Baahubali

Baahubali-Poster

Baahubali is reminiscent of classics like Patala Bhairavi and Gulebakavali Katha, with long lost princes, secluded kingdoms, stunning visuals and swashbuckling action. Rajamouli builds steadily to the cliffhanger climax with some fun, flirting, fighting and flashbacks along the way.

A baby is saved by the sacrifice of a majestic woman. He grows up happy and ignorant in a small village, but is always drawn to the high mountains. He tries to scale the massive waterfall to reach the peaks but always fails. Until one day a vision of a beautiful woman leads him to success and he stumbles into the kingdom of Mahishmati. Grown up and frequently shirtless Shivudu (Prabhas) meets his dream love Avanthika (Tamannaah). She is a warrior on a mission to rescue Devasena (Anushka Shetty), held captive for over 25 years by ruthless king Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati). Bhalla hates Devasena because she once chose his rival, the legendary Baahubali. And Shivudu is the very image of Baahubali. Hmmmm.

The majestic woman was Sivagami, the queen mother, played by the stunning and regal Ramya Krishnan in an extended flashback.

I was so excited to see her in the cast, and even more so that she has a substantial role. Sivagami is reasonable but ruthless, her eyes blaze with power, and her word is the law. She rules the kingdom and Ramya Krishnan commands every scene she is in. Sivagami has a nice dynamic with Kattappa (Sathyaraj), her enforcer and bodyguard. Sathyaraj doesn’t need a lot of dialogue to build a strong characterisation, and as the story unfolds Kattappa becomes more complex and ambiguous. This royal family has some baggage.

There is always a point where a Telugu film hero pushes all others aside so he can do the hero-ing. I quite liked that when Shivudu tells Avanthika that her dreams are now his so he will go free Devasena for her, he actually had no skin in the game and really was doing it to help her. Sure, he had had some run ins with the kingdom guards but he didn’t know who he was or that he might have a more personal interest in the outcome. Avanthika drugged him to give herself a head start and he didn’t reproach her for that either. It was more of a partnership, with Shivudu acknowledging that she wasn’t going to give up just because she had been distracted by his flexing.

Baahubali-Tamanna

I have high hopes that by the time the second movie starts Avanthika’s ankle is healed and she will resume arse-kicking, and will be motivated by having something to fight for rather than a cause to sacrifice herself for. I also liked that Avanthika’s nihilism was displaced somewhat by an appreciation of beauty and her acceptance of love even if it is a filmi cliche.

The subtitle team gave Shivudu an unexpectedly genteel aspect as he frequently said things like ‘oh my!’ and ‘oh my goodness!” which didn’t seem all that warrior like. Prabhas is so genial and his dialogue delivery sounds a bit too modern and mumbly for a genre piece, but he totally commits to the role and does the best dance-fight-makeover I have seen. While I objected to Avanthika being forcibly partially stripped (mostly due to the inclement weather), I did appreciate that Shivudu had a steady hand with the eyeliner. And that Rajamouli had Prabhas cavorting under a waterfall as much as Tamannaah did. Prabhas and Tamannaah make a nice looking couple but I am more interested in seeing how their story ends.

Rana was very impressive, both for his ye olden days shirtless physique and his performance. Rana gave Bhallaladeva enough smirking nastiness to be delightfully hateful but also showed he was a smart and fearless warrior who legitimately had reason to expect he could be king. Bhalla might not go out of his way to remove Baahubali, but he would take advantage of a situation if fate presented. His scenes with Devasena were imbued with the weight of years of brooding and venom and he declaimed the spiteful dialogue with fiery precision. Anushka gave as good as she got so I am looking forward to their backstory being developed in the next film and seeing a bit less of her dodgy weather-beaten makeup.

Baahubali-Kalakeya

The Kalakeya are Ooga Booga natives complete with dodgy “tribal’ accoutrements, falling somewhere on the Mad Max to Lord of the Rings tribal baddies spectrum. They presumably can’t speak Telugu because they are Orc-ish, and I guess choosing another regional language would have opened up various cans of worms so the faux Bushman-esque dialogue may be a smarter workaround than it seemed.

The action scenes are awesome and the final battle is truly spectacular. While there is a heavy reliance on war machines and fancy armaments (I loved Bhalla’s Lawn Mower of Death), the stakes are still very personal. Kalakeya tries to stop Baahubali by literally throwing more people at the problem. It’s a cheesy idea played totally straight and it just about took the roof off the theatre when Baahubali emerged from under the pile of bodies.

