A shout-out for Hulla

An issue that often raises an alarm, but is stifled by either nonchalant silence or livid religious fervour, the right to sleep peacefully is yet to find its voice in our nation. Hulla, a film directed by Jaideep Varma addresses this issue with a tinge of humour and oodles of sarcasm.

Sushant Singh plays Raj Puri, a stockbroker, who yearns for some good sleep and some cosy moments with his wife Abha (Kartika Rane). The proverbial ‘villain’ here is Janardan, the secretary of the apartment, ably played by Rajat Kapoor and a ’69-year old Navy retired’ watchman who blows whistles all night, at the behest of the secretary to ‘prevent crimes’ in the locality.

A film with such simplistic plot creates a complex situation, where the paths of the protagonist and antagonist cross, ensuing a good dose of laughter and chuckles that often morph into some introspection. It’s the kind of film where you helplessly zone out of what transpires on screen, and begin to contemplate on daily combats of your life and even the world around us.

The whistle-blower protagonist raising an alarm against the whistle-blowing watchman is deemed as a threat to the co-dwellers. This is precisely true for a society like ours, where a Sonu Nigam or Suchitra Krishnamoorthi are trolled for complaining the loudspeakers in mosques, rendering them sleep-deprived. This couldn’t have been more relevant than our times.

The screenplay introduces varied kinds of noise, ranging from a neighbour choosing to move his furniture in the middle of the night, a Goan celebrating his music system with a blaring din loud enough to make Raj’s table tremble in fright, a group of fellow apartment owners playing hockey on the terrace and so on.

Among the actors, Sushant Singh is spot-on as a sleep-deprived stockbroker and Rajat Kapoor is impressive as Janardan. Be it a sealing-a-deal scene in a shabby bar restaurant or the one-upmanship scenes with Sushant, the actor gets into the skin of his character, despite the bad wig. The debate scenes between Rajat Kapoor and Sushant Singh are hilarious and sarcastic in the same breath.

The common thread that binds all these types of noises is our society’s absolute disregard for others’ peace of mind. Be it restaurant, public transport, mall, multiplex, office or home, in all probabilities we are sure to find one such specimen, who would ruin our dining, movie watching experience, shopping, work or sleep.

Like every other film with immense potential, Hulla, too, has its share of flaws. For instance, by the time you’re halfway into the film, the screenplay begins to feel tad monotonous. In hindsight, the monotony, too, had to be well-established, and one can be sure that the director must have been quite aware of it. For instance, the first twenty minutes of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ will make one wonder why the film is so slow, but Ray had to establish the loneliness of his female lead character. Hence, that’s a trade-off here that audience might seldom appreciate. The hand-held shots lend the film a docu-film’s charm, which make the scenes all the more believable.

In spite of casting Vrajesh Hirjee, the director practices restraint and chooses to treat him as Raj’s sounding board, rather than a hero-ka-friend-for-comic-relief.  The comic scenes are entrusted upon the other characters of Hulla. Nevertheless, the dream sequence towards the film’s end, too comes across as redundant and a bit far-fetched, which is surely a deliberate attempt that costs the film’s screenplay.

The best part about Hulla is that its characters have a job and the fact that they spend most of their times working is well-established, right from Raj, Dev, Abha, Janardan, to the benign watchman. This is quite a departure from most films, where the occupation of characters is merely hinted at, rather than emphasized upon. The music by Indian Ocean extend as a sutradhaar who observes the vagaries of urban life from a distance, yet blending with the cacophony. It’s a rare feat that perhaps only Indian Ocean can pull off convincingly, just like they did in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Black Friday’, where the music essayed the role of a narrator.

Director Jaideep Varma, the maker of National Award-winning documentary film, ‘Leaving Home’ (You can spot the film’s poster in a multiplex scene in Hulla. The film won the award four years after the film’s release), deserves a mention for exploring an unchartered territory of ‘noise’. A seven-short film omnibus, ‘Shor se shuruaat’ interpreted noise in varied ways, but lacked the subtlety of Hulla.

