan-Arjun aayenge” style is what keeps the revenge saga alive. Of the irksome sequence then, I will say this… perhaps the ‘key’ to understanding it is to look at it beyond gender; that love as an emotion renders one to embrace within them that which they never acknowledged. In a film which also boasts of visual effects that an Indian film has never seen, and effects that are scripted and executed with commendable original imagination (the use of hay-balls, the climactic Trishul-vyuh battle sequence, etc.), a few sequences stick out disappointingly for their lack of originality (a King Kong inspired vines sequence) and finesse (a poorly done CGI brahma-bull). And while MM Kreem’s soundtrack is apposite and even grows on you, one thinks that this epic deserved a superlative Rahman score. An item-song honouring a masala tradition and featuring Rajamouli in a very meta cameo is also nevertheless out of place.

These are minor quibbles though. Fact is, Bahubali is one of those rare instances, like a Sholay, Ben-Hur, Avatar, etc., when a film commands that it be seen on the largest screen possible. It leaves you wide-eyed, mouth agape, stunned into overwhelmed speechless silence. That such a visual accomplishment (a voluminous waterfall reaching the heavens, a massive shivalinga being hoisted over a shoulder, a likeness in gold fifty times larger being raised by an army of labourers, etc.) is also backed by a ferocious performance in Ramya Krishnan and an affecting one in Sathyaraj are additional icing on an already super-rich cake. In fact, that Sathyaraj is capable of such emotional depth as an actor is perhaps this film’s greatest visual effect! This one was just The Beginning. The 2016 date for The Conclusion seems way too long.

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40 Responses to “Abzee on Bahubali”

  1. abzee2kin Says:

    Hey thanks for putting this up as a separate post. Didn’t write it as a review so had put it up as a comment, albeit a very very long comment committed to test one’s patience 🙂

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  2. abzee2kin Says:

    Forgot to mention this in my piece, but I was curiously also reminded of Manmohan Desai’s Mard during certain bits of the film. The entire sequence starting with Prabhas seeing Anushka tied up in the palace exterior, being enraged by it and then breaking her out on a ‘tanga’ felt like it shared some genes with Mard.

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  3. I too saw in Hindi and some of the dialogues were jarring.
    I didn’t find Manohari out of place; Infact I liked the music and it was not overwhelming the movie. For a change (for south Indian movies), it is very pan Indian than South Indianish. Raj Hirani movies have decent music but it never tops the movie.

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    • I rarely watch or root for south Indian flicks but had predicted big things after seeing just the promo.
      Ive still seen nothing more than the promo but feel vindicated to see the result

      “s. Prabhas’ casting is a functional one, but it poses a problem when the narrative expects us to buy his transformation from the Krishna-like lover to the Shiva-like agent of destruction.”
      This hero is not bad in the promos and better than the man mootis,mouhun lalls and rajni pants (believe it or not they could have been cast here: shudder !!)

      But to be frank
      For this epic pan Indian monster

      I know this missed opportunity talk is clichéd but
      The director missed a trick

      He needed two elements

      AR Rahman
      &
      Hrithik Roshan

      Ps: hope he leaves the obstinacy and shows the vision to include them for part 2

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      • Hrithik precisely would not fit into this world. Anyone who’s seen the film knows what I’m talking about. Rajamouli’s world here is too authentic and too epic to be able to incorporate such gym bodies (in the plastic sense of the word). The reason he seems fine in Hollywood action flicks is because those are plastic in the very same way.

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      • “He needed two elements

        AR Rahman
        &
        Hrithik Roshan”

        LOL!

        Rajamouli wanted to showcase “Telugu film industry’s talent” to whole India.. no point in taking Hrithik or AR Rahman.

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        • I doubt he was planning to showcase “showcase “Telugu film industry’s talent”” ot any such narrow aims!

          There are many mohunlalls and man mootis to showcase local regional cinema for their hungry zealous fans

          This sort of work doesn’t come out of insularity and narrowness

          Infact if I were to go for part 2 I will include HR, ARR and throw in a Hollywood femme fatal to the mix (With a cameo by someone like Jackie chan)

          This is NOT to say he should compromise on quality

          But by choosing a certain cast u already lay down certain parameters of reach and scale
          And he should aim only higher next time ..
          Moving beyond the likes of prabhas and the heroine of himmatwala!!

          ‘Authenticity” follows …(& not many who are contributing the box office numbers beyond this blog are there for authenticity anyways!)

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  4. from a short write up in qalandar’s thread

    detailing is so awesome and there is no weirdness ,case in example the first ball thrown out by bahubali in war which for many seemed waste( as burning of soldier was to wow in terms of strategy), with the same ball be breaks the barrirer of kalkaya inner ring showed the long term planning unrecognised by many

    prabhas is superb as laidback, much better than intensity he exhibited in chatrapati(a must watch)

    katappa is loyal servant unlike the cool don father of deepika padukone ala chennai express a movie which even copied some shades of prabhas varsham

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  5. https://surila.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/bahubalithe-beginning-for-indian-cinema/

    a short write up

    highly inconsistent review first :

    300 was celebrated with gregard butler shouting sparta and making mockery out of logic with pack and buildi case in point the dedication showed by prabha and rani even in terms of physicality was no less, have heard they just spend 1.5 cr on body building

    indian sacred mythology used but not with consistent refrence but many : west is copying them for decade which includes your matrix (matrix 2 ended with sanskrit shlokas and even had vedic references), avatar itself is a sanskrit word and so do narrative which at times was loose and ya this is coming from a north indian

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  6. Re: “one thinks that this epic deserved a superlative Rahman score.”