The production design is beautiful and this is well worth seeing in a cinema just for the gorgeous fairy tale design and for all the things. The waterfall! The CGI is sometimes clunky but it does create the right impression even if specific moments are not seamless. I am not sure what I think about the watermark that appeared on screen whenever a CGI animal was in the shot. I wasn’t fooled for a second by the bull that Rana wrestled but I admit I was paying more attention to his shoulders than the bovine opponent. A fight scene in the ice and snow is poetic and deadly like a masala-fied  Zhang Yimou, and the subsequent toboggan escape is pure Bond. There were about 20 shoemakers credited in the end titles. After some discussion Heather and I decided that it must be hard to make shoes that don’t look like shoes but that still do the trick. Bravo cobblers! Take a bow goldsmiths!

MM Keeravani’s soundtrack left minimal impression on me as I was caught up in the story and visuals. The item number Manohari was a stand-out; sensual, saucy, and a bit silly. The girls got handsy with Prabhas as as lots of drunk guys swayed past on ropes or acted as platforms for the ladies. He was more like a prop for the girls, and they used his lanky frame to excellent effect.

Rajamouli has a knack for casting. I’d never thought of Sunil as a leading man but Maryada Ramanna proved otherwise, and we all know the real star of Eega. Casting Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami is genius, and while I was slightly disappointed that Anushka had so little time on screen in this first film I am very VERY excited about seeing her character in the finale. The support cast are all pretty solid and the multitude of characters are distinct and memorable from Shivudu’s villager family to the minor royals and the forces out to liberate Devasena. Oh, and Rajamouli himself, finally venturing out of the end credits and into the main film.

SS Rajamouli has a great sense of how to translate narrative into visuals and how to build the world he needs to tell his story. Baahubali is truly grand and still totally masala, true to its Telugu roots. See it!

Heather says: Baahubali is an epic film in every sense of the word and I loved every minute! It really is sweeping fantasy adventure on a gigantic scale and I will need to watch it again (and again!) to fully appreciate all the amazing detail. From the sheer immenseness of the towering waterfall in the opening scenes and the lavish Kingdom of Mahishmati to the delicate design of the jewelry and everything in between, the film looks amazing – due no doubt to the cast of thousands mentioned in the end credits. But it’s not just a visual spectacle, as Rajamouli breathes life into a classic mix of mythology and folklore to provide an entertaining and captivating story, naturally along with a good dash of derring-do and plenty of flexing of muscles!

I’m a big fan of Prabhas and he really came into his own once he got a sword in his hand. I was quite impressed by his rock-climbing technique too, although he did seem to miss a few good cracklines that might have made his ascent somewhat easier. However it’s not all just about the muscle flexing, and Prabhas does have plenty of likeable charm throughout and adopts a suitably commanding presence on the battlefield. Rana was every bit as good and he seemed to relish the occasional ambiguity of his character even while embracing the dark side.As Temple mentions, Peter Hein’s action is excellent on every level, and the epic battle scene in the second half is simply superb. I prefer to think of Bhallaladeva’s device as the spinning scythes of doom, perhaps betraying my love of LOTR, but there is plenty of other weaponry to make my inner fantasy nerd happy.

Rajamouli is also to be congratulated for including four strong female characters who all have important roles to play in the story and who don’t fade into the background when the hero appears. Ramya Krishnan surely must have the best eyes in the business and her imperial mannerisms were perfectly delivered. I think I need to adopt her attitude for my lectures – my word is the law! Great also to see Tamannaah’s warrior role wasn’t just an excuse to let her run around in skimpy attire and wave a sword, inappropriate winter clothing aside. She did get to do some real fighting and looked appropriately fierce when required. Like Temple I was disappointed in Anushka’s make-up but I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about her character and Sathyaraj’s excellent Kattappa in the conclusion. With amazing production and excellent performances from all the cast, plus Rajamouli’s legendary story telling skills, Baahubali is not to be missed. Just make sure you see if in the cinema for the full effect. All I can add is roll on part 2!

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23 thoughts on “Baahubali

  1. I’ve been hearing such good things about this film, especially that it is the old-type masala that I’ve even convinced my husband to come watch this film – we’re going today evening. Will come back later and tell you what I thought of it. 🙂

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  2. That CGI holograph was an enforcement by the Central Film Certification Board, just to point out that the characters are not harming “real animals”.

