If there is one thing that I absolutely hate in a cinema hall – it is kids.
They wail, and cry, or decide to take a walk between the seats and touch your hair, and expect you to turn around and pet them. Every time I notice there are kids around me in a hall, I pray that they die before the film starts.
Which was why, when I arrived in the hall for Baahubali, and found there were two kids near my seat, I prayed that they die. When the movie began, I had to double-check if they actually died, because they were silent all through. It is a testimony to how engrossing the film’s beginning is, that even those stupid kids kept shut. (But of course, they are kids, so they decided to cry later on in the movie!).
For a little context, Rajamouli is huge in Telugu cinema. For more than a decade, he has been churning out classic Good vs Evil, Prodigal Son stories that have all been hits – not even one of his films have been average grossers.
Rajamouli’s films more or less maintain similar themes – reincarnation, retribution, and a grand climax. He has perfected the archetype of the hero, villain, and most importantly, the Mother.
When I first saw the trailers of Baahubali, I was sceptical. The graphics didn’t look all that impressive, and I was worried it might just be another Telugu film that had ambitiously bitten off more than it could chew – like his earlier outing Eega.
I am not a huge fan of the ‘Big Budget’ theory. I fail to understand why people rave about terms like ‘Biggest Budget’, ‘Most expensive film’. Having a large budget doesn’t mean anything.
This scepticism comes from having watched earlier ‘most expensive’ films – Blue, starring a pregnant Sanjay Dutt and coke-glazed Zayed Khan, or Ra.One, which was so bad, they should have released a sequel called Tut.Two.
Clearly, having a huge budget is not a big deal. If you get a funder, you can make a film on as large a budget as you want, but it’s what you do with the budget that really makes a difference.
Rajamouli has painstakingly invested most of the money on his vision – lavish sets, the epic war scene. He doesn’t let you take your eyes off the screen even for a single moment.
If there was a grudge I had, it was to do with the slight compromises he had to make, to fit in songs. Perhaps we are not hindered by budgets and stories, but our own cinematic sensibilities. The songs seemed force-fed, and were definite speed-breakers in a film that was cruising along smoothly.
Which then brings me to the second part of any huge action film – inspirations.
There have been talks of action scenes ‘inspired’ from LOTR, and 300.
I don’t invest too much thought in such discussions. Cinema, like any art, builds up on its ancestors. For example, for a decade after Matrix released, all action movies had the slow-mo bullet flying in air shot. Even today, most Chinese-Hong Kong action films build on the Bruce Lee style of quick, hand-to-hand combat mode.
So I wasn’t too picky about which scene was inspired from where.
For me, all that matters is if it hasn’t been shamelessly lifted (without any context, just to latch on to an idea). Yes, there are a few shots that remind you of other action films, but the war scene is much more than that. In a way, right from the beginning, you are waiting for the war. And when it does come, it stays on for a good 30 minutes.
The performances, as in most Rajamouli’s films, are consistent – probably because most characters in his movies are archetypes. Prabhas is consistent, and Rana is a shade better. But it is Ramyakrishna and Satyaraj who take larger chunks of meat than they were promised.
If there was one complaint, it was of Tamannah. To watch her walk like a warrior, or use her sword, were laughably amateurish. It’s probably a grave she dug for herself – if you keep playing dandy, simpering doormat roles, it’s going to be difficult to be taken seriously when you actually put in the effort. Tamannah (What’s with the name change? It sounds like an orgasm!) sticks out like a sore thumb in a film with otherwise consistent performances.
Unlike most other hyped movies, you don’t feel cheated with Baahubali.
The best scenes aren’t the ones already shown in the trailers. The film is over before you know it, and that is saying something for the largest budget film in the country.
Rajamouli has his work cut out for the sequel.