    Ohhhh, what could have been!

    Re: “An item-song honouring a masala tradition and featuring Rajamouli in a very meta cameo…”

    I missed that! Was he the man selling the alcohol? If so, how very apt…we certainly are buying what he is selling…

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    • Yes, Rajamouli was the spirits-vendor. The whole exchange that he has with Prabhas seeking something even bigger is so meta. Loved it.

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      • Never knew that — ohhhhhh how wonderful. And by the way, that’s the way to do meta: so many of Bollywood’s cool kids (including some of the ones I like) do it in a way that alienates the audience and makes the joke seem insular and alienating.,.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very true. Rajamouli’s concotion is such a heady one though that the film hasn’t left me since I saw it… and I think I like it even more now that it has been let to marinate in my mind. Plan to catch it a second time this week itself hopefully.

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  7. I wanted to “cut and paste” this comment from another blog. Here it is….he has interpreted the alchohol scene like this..lol:

    Prabhas comes to Rajamouli: “Anna, we have to make something big.” Rajamouli “Another Sye ?” Prabhas” Bigger.” Rajamouli “Another Chatrapathi?” Prabhas” Bigger.” ” Rajamouli ” Another Magadheera? ” Prabhas” Bigger.” Raghavendhra Rao sneaks up on this trio between their conversation ” Shut up and take my money.”

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  8. The film doesn’t have any false notes, music included. I cannot really pick one grouse against the movie. Everything works in perfect symphony with conductor Rajamouli at helm with a perfect score in hand. This is one talented family. I wish they do English language interview with father and two talented sons, post success of the movie. I don’t think ARR would have added any more value to the music than what we hear but we shall never know that. I am very glad that BO also responded with a thumping success because the two movies so far cost 250crore and if the beginning had tanked they may not have gone ahead with part2. One the hindi casting, the present crop of hindi movie stars are too old or the younger lot too chikna (shahid). Maybe Varun Dhawan but he doesn’t have the maturity age wise to pull it off double role. On that note, now only person who hasn’t seen the movie is Rajen Sir.

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    • He has been relatively silent on the blog.

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    • Are you serious – Varun Dhawan ????
      I kind of agree with Alex here – Hritik would have been a good choice, but did not mind Prabh either. in fact the first 30 minutes reminded me of Krish, (showcasing the power of Bahubali in a Jungle , without knowing the truth about him)
      Now………….let the attack begin ..LOL!!

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      • no..no of course not him…but was just thinking out loud…who else…hrithik…no way…neither prabhas nor rana are great actors or anything like that (….the director was able to extract what was needed..) but dono mei desh kaa namak hai (stealing Irrfan’s words here) 😉

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  9. Nice balanced review/ comment Abzee.
    Specially liked ( and agree) with the Mard reference pointed by you !

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent summming up. Agreed on some of the shortcmings pointed out but not all. Bull vfx was wanting in finesse. But Prabhashw was more than adequate. He does not have to be a mirror image of Rana. Arjun is always visuliazed different from Duryodhana or even Karna. Rahman would ahve been better for the songs. But MM Kreem’s background score was fantastic and I dont think Rahman could have bettered it.

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    • The vfx were wanting at several points. But Rajamouli’s world is so overwhelming one doesn’t care beyond a point. Otherwise one could point to several examples. For instance when Prabhas is trying to escape from the palace and jumps from balcony to balcony things are clearly off. On a related note and those this wasn’t a vex problem per se at the very beginning when Prabhas falls down that waterfall on one of his many attempts and you see him bumping along as he falls down the whole ‘physics’ here was much more reminiscent of an animation sequence along the same lines than any live action moment. It’s only in animation that characters can do this sort of thing that easily. The live action film always pretends that the laws of physics matter! Again all these things weren’t issues at all given the world Rajamouli created but there were several examples of inadequate vex though to be fair this is not something that Chinese cinema has been able to master let alone India. Hollywood is still light years ahead in this sense. At its best Enthiran was better at this stuff. The climax sequence for example was very well handled.

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      • True. Any and all complaints with the film are eventually moot given that Rajamouli has you by the neck throughout. In fact in crafting such a strong narrative he teaches a lesson or two to the bloated Pompeiis and Hercules of the West. The avalanche escape was very poorly done for example, but one doesn’t get preoccupied with it since you’re busy rooting the escape.

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    • “But MM Kreem’s background score was fantastic and I dont think Rahman could have bettered it.”

      MM Kreeem is Rajamouli’s cousin and his in-house music director and Rajamouli has not worked with any other music director in his career and I don’t think he would have changed it. Similarly, almost all Rajamouli’s films are written by his father.

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  11. SS Rajamouli: ” I’m an okay film-maker but a very good story teller”

    One of the best quotes I’ve heard from a director. There are not many directors who differentiate or know the difference between the two.

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  12. next year chances of bahubali 2 to be highest grosser in hindi alone is possibility

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  13. 7 a.m arivu (on Chinese bits), enditharan , maghdheera, eega and now bahubali…a pattern that is evolving

    raises a very strong question on use of technology and lack of imagination on popular industry and also the mediocrity prevalent and lack of guts to take risks

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