    Anyway, I did enjoy this movie overall and I couldn’t believe it ended where it did. I was like “Bring on the next part, I can sit for three more hours!” 😀

    Btw, didn’t you people feel that the main characters were highly stereotyped? I mean I couldn’t spot any layers in either Baahubali or Bhalla.

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  3. Finally a review that I can mostly agree with! I loved almost everything in the movie. Including the soundtrack, especially the songs and the dramatic background music during the climax and end credits.

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    • Maybe I should clarify that in the first sentence I meant Baahubali reviews, not Cinema Chaat reviews (which are often very good). For example, I’ve just read too many Baahubali reviews that say Prabhas wasn’t good in his role…

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      • I think Prabhas crucially depends on his voice to elevate his performance. Maybe the dubbing in other languages leaves his facial expressions a bit flat ? Also I think he’s meant to be a “kinder, softer” character than Rana’s Bhalla, even in the battle scenes, maybe everyone else found Rana more .. er fierce and warrior like.

        I personally loved Prabhas in this movie 🙂

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      • Hi Mikko! I generally like Prabhas so am probably predisposed to see the good in his performance. I do think Rana excelled as the entitled and morally dubious prince, but Prabhas gave Shivudu and Baahubali humanity and warmth that made him a believable man of the people, someone they would follow out of affection and trust not fear. It’s great that so many people I know really liked the film, but often due to different aspects.

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  4. Wonderful film, my favorite character in it was definitely the waterfall. I really hope it shows up again in part 2. As for the Mask of Zorro style strip sequence, I kind of wish they’d just let Avanthika be kind of attracted to mystery tattooer earlier, to make it less awkward to watch. And the song that followed made me LOL at how Ragavendra Rao it was. Another point, I was thinking today thank goodness no one decided to add a comedy uncle track to this film like most Telugu films. I don’t want to imagine how it would have ruined this film, especially for me since I basically have zero patience for comedy uncles. I’m glad you guys, and basically everyone else I’ve spoken to, really enjoyed it. It’s so nice to agree with people about a film 🙂

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    • Hi Jess – I just shuddered trying to imagine a comedy uncle invasion! I have close to zero tolerance and cannot imagine their shenanigans being an ornament to this film. I was more impressed with Shivudu’s lung capacity than his artistic skills when he gave Avanthika the underwater hand tattoo 🙂

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    • “And the song that followed made me LOL at how Ragavendra Rao it was. ”

      LOL, I only watched that song and asked my DH if Ragavendra Rao has something to do with this movie. Turns out Rajamouli was RR’s assistant for a long time and this movie is presented by RR.

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  5. Back from the film – I loved it! Awesome, though I wish Avantika hadn’t turned into mush as soon as she fell in love – and that was rather quick, wasn’t it? One strip tease and she is in bed (well, outside, then) with him? And then she lets him go fight? Couldn’t there have been a better way to fulfil the queen’s belief that her son will come to free her?

    And Prabhas – er, umm, give me Rana any day – he made a far better prince. They are both on par for the acting, though I wish they had taken somebody in place of Prabhas. Yes, a young Nagarjuna, definitely! I loved the senior actors – Ramya, Nasser, Satyaraj… I also wish I had an actress who can act in Avantika’s role. Tamannah did do a good job in the action scenes, but she lacks that certain something that would have made that role electrifying. She should learn from Ramya, who owned every scene she appeared in.

    But on the whole, a very enjoyable 160 minutes, and I could have sat and watched the Conclusion right then. 🙂 I’d like to watch the film again, though. With someone who will appreciate the pure masala love in the film. My companions in this show are not the people I should have gone with.

    (p.s. I watched the Tamil version, and loved, loved, loved the dialogues. And for once, the sub-titles were pretty decent. [My companions do not understand the language.]

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    • Yay! I am so glad you loved it!