In his book, ’40 Retakes’, author Avijit Ghosh shares excerpts from Anurag Kashyap’s blog post that sums up the film: “A bloody courageous movie to make and an important one, but I guess everyone went only to laugh, and that, too, in the wrong places. Hulla is what independent cinema should be about, a new original voice, minimal resources and a good script…”

I have had multiple opportunities to meet and interact with director Jaideep Varma and have never missed an opportunity to tell him that ‘Hulla’ is his best film, apart from of course, ‘Leaving Home’. I sincerely hope Jaideep Varma comes up with yet another urban tale with a tinge of sarcasm and hint of humour (We can see a DVD of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron placed in Raj’s home, perhaps as a tribute to the classic). Till then you can savour ‘Hulla’ on apps like Hot Star or Jio Cinema. It’s definitely worth your time and data pack.

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Babumoshaai Bandookbaaz hits the right target

Ever wondered how much the contract killers are paid for pressing that glorified trigger? Do they discuss appraisal and career growth among themselves? Do they have their idols and targets, apart from the target? Welcome to the world of Kushan Nandi, the director of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, where taking lives is just another way of earning a living, double-crossing is second nature to almost everyone, and love is just another word for lust.

Set in a fictitious city, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is a perfect jugalbandi of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and debutant Jatin Goswami, who is quite a find. After all matching scales with someone like Nawazuddin isn’t a cakewalk and this actor does a remarkable job here, making his mark on the audience and sometimes even toppling over his onscreen mentor.

 The other jugalbandi, albeit of a different kind, worth admiring here is between Nawazuddin Siddiqui and debutant Bidita Bag. The actress beautifully strikes a balance between being risqué and sensual, almost teasing the audience, but never titillating. Any other actress in her place would have made her character look vulgar but when Bidita, as the cobbler girl attacks her predators with a nail, you know she means business.

 The character of Phulwa is of a strong woman who has been raped by two henchmen of the film’s antagonist and uses Babu, the contract killer to avenge for her. Mind you, this one’s no revenge saga and this plot never takes the centre stage. Nor does the rivalry between Nawazuddin and Jatin, his protégé, and not even the antagonist Anil George and Divya Dutta.

The film centres around the character of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, i.e. Nawazuddin. In a way, the film is from this character’s point of view and his naïve perception about the world around him. The double crossing, love, revenge, betrayal, bromance, etc. become part of his perception, but never the film’s plot. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is one is one of those rare character-based films like Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome or Saeed Mirza’s ‘Saleem Langde Pe Mat Ro’, which make an impact without being a plot-based film.

Films of such genre can only be appreciated if you connect with the central character. In Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, we have varied ‘distractions’ in splendid performances by Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami, Divya Dutta and a brilliant actor playing the role of a cop who doubles up as a henchman for Divya Dutta’s character of a local politician. Despite such distractions, the writer, Ghalib Asad Bhopali ensures that the film doesn’t lose focus from its central character.

 This film won’t leave you awestruck like the Gangs of Wasseypur series and won’t even shock you like Satya. But after walking out of the auditorium, you’d know the character of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz so well that you’d find yourself secretly hoping to see Nawazuddin reprise this role in a sequel. We are already waiting.

Mom is too much of melodrama and too little of story

Despite all its noble intentions of amplifying the crime against women, director Ravi Udyawar’s Mom reiterates the stereotypes associated with rape. A youngster keen on going to a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse is a premise that goes on to state: Girls shouldn’t party till late, else they can be sexually assaulted.

The parent, i.e. the mom (step-mom, to be precise) of this young girl in question takes every precaution to ensure her daughter’s safety. For instance, right from the usual checklist questions like ‘whom are you going with?’, ‘who is going to drive?’ ‘is there a male member with you?’, ‘call me as soon as you are about to leave’, etc.

Needless to mention, this ‘safety checklist’ doesn’t stop the inevitable from taking place. The second half is your usual ‘Zakhmi Aurat’, ‘Phool bane angaarey’, ‘Mardaani’ and ‘Maatr’ fare. Speaking of Maatr, the film steered clear of the usual ‘girl goes to party and gets assaulted’ or ‘couple go out in the dead of the night and the woman gets raped’ and showed an ordinary situation of being late from an award function and taking the wrong road, which eventually proves to be fatal for the mother and daughter. Pink went on to break the clutter and stand out with its realistic treatment of getting inside the criminal’s mind, as well as the victim’s emotions. The screenplay written by Girish Kohli heads south. What could have been a smart cat-and-mouse game ends up becoming a yawningly predictable affair.

