For a long long time no Indian film has impressed me the way Bãhubali did in terms of scale, grandeur, visuals and large scale wars. While films like Asoka, Jodha Akbar and S.S Rajamouli’s very own Magadheera got close to being epics but missed out primarily because of some unnecessary romantic overtones. The same though is repeated here to some extent but the amount of time spent in that is so less and the fact that there is so much happening all around, the film excels to some unprecedented heights. Rajamouli delivers a knockout punch in terms of visuals and action sequences which I feel is very much of international standards.
The story revolves around Shivudu (Prabhas), a super strong man who is delivered to the tribals as infant by an empress who points towards a mountain before the river devours her. Shivudu grows up with the tribals with the sole aim of climbing the mountain. He scales the mountain which leads him to the love of his life Avanthika (Tamannaah). However Shivudu is shocked to find that Avanthika is an elite assassin in a group of rebels who are trying to free a prisoner named Devasena (Anushka Shetty) from the kingdom of Mahishmati. Devasena has been imprisoned for 25 years and refuses to be rescued.
Mahishmati is ruled by the oppressive Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati) who has an ardent hatred for Devasena. Bhallala Deva is also super strong and has the ability to stop a raging bull with his bare hands. Sivudu is able to win Avanthika’s heart and as she is the one to try the next extraction of Devasena from Mahishmati, he volunteers to carry out the task on her behalf. Thus Sivudu arrives in Mahishmati and his arrival sets afoot a chain of events which would go on to reveal the royal bloodline of Sivudu and the secrets to his super human abilities and also bring to light his relationship with Devasena.
Bãhubali is a fascinating affair from start to finish. The film has an extensive palate of visuals which keeps changing its facet and mood from scene to scene. The film covers a wide variety of topography and is effective in each and every one of them. The visual effects are tremendous. The scenes where Sivudu tries to reach the top of the mountain, the elaborately choreographed song and dance routines between him and Avanthika, the scenes where he woes Avanthika, the avalanche or the climatic sequences in Mahishmati and the final battle involving thousands of extras are something we haven’t seen too many times in an Indian film. It takes a lot of courage to envision such grandiose sequences let alone film them. Kudos to the director for bringing these sequences breathtakingly to life.
The film’s USP will still remain the nearly 30 minute long battle sequence towards the end which not only sets us up for a smashing finale due in 2016 but also irons in the character of Amarendra Bãhubali. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission. The ones who are willing to look close will find multiple references and some similarities to the battle sequences of films like Alexander, Troy and Gladiator. For example the “Kalakeyas” with whom the final battle takes place are very similar to the “Germanic Barbarians” of Gladiator with whom Maximus (Russell Crowe) fights an initial battle. However we can excuse the director for that simply because of the reason that there remains very little which has not been done before in terms of “period battles” in Hollywood and no matter what you do, it is bound to find some similarities in something that has been done before and at the scale of Bãhubali we can excuse that much.
What cannot be excused is the terrible acting of Tamannaah as Avanthika and her horrific miscasting as an assassin. The sequences between her and Prabhas are the weakest in the film and at many junctures extracts laughs. The romance seems forced and though the sequences are well filmed and extremely beautiful to look at, they just bore you. It also doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for the way Sivudu takes to her and the speed at which she takes to him. Suffice is to say that she is just used as an element to catalyze Sivudu’s visit to Mahishmati where the rest of the story is supposed to unfold. This portion is the only time when you might get a little restless for the story to move on. The rest of it is a joy ride of magnum proportions.
Prabhas is an able choice for a role which suits him well. He plays the character with conviction and looks the part. Rana Daggubati is not allowed to speak much and is made to do what he does best. He looks evil and grinds his teeth enough to make the necessary impact. His physicality cannot be ignored and that’s exactly what makes him an able foe to Prabhas’ Bãhubali. Tamannaah is a disaster while Anushka makes a mark in her smallish role. Her essay will definitely grow in size in the following epic which will see light in 2016. Sathyaraj as Kattappa was great. Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami extracts claps and reverence for the character that she plays.
Overall, Bãhubali is a colossal achievement which is bound to find takers in every film-goer. This should be watched and enjoyed by one and all. The fact that the film leaves us off in a tiffy situation also rings the bell for the next installment to be as grand and majestic as this one and probably more so. Superb achievement by Rajamouli and his team. It was worth the wait.