SS Rajamouli brings a solid reputation as a hit-giver with films like ‘Magadheera’ and ‘Eega’ under belt. Now the Hyderabad based filmmaker has dubbed his latest two-part fictional period film into Hindi too, giving non-Telugu and Tamil speakers a chance to experience his passion, imagination and audacity. Audacity because that’s what it takes to make a movie on this scale, and to split it over two parts (‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’ will release next year).
The story is common to Indian folklore: a brother denied his rightful place on the throne, an ambitious and conniving uncle and cousin, a patient mother waiting for her son’s return, a lost son raised in the wild to become a man with inhuman strength and courage. Prabhas plays Shiva, raised by a simple tribe that worships Lord Shiva. He is drawn to a water-washed peak that can be reached only by scaling a slippery and wet mountain face.
Strange circumstances are designed to lead him to the top of that mountain and on to the capital city of Mahishamati. He reaches there just as slaves are being whipped as they hoist a colossal golden statue of the reigning king Bhallala Deva (Rana Dagubatti). Shiva’s arrival creates a ripple, then a wave. It’s a riveting scene. A retelling of the entire back-story of why Shiva is being adored as Baahubali follows.
It is no wonder comparisons have been made to Hollywood films like ‘300’, with its vast battle scenes and the virtual one-many army of Baahubali. Credit must to go to V. Vijayendra Prasad for his original story and for creating a pantheon of characters – good, bad and ugly. There’s even a new language – a kind of mishmash of Khoisan (South Africa) and Dothraki (Game of Thrones)!
The narrative moves at a good clip and what the film lacks in acting finesse, it makes up for with special effects and scale. Tamannah Bhatia as Shiva’s love interest Avanthika overdoes the warrior walk and incensed expressions. Anushka Shetty is burdened by ghastly make up as the enchained and wronged Devasena and Prabhas relies on his biceps and abs to make up for his lack of grace and expressions. The special effects are among the most sophisticated one has seen in an Indian movie. It’s a testament to Rajamouli’s commitment to storytelling and his craft. He is aided ably by production designer Sabu Cyril and lensed by KK Senthil. A year seems too long for the conclusion, but with this set up, it should be worth the wait.