The key focus of Mom remains on Sri Devi, who makes a comeback after English Vinglish (2012), understandably so, owing to the fact that it’s her 300th film. The emotional graph of her character is portrayed with a veteran’s ease, which is indeed worth an applause. The other actors worth a mention are Sajal Ali as the daughter (An unmistakable look-alike of Kareena Kapoor), Adnan Siddiqui as the cool and composed dad who is quite a find, and Vikas Verma as one of the baddies, who in a brief role, leaves an impression that he is here to stay.

Mom oscillates between ‘Stepmom’ and ‘Maatr’ and while the film is at it, we are introduced to some fascinating characters like Dayashankar Kappor aka DK (Ably played by the ‘unrecognizable’ Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Mathew Francis (Akshaye Khanna in a terrific form). DK is a failed detective frantically looking for work and often doubles up as a matchmaker. Nawazuddin seems to be uncomfortable in the odd get-up and yet shines out with witty one-liners delivered in his inimitable style. On the other side, Akshaye Khanna’s Mathew Francis is an aggressive cop with a rich repository of informants yet is bogged down by bureaucracy and corruption.

These traits of DK and Mathew Francis, though hinted at the outset, remain unexplored throughout the film. There’s a scene where Mathew Francis is interrogating DK and breaks into an impromptu grin, which is the second-most powerful scene of the film. The scene will fascinate you even after reading this criminal of a spoiler. Cinematographer Anay Goswamy, take a bow.

Second-best, because the only scene from Mom that will stay with you even after leaving the auditorium will surely be the one where rape is being depicted without showing anything gory. The scene catches you unaware and forces you to imagine the unimaginable by deploying a bird’s eye view camera angle and a haunting background score by AR Rahman.

Speaking of music, the songs of Mom, especially ‘Be nazaara’ and ‘Muafi mushkil’ are gems that remain hidden in the film as mere background scores and leitmotifs. Thankfully, the song, ‘O sona’ is the only one to survive the editor’s (Monisha R. Baldawa) merciless snips, but by the time you watch this song, you have already given up on the film, blame it on truckloads of melodrama thrown at you.

To sum it up, Mom is too much of Sri Devi and too little of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna. Too much of AR Rahman’s background score and too little of his brilliant songs. Too much of melodrama and too little of a story. Too much of promise and too little of delivery.

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Tiyaan shatters the barriers of language and religion 

A sadhu uttering ‘Allah Hoo Akbar’. A Muslim proclaiming ‘Om Namah Sivaay’. A youngster being roughed up by his cop father for eating beef and the inspector making him chant a Gau rakshak slogan, spitting his paan inside the police station and invoking ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’. A film, especially regional, replete with many such bold scenes would have been stuck with the censors and one wonders how ‘Tiyaan’ (‘the above-mentioned’ in Malayalam) escaped unscathed and made it to the theatres. The filmmakers need to be lauded for their audacity and sheer grit to drive home their point.

To begin with, ‘Tiyaan’ is the first-ever Malayalam film I watched. And mind you, watching a film in a language you don’t understand and that too, without subtitles could be quite a daunting task. Well, not exactly, if the screenplay and story is engaging, direction is awe-inspiring, and performances are way beyond your expectations. Add to that, a mallu wife for the company, whispering translations of lengthy dialogues to keep you in sync with what transpires on the screen.

Beyond a certain point, one no longer misses the translation or subtitles. Nevertheless, I’d request regional filmmakers to include English/Hindi subtitles in their films or maybe the Board of Film Certification can make it mandatory so that the film can reach wider audience. Thankfully, the second half was mostly in Hindi, which made the viewing easier.

Tiyaan is a socio-political thriller, generously sprinkled with religion, miracles and spirituality. Written by Murali Gopy, and directed by Jiyen Krishnakumar, Tiyaan features Prithviraj Sukumaran and Indrajit Sukumaran playing the lead roles. Muraly Gopy, the writer of the film, doubles up as the film’s antagonist, essaying the role of a menacing godman to perfection.

The film is set at an idyllic village, perhaps in Uttar Pradesh. The strategic location of the village draws attention of a self-styled godman, Bhagwan (Muraly Gopy) to establish a temple. The only obstacle he and his goons face is a Brahmin’s (Indrajit Sukumaran in a brilliant performance) home, which needs to be demolished before the construction of the temple resumes. A Muslim fakir (With an interesting back story), essayed by Prithviraj Sukumaran with a veteran’s ease, lends his ‘divine’ support to the Brahmin, in his combat against the evil godman.

A story of such simplicity has multiple layers, which the director Jiyen Krishnakumar unveils one scene at a time. The screenplay writer Muraly Gopy’s craftsmanship and the deft storytelling skill of Jiyen Krishnakumar makes Tiyaan a compelling film. Satheesh Kurup captures the essence of a remote village to perfection with those aerial shots of barren landscapes. Even the action sequences that he shoots, amplify the characters’ emotions rather upping the film’s commercial ante. The editing by Manoj is slick to a fault, not a single frame more, not a single moment less. The music by Gopi Sundar blends with the film’s narrative seamlessly and becomes almost a character, especially in the song invoking Lord Shiva, lip synced by Muraly Gopy. When was the last time you loved a song sung by an antagonist in a film?

If Prithviraj Sukumaran commands screen presence with his smoldering persona and piercing eyes, Indrajit Sukumaran (his real-life brother) owns the frame with his dialogues and histrionics. Muraly Gopy depicts anger and greed using his eyes and with a restrained performance. Any other actor in his place would have surely gone overboard to make himself menacing. Muraly knows his skill too well to succumb to such temptations. Besides the powerful lead cast, the film has an interesting ensemble of supporting actors like Padmapriya Janakiraman, Ananya, Paris Laxmi, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Shine Tom Chacko, and Rahul Mahadev, who are indeed worth an applause.

To sum it up, Tiyaan is a film that goes on to prove that regional cinema is here to stay and shall always remain way ahead of mainstream Hindi cinema. This film makes a much bigger impact than those loud OMGs or PKs that we have been watching and appreciating. The film reiterates the fact that humanity, spirituality and compassion are above godmen, religions and miracles.

 

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‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is worth the pay

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Guy meets girl. They fall in love. Girl’s father opposes the alliance. Guy wins her over. How different can a plot this archaic be translated into an engaging film? Watch ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ to know. The title here is justified by the fact that the public toilet was christened after the name of a local politician.

Well, I was told there was a double entendre there in its title but let’s not get there, as the film’s director, Krishnadev Yagnik, too, refrains from the indulgence of toilet humour in his film. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ effortlessly replaces toilet humour with dark humour, a rare feat to achieve.

An actor with brilliant screen presence, Mayur Chauhan, who had earlier essayed a brief role in Krishnadev Yagnik’s previous blockbuster, ‘Chello Divas’ (The highest grossing Gujarati film), as a Saurashtra accented tea vendor. This time around, he plays Tilok, the caretaker of a public toilet who makes a living by helping people answer the nature’s call. The actor uses the Saurashtra dialect to his character’s advantage. Never does the accent feel forced or fake.

As an audience, you are convinced that Mayur Chauhan speaks the same way. More than the accent, it’s the actor’s ability to emote in front of the camera and sink his teeth into the character that makes him believable. In fact, the character is so well-written, you can’t resist rooting for him, even if the means he chooses to meet the ends aren’t morally correct.

Deeksha Joshi, in a role far different from her previous outing, ‘Shubh Aarambh’, where she portrayed the role of a confident and independent urban girl, essays the role of Jaya, a housemaid, with such conviction that there isn’t a trace of the urban girl you’d seen before. The house that she inhabits is a complete mess, replete with four (plus one, I guess) sisters, and a ruthless father, Chinubha (Chetan Daiya, a terrific actor), who drives an autorickshaw, when not busy impregnating his wife, hoping against hope for a male child.

The other actor who makes his presence felt is Hemang Shah, who plays Sundar, the brother of Tilok. The chemistry between these brothers is far effective than the one shared by the lead characters, i.e. Tilok and Jaya. Barring a scene on the terrace, where Jaya and Tilok meet, the other ‘romantic’ scenes are shot in slo-mo peppered by a reggae leitmotif becomes too repetitive after a certain point of time. The special touches like onion peels replacing rose petals and the ‘Vikram Rathod’ (He also plays a cameo here) scene are worth an applause.

The ‘mohalla ruckus’ has been given an authentic feel in ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’, where the director recreates the tension to perfection, making you believe that you are in the middle of the action. Brief characters like swachhta karmchaari kaka and an over-enthusiastic news reporter are sure to leave you in splits. The highpoint of this film is surely the faceoff between Tilok and Chinubha, ably supported by Jay Bhatt, the benign Pani-Puri vendor (An actor worth a mention here).

Well, to sum it up, ‘Kasandas Pay and Use’ is a departure from those multiple ‘Urban Gujarati Films’ churned out after the success of ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’, ‘Bey Yaar’, ‘Chello Divas’, and ‘Wrong Side Raju’. This film has many sub-texts to it, which I’d better leave on you to discover. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is sure to appeal both urban as well as rural populace, especially because of its authentic rustic treatment. Despite being shot in Vadodara, the film thankfully distances itself from those mandatory Laxmi Vilas Palace or Bird Circle shots.

A film on such topic would have been replete with toilet humour, but director Krishnadev Yagnik ensures that you root for Tilok till the end credits roll. Hope other filmmakers take a leaf from this film and think beyond ‘jugaadu friends helping the hero woo his girl’, ‘bootleggers and terrace daaru parties’, ‘American dreams’, and ‘Patang restaurant shots’. Gujarati cinema surely deserves better and this might just be the beginning. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ offers Gujarati cinema the much-needed relief from the stereotypes. After all, there are miles of ‘Sairat’ to go before we sleep…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In admiration of ‘Hindi Medium’ in English medium

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In a nation where English is more Hindustani than Hindi, a film like Hindi Medium is likely to strike a chord with many, be it the ones with an inherent attribute of minding their Ps and Qs and often indulging in an ‘exasperating farrago of distortions’ debate, the average English speakers who have mastered the art of surviving with ‘functional English’ of sales and marketing, to the ones who just couldn’t crack the Queen’s code and believe that a suffix of ‘ing’ makes every language English – yup, they’re the Hindi Medium types.

“How would you introduce poverty to your child?” is one of the questions asked by the school authorities to the parents of their prospective students. Hindi Medium, despite centering around the Babel that divides two classes, is about the deprived and destitute populace who receive water supply for barely ten minutes and ration in marginal quantities. In hindsight, one feels that Hindi Medium is an introduction of poverty instead of an eye-opener of education lacunae.

Irrfan Khan essays the role of one such ‘Hindi Medium type’ to perfection. So much so that you’d be tempted to google his name in the dubbing credits for Namesake, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire or the latest editions of Jurassic Park and Spiderman series in Hollywood. This earthiness surely stems from his humble upbringing, where the actor might be drawing parallels and finding inspiration.

Hadn’t it been for experience, what kind of reference would this gem of an actor ever find while playing a Chandni Chowk garment shop owner interacting with an affluent woman and her daughter with those ‘Aji Kareena lagti hain aap to…” and “Juice piiyengi madam?” to sell them ‘Manish Malhotra designer lehengaas’. This, dear folks, is just the beginning and there are multiple of such nuggets you’d discover on your way while watching Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium.

Saba Qamar, in her Hindi (Medium) film debut, impresses by the way she approaches this role with varied emotional graphs. She essays the role of a wife, as well as mother with effortless ease, sans melodrama. And trust me, the film had immense scope for melodrama but the engaging screenplay by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary avoid it like plague, and emerge triumphant with many a lump-in-the-throat moment in the offing.

The film is sarcasm cinefied. Right from what is wrong with our education system, to the definition of poverty reminiscent of ‘Asli Naqli’ (The Dev Anand starrer directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Hindi Medium ticks all the boxes of a well-rounded film that engages, inspires and educates, all in the same breath. A story about the desperate measures a couple would take to admit their kid in an upmarket English medium school takes a completely different route in the second half, by questioning the norms, and shaking up collective conscience.

Amrita Singh, too leaves an impact with a role that suits her persona, but is quite a caricaturist one. The other actor who makes his presence felt with his mind-numbing performance is Deepak Dobriyal. Having explored the rib-tickling terrains in the Tanu Weds Manu series, the actor goes on to prove that he can make you go ‘LOL’ in a minute, and ‘OMG!’ in the next. There is one scene that would linger on your mind for a long time after leaving the auditorium, and I’d better leave at that.

Well, to sum it up, Hindi Medium essentially belongs to Irrfan Khan, be it his chemistry with Saba Qamar, friendship with his lil daughter, camaraderie with Deepak Dobriyal or equation with his nemesis, Amrita Singh, the actor justifies the nuanced writing and a direction by Saket Chaudhary that dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts. Didn’t get the phrase? How Hindi Medium type!

 

 

 

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is a spectacular celebration of cinema

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?