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The Pinkvilla Review: Bahubali

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Bahubali is sometimes too complicated a film to comprehend and often it's the immersive game-changing epic it promises to be. In between these two realms, lies the subjective chances of liking or disliking the film.

Handing out a family glossary of characters, their names and their relation to each other for quick reference, is something the production house must seriously contemplate (à la Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy). The film is so vast, intricately detailed, encapsulating an elaborate array of characters, their peculiarities and themes, which makes it extremely difficult to be concise in lucidly putting it to words.

With all its flaws and the spectacles he orchestrates, Bahubali belongs to Rajamouli who risks envisioning something this magnanimous. It is a cinematic treat put together on screen that is ground-breaking indeed but has pitfalls you need to bear to be able to savour the after feeling.

For starters, Rajamouli needs to be lauded for bringing forth a script that is entirely original. With its share of weak writing that dilutes the cadence of its first part, the layered characters, the volatile ambience, the torn kingdom and its sharp politics is something the filmmaker has churned out all by himself. There are no Ramayana-Mahabharat references which is what makes it thrive in terms of novelty and fall for the hokum of the world which doesn't exist.

For Indian cinema, Bahubali is a definitive piece (mostly for the escalated production value). But, to absorb it, demands patience. It has a sordid first half where the screenplay crawls, overloaded with melodrama and devoid of logic. Shiva, the crown-prince of Mahishmati is rescued by his grandmother after a coup ploy kills his father (Amarandra Bahubali). As he grows up as a tribe leader's son, Shiva fascinates about climbing up a waterfall. It is an imaginary girl who eventually inspires him to test his waterfall rappelling skills. The romance that ensues between Shiva and Avanthika (Voila! She turns out to be real) is bizarre. There is a hilarious striptease scene that will put India's best make up artistes to shame. Avanthika, who is a soldier on a mission, can count for the most sloppy one in history as she misses a bulky Shiva on a branch above, tattooing her arm. A lot of lame lovey ingredients are thrown in and the two are betrothed.

Till before interval, Bahubali will push you to walk out. Survive that and the film blooms. The backstory, thankfully, is peppered with solid drama backed by a sturdy story of two chiseled bodied hunks who are competing for the crown. As their kingdom is attacked, the two are entrusted with the responsibility of warding off enemies. But the battle that embroils will also decide the fate of princes' career and choose who is better suited to be the King between the two. As the political history of the kingdom unspools, you'll be sucked into the tapestry. The story culminates into the best battlefield drama which sees an inevitably predictable ending .

We can't begin to fathom the amount of hard work that went into researching the warfare deatils. From what artillery has been used to what will be the scheme of action, chