Bahubali 2 (2017)

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Bahubali 2 – The Conclusion (2017)
Cast:  Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishnan, Tamannaah, Sathyaraj, Nassar
Director:  S.S. Rajamouli
Nutshell:  Rousing epic on a huge scale is an exhilarating masala crowdpleaser which proves the old adage that the moment you get into making pompous ‘Vachans’ is when the trouble begins!

 

First thing is why would anybody want to read yet another Bahubali review unless it came from a perspective slightly askance from most of the rest.  For someone who has had no qualms ignoring the Star Wars franchise, the Harry Potter franchise, Avatar, Avengers, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, 3 Idiots, PK, Dhoom and films that tend to be on the cereal that you stopped eating years ago next to Snap! Crackle! And Pop!

Nothing against giant corporate productions that are promoted so much that they are coming out of your ears but the tendency is to not get excited about these “tentpole” event movies.  Bahubali has been surrounded by such an intense hype that the natural response was to ignore it and even the startling Box Office figures, and let’s make no mistake about it they were astounding, didn’t really arouse curiosity sufficiently.

The thing that got my attention was when people who know a thing or two about cinema started to acknowledge the film as extraordinary which is what aroused the curiosity.  Secondly, the fact that it was NOT a Bollywood film but one produced in the South was intriguing for several reasons.  Firstly, there cinema has a vibrancy and a texture that is not the same as Bollywood.  Over the years, known as the third-rate poor cousin of the Indian cinema industry, especially by North Indians and mocked and ridiculed for its masala films, the South with Bahubali has turned the tables as never before and has suddenly got Bollywood in a spin with their staple diet of Salman, Aamir, Akshay, Shahrukh starrers suddenly looking a little piqued. How wonderful it is to see a film from South India receiving the acclaim it merits.

Not knowing at all quite what to expect from the film the first thought was, as Bahubali scales the elephant’s snout and does several flips and twists in the air, that realism is to be duly thrown out of the window, so done.  The second aspect that hits you is the scale and look of the film which resembles a modern-day Disney Live Animation film crossed between a tech savvy romp like “300” with all the CGI and the slow-fast-slow motion that has become such the template of the modern action film.  Put the two bombastic and frequently breathtaking scale of those movies and spin it into a tale of deeply traditional Indian values and myths and you have something that packs the visual tour de force of the Disney and “300” movies merged with the storytelling, the colour and splendor the sounds and needless to say, the emotions of classic desi cinema.  The result is nearly three hours of breath-taking sights and sounds served up with a technical expertise that has raised the bar and changed the game forever for Indian cinema.  The film plays mostly like a superhero saga set amidst the powerhouse kingdoms of the olden days.  Maharajas and Maharanis holding court amidst smoldering courtroom and family intrigue, tons of back stabbing, plots and schemes being hatched and the usual thing.

Bahubali soon has its audience involved and invested and then takes you on an exhausting non stop adventure where once in a while you almost want the film to stop so you can catch hold of your breath and your senses.  The film is an all-out adrenaline assault as well as an assault on the audio and visual senses.  The film is pumped up and bristling and on testosterone levels thus unheard of.  Everything is on overdrive and the old Spinal Tap “goes up to 11” bit is smashed out of sight as this film starts on 110 and keeps the accelerator floored throughout.  Its breathtaking entertainment cinema at its finest with a mass appeal, expertly designed to suit all ages and audiences.  The film is the ultimate crowd pleaser and it is not difficult to understand exactly why audiences the world over has propelled it to becoming the phenomenon that it is.  Indian cinema has a new face and it isn’t Bollywood.

Brilliant crowd-pleasing, pulse pounding emotional roller coaster of ride.  Quite exhilarating and the deft use of CGI must be lauded because most of the time it is not jarring.  Only at the very end with the bamboos being bent to hurl the heroic fighters over the high walls does the film veer close to Harryhausen days and perhaps one or two of the fight scenes are a tad overlong but on the whole, this is a gargantuan step for technical efficiency and execution for Indian cinema.

May not be for those who prefer their films to burn slowly and with subtlety, this is not the nature of the beast that is Bahubali – a beast that roars loudly, then rouses and thrills its audience for nearly three hours.  The scene where the crowd responds after the new King is crowned was goosebumps inducing stuff in classic desi cinema style, worth watching the film for a second time just for that.  Bahubali is both bombastic and majestic; full of colour burst and soaring sounds and is a delicious desi fantasy thrill ride.  And while the film may be on a technical skill level on par with the West, crucially at heart it is essentially a Desi popcorn masala movie that will be remembered as a game changer for Indian cinema and rightly so.