By mid-2015, news related to the worldwide release of S.S Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali is spread all over the social media. Like most of the young viewers who’s fascinated by his previous work (Magadheera and Eega) I was waiting impatiently for the movie’s release. Watching the effects, art and the visuals of Baahubali was indeed an experience.
Rajamouli created pre-eminent visuals with utmost perfect cinematography and the art direction was exemplary. The CGI part was done by the same team who did Jurassic world, the initial water falls sequence was nonpareil. However, Baahubali is no different from the other Telugu films in terms of certain stereotypes. The movie has over-the-top action sequences, long monologues, sexism, hypermasculinity and ridiculous plot points. In spite of all this, we get immersed into the unparalleled combination of score and majestic sequences, that is the positive streak.
The plotline is loosely based on Lord Krishna’s story. A baby is rescued from the clutches of the evil ruler, he is raised by a woman who loved him as her own son. He is a brat who has no other aim or ambition until he discovers his past. The baby is rescued and is raised by Sanga (Rohini) who is Yashoda of this story. Destiny soon brings Sivudu A.K.A Mahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) to his mother Devasena (Anushka Shetty) and the past was revealed to him. In a flashback, we are introduced to the rival brothers Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas) and Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati). The former is a well-respected warrior while latter being a stubborn and selfish individual, is the villain.
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The character Baahubali is described as the ‘man with strong arms’ thus it explains his super strength, to carry the enormous Sivalingam and the scene where he stops the large golden statue from falling. Hypermasculinity never leaves the industry & it is shown in Baahubali and added to that, Bhallala Deva’s tussle with the bull. However, as far the plot and visuals are concerned it goes with the flow. Prabhas did well in terms of postures, looks and in his acts as a brat. The dramatic sequences didn’t catch up that well. Rana Dagubatti was astonishing in his role and he was better than Prabhas. Sathyaraj probably delivered his best work till date as a man torn between right and wrong, good and evil, loyalty and graciousness. Kattappa is the best character in terms of depth.
The movie is also both pro and anti-feminist.
We are introduced to Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), a mortally injured woman who fights off two armed men with a baby in her arms. She falls into the river, injured. Fate was not friendly for her, but then she screams out to Lord Parameswaran to save the baby instead of her. She holds the baby with one hand above the water and drowns in that process. When analysed closely she is the most powerful character in the film. Another powerful scene is where she also stops an angry man who tries to kill her and the baby with just a gaze, holding out a knife. Usually, when we see someone confronting a swordfighter with a dagger, it drives us into giggles. But with Sivagami, it gives us goosebumps.
Then she sits down on the throne as the ‘acting’ ruler and goes on to breast feed the baby, no one will stop her or dare to question her. During the war, the ultimate decision regarding the ruler is revealed by Sivagami, not even her husband can influence her. Even though the film is phallocentric, Ramya Krishnan is the one who owns the film with her charismatic portrayal, followed by Rana. Rohini was agreeable as Sanga a woman who have a very strong stand and voice in her community, and the only person who actually disobeys her is Sivudu. In spite of being treated like a slave and in chains for 25 years, the fire for revenge never left Devasena’s eyes. The final act will hers from her words. I was disappointed as the role of Devasena was less, but then in part 2 we’ll get to see her in action as well.
The biggest anti-feminist element (and a very unnecessary plot line that doesn’t sync in with the story) is the much discussed “romance” scene between Sivudu and Avantika. Avantika (Tamannah) was introduced in the best way possible for a female character. Sivudu comes across her mask and he visualizes her image “inviting him” to climb the waterfalls. She was a fantasy for Sivudu. It stops abruptly when he sees her in person. She’s not the beautiful princess he visualized. Instead, she’s a toughened warrior who kills several soldiers in cut-throat action.
The filmmakers did a very intelligent move by not revealing Avantika’s warrior form in most posters and teasers. It was nice to see Tamannah in a role that looks different from each other (i.e. Sivudu’s fantasy and warrior princess). While she tried to portray a bipolar version of Avantika, it is quite understood from Tamannah’s exaggerated poses, expressions and walking style, that she is too excited and enthusiastic to have a sword in her hand. Girl power!
She has an aim and her chief gives her the assignment of rescuing Devasena over the other warriors. She takes it with pride in her eyes. But then, this feminist fantasy is short-lived when she was stalked by Sivudu and he violates her autonomy by drawing a tattoo on her arms and shoulders (She almost lost her assignment because the chief thought that she’s too beauty conscious. Immediately she earns his trust back with another long monologue with an overstressed look). When she finally confronts him, he molests her by stripping her warrior clothes. Then he replaced them feminine ones and then he goes on to apply environment-friendly makeup on her. However, this angry princess is tamed when she sees her own beautiful milky-bodied image in the water falls. Then what happens? She falls in love with the man who molested her (the culture of women falling in love with her stalker, never dies). A huge *duh* to that.
This was more of a badly done romantic plot line which could have been avoided in every way. Then, this would be a memorable film with a considerable story. And we get to see the symbolic representation of patriarchy or suppression of women’s ambitions, i. e when Sivudu ‘snatches’ Avantika’s assignment from her. But then, we don’t get to see a lot of action filled Avantikas, strong willed Devasenas and Sivagamis with integrity a lot in such epic films. So yes, excluding the “romance” part, Rajamouli gave us three strong female characters.
S.S Rajamouli threw in a lot of effort and time to have the best visuals. The cinematography is what deserves the best recognition as each frame is like an individual photograph. The songs Sivuni aana and Dhivara are both visual treats in that manner. M.M Keeravani gave haunting tunes in Sankrit and the background score is illustrious. While everything else is held up, including the message “a man who is able to save at least one life is god“, it is the visuals that take the cake. The movie also ends like a T.V series episode, that wasn’t nice. Baahubali is a magnum opus and is worth watching.
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