      I assumed Avanthika was young, and had probably grown up knowing she was going to die trying to free Devasena. So when other emotions (or her hormones) got involved, I was not as surprised that she went off task for a bit. I’m also assuming that she gets herself back into gear for the second half and resumes being a lethal warrior. I like Tamanna and I’ve seen her deliver some impressive performances but Ramya and Anushka have such authority and command that she paled compared to them. I hope she found it a good learning experience. While I think Rana’s acting was better than Prabhas, where Bhalla is a forceful and confident commander Prabhas has to build a character up from a low key man of the people to a mighty king so his is the more challenging role in some respects.
      I so agree – I could have sat and watched the second half right then and probably still been cheering for more! I think one sign of a really good masala film is when I could pick it apart but I don’t want to. I’m seeing it again with The Mahesh Fan on the weekend 🙂

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  6. Enjoyed reading the review! Saw this last weekend in the theater with only a handful of other Indian groups/families (what a difference it makes to not have a full theater of whistling and enthusiastic viewers). It was a “constant ups and downs” film for me. One minute I’m immersed in the landscape/CGI and the next minute the CGI is so bad I’m sort of drawn out of the film and reminded I’m watching a movie. 🙂 What did y’all think of that horrible fake shriveled hand? At first it was passable but in certain shots it was obviously a rubber prosthetic. Made me giggle. Actually, I spent large swathes of the film with a big smile on my face. 🙂 Agree that the item number was absolutely delicious! But most delicious of all was how tasty Prabhas looked in that short part of the film…that hair/accessories/eyeliner combo did wonders! I also was amused by “b****” in the subtitles (censored there but not in the dialogue?), and certain editing/cuts were strangely abrupt. And where did all the Kalakeya folks go at the end–the just disappeared! Overall, an entertaining but slow in places watch, IMO. 🙂

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    • Some of the CGI was pretty dodgy but enough things were absolutely bang on that I just went with it, rubber hand and all 🙂 I saw the film with a full house and lots of kids in the audience. I really liked that Rajamouli got as many cheers and whistles as Prabhas did!

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  7. Just wanted to ask if anyone who has seen the Prithviraj-Genelia-Santosh Sivan starrer Urumi thinks that the scene with Prabhas taming Tamannah by the waterfall resembles similar scene with Prithvi, Genelia and a er.. golden whip again beside a waterfall.

    Also I kind of liked the way Tamannah has no qualms making love to Prabhas and then abandoning him to go and try to rescue Devasena. Usually, it is the hero who does the abandoning albeit for duty’s sakes.

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    • I’ve seen Urumi but didn’t really like it all that much despite the stunning cinematography. (I found it a bit uneven and dull in parts.) I also liked that Avanthika had her way with Shivudu and there was little of the filmi coyness that has no meaning yes. She was all about the yes, once she decided not to kill him!

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      • I like that Avanthika jumps right in too. The lyrics to that Pacha bottasina song are pretty straightforward, she doesn’t want to talk she wants a roll in the hay (or flowers in this case) then immediately back to being a warrior.

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  8. Went with low expectations because my friends had told it was the most overrated and hyped movie in the recent years. Many felt Aayirathil Oruvan, made on a low budget, had a much better story and direction. Though the story was a regular one, the film stood mainly because of performances. Prabhas has started to gain a new fan following in TN. Rana looked like a beast, couldn’t think of any other actor in the role. Hope, Anushka has a big part to play in the conclusion. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. Tamannah’s overacting in a few scenes reminded much of her acting in Kedi. 🙂

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    • I thought Aayirathil Oruvan was tedious – it was just too over the top, and Selva went all out on the grotesque elements to the detriment of the story. Rajamouli has a better sense of narrative pace and still showcases his stars.

      I’m most looking forward to seeing more of Anushka and Ramya in the next film!

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  9. i have read so many reviews written by indians that i just began to hate them for deliberately nitpicking baahubali …… on the contrast all the reviews by europeans , americans and other foreigners were quite candid and genuinely appreciative of the movie…….i found your review to be the best, believe me…..i guess you are australians……….well the media in india is so hell bent in promoting the crap industry of bollywood that any other artistic work by tollywood or kollywood etc….is eclipsed……..how can anyone appreciate a lousy movie like pk…..imagine pk collecting 740 crores worldwide while baahubali stands at 602 crores as on today…….( i seriously doubt the collection reports of pk though ) baahubali is the best indian movie i have seen so far…….rajamouli surely is a genius…….and yes……prabhas was irreplaceable as baahubali……and so is rana…….i loved the way he smiles when he meets the bull and also when the kalakeyas come rushing to him……..

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  10. Pingback: 15 Bollywood Movies With Twist Endings That You Won't See Coming

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