Movie Review: Baahubali: The Beginning (Hindi)

For a long time, I don't remember struggling for tickets. Multiplexes and apps had just made things too easy. But then, India's most expensive film to date, Baahubali seems to have changed the whole demand game. Instead of media hype that is typical of Bollywood, it was actually word of mouth publicity that got many people to watch the film. Consequently, movie screens were almost full and finding tickets was tough.

The story of Baahubali has everything that a political tale from the era of kings would have. There are cousins battling for the throne, played by Prabhas, as the protagonist with superhuman strength playing Baahubali and Sivudu and Rana Daggubati as the formidable antagonist, Bhallaladeva. Tamannaah (forget the ever changing spelling) Bhatia plays a masked tribal warrior girl Avanthika and Sivudu's love interest.

Talk about wars and kingdoms, comparisons with '300', 'Game of Thrones' or 'Troy' and their likes are natural. In reality, filmmakers have very little latitude in the variety of stories that can be portrayed and it is also possible that some copied/ inspired scenes may emerge, for all we know! Still, one mustn't forget that SS Rajamouli's Baahubali is a story on political dynamics that are not unusual in Indian history and epics.

The lead cast is supported by strong performances from Ramya Krishna, playing the matriarch Sivagami and Satyaraj as the brave, but morally obligated Kattappa and Nasser as Bhallaladeva's father Bijjaladeva. Minor roles include that of Anushka Shetty as Devasena and Sudeep as Aslam Khan, who may have bigger roles in the sequel.

Bang for the buck comes from visual effects that are comparable to any big budget flick involving VFX. The scenes involving the gigantic waterfall and bull fight are on par with the global best such as Avatar or Jurassic World. Having said that, a couple of scenes, like the avalanche and some shots of capital city could have been improved.

Complementing the stupendous visuals was the flawless sound mixing. The dialog, sound effects and the background score blend seamlessly. MM Kreem's ominous 'maahishmati saamrajyam' provides a perfect backdrop to the serious scenes. The songs were decent, however none of them can be categorized as hummable.

Editing was perfect in the second half, while the first half was quite shaky. The movie could've taken more time to establish the characters but instead, some of scenes look rushed up. Frankly, a few minutes of extra runtime wouldn't have mattered if the transitions between some scenes were smoother. 

With massive sets, everything in Baahubali is on a grand scale. The Kingdom's capital was luxuriously large and the waterfall was unimaginably gigantic. The war scenes were realistic and captivating. Maybe, it would've looked tad more realistic if the capital's sets looked a bit weathered. The costumes were well done though.

The weakest area in the film, that I could fathom was the make-up. Our filmmakers are simply unable to get past the obsession of painting faces. Time they understand that in ultra high definition of digital cinema, the make-up overdose look uglier than blemishes on the faces, that are natural and acceptable these days. This is one lesson that they need to learn from 'Game of Thrones' that got the make-up spot on. .

The dubbing in Hindi was well done. Nevertheless, it would have been better if distributors had more shows of the original Telugu version with English subtitles running in Mumbai's multiplexes. It would've helped retain the original flavor of the film. Let's hope the distributors release the sequel on more screens!

Rupees 250 crore for two films may sound like a big budget. But, in dollar terms a 40 million budget not actually big on a global scale. Yet, the movie has achieved so much. it is therefore testimony to the fact that India has tons of talent and if budget isn’t a constraint, in the right hands, unbounded creativity can be unleashed in India.

A brilliant movie like Baahubali coming from the South that is jeered for dark-skinned and fat stars is actually a slap in the face for Bollywood that is churning out trash as hits (at least for the likes of avuncular and narcissistic Shahrukh's Ra.One/ Jab Tak Hai Jaan or pseudo-intellectual Aamir's Dhoom 3 or a Salman who hasn’t learnt one bit of acting in decades or Rohit Shetty blowing cars or Farah Khan's outrageous plotlines).

Verdict: Sure as hell, Baahubali is no perfect film. But, for what it's worth, watch Baahubali on the big screen and thus discourage piracy This is the least bit that a movie fan must do to encourage the good guys among Indian filmmakers to take bigger risks in the right path and tell us bigger and grander indigenous stories.

Rating 9/10: Deserves applause for taking Indian cinema to the next level