There are films and there are experiences. Films like Bahubali easily fit into the latter category, where the canvas is so grand that you keep wondering what hue the artist is going to paint next, in this chef d’oeuvre of a film. In a generation of Harry Potter and Hobbit, the granny’s stories that lulled kids to blissful sleep have become a thing of the past. The art of storytelling, especially in films seems to have lost its sheen, and we as audience find solace in mere star presence, where a certain Khan outstretches his arms for the nth time, another Khan rips off his shirt, and the third one adds method to the similar madness by losing and gaining his weight, and lo and behold, we attain our ‘paisa-wasool’ nirvana.
If not the Khans, we have Kumars, Kapoors and Singhs to help producers keep their cash registers ringing. Amidst these assembly-line moneymaking films, there comes a mammoth ‘dubbed’ film without a known face, conjures up a magical world and takes the entire box office by storm. While it exudes charm by its resplendent visual imagery, it narrates a fascinating story, akin to those granny tales, where she’d mix up Ramayana, Mahabharata and Krishna’s pranks, dishing out a mishmash of mythology that is far from the banal ‘Ek tha raja ek thi rani’. Director SS Rajamouli, with his gripping screenplay and visionary direction, is the modern-day granny of filmmaking.
KK Senthil Kumar shoots the film with a style that matches scale with the international blockbusters and Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao edits the film with the deftness of an artist. The music by MM Kreem creates a whole new world of its own, especially the opening sequence. One hopes for a song like Dheevara in this one too, but the rest of the songs seem to have been lost in translation. Just like those good ol’ grannies, the story (Written by KV Vijayendra Prasad, the director’s father and also the writer of Bajrangi Bhaijaan) that the director narrates is far from original.
We know Amarendra Bahubali and his son Mahendra Bahubali (Prabhas in a role of a lifetime that easily secures his position as an iconic actor and a superstar-in-making) is going to triumph over his evil brother Bhallaldeva (Rana Daggubati as one of the finest antagonists we have ever seen in recent times), in a Mahabharatasque style, yet you still are all ears throughout the narration.
The character of Katappa (Satyaraj) is like Hanuman in Ramayana, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) has shades of Kaushalya as well as Kaikeyi, Devsena (Anushka Shetty) has shades of Devaki in the previous installment of the film and Jodha, Sita as well as Draupadi in this film. In fact, Anushka and Ramya have the meatiest roles in this film, apart from, of course the titular Bahubali(s). Ramya, who had made her presence felt in the previous film, has an interesting character graph in this film, where she falters and eventually emerges triumphant, with that signature shot of an infant in her hand.
Satyaraj demonstrates his funnier side, which is a welcome change. The only ruse is the repeated usage of ‘Kutta’ for his character. Being a Senapati who commanded immense respect in the previous film, he deserved much more respect here too. His character is almost reduced to a caricature, especially towards the film’s end. The aggression displayed in the first film during his meeting with the Afghanistani king (Sudeep, who unfortunately doesn’t appear here) is missing here. The oft-repeated ‘Kutta’ word loses its gravity as an expletive (If it ever is), reducing him as ‘Kuttappa’ instead of Katappa (Pardon the pun).
Anushka Shetty, as Devsena, the fiery and ‘feminist to a fault’ princess, owns the screen in every frame she appears. One glance at her and you secretly hope Sanjay Leela Bhansali ditches his current favourite for his upcoming films, as you helplessly visualize Anushka in the roles of Leela, Mastani or Padmavati. The actress convinces you that she is indeed a warrior princess and a perfect match for Bahubali’s character. We are yet to see someone of her caliber in our films, after Madhuri Dixit.
As for Prabhas, it seems he was born to play Bahubali and the actor nails his role to the T. There is not a single frame where he lets you check your mobile phone or talk to the ones sitting next to you. In hindsight, it’s quite difficult to ascertain whether the actor commands such screen presence or is it the writing of his character that inspires awe. Prabhas is surely going to remain Bahubali for us, no matter what roles he might essay in the years to come, which is boon as well as bane for him (Remember Arun Govil, Nitish Bhardwaj, Mohit Raina as Rama, Krishna and Shiva?). Honestly, one won’t mind multiple Bahubali films or perhaps Arjuna in a Mahabharata made by the same director (Only SS Rajamouli can pull it off, if Mahabharata was ever to be made on celluloid). Bahubali could well become India’s first superhero franchise (You are forgiven if you just mentioned Shaktimaan, Krrish, RA1 or Flying Jatt).
As far as the proverbial question, by the film’s interval, you’d care two hoots about why Katappa killed Bahubali. After all, with an engaging screenplay and a mammoth scale like this, who cares? Admittedly, I knew the ‘suspense’ well before watching Bahubali 2, thanks to a plethora of ‘FB friends’ who quite immaturely spilt the beans on social media. And believe me, the spoilsports of their ilk stood no chance in dampening my experience of beholding this spectacular film. With its charismatic blend of mythological stories, this granny’s tale is sure to mesmerize you. While we are at it, when was the last time you met that curious-eared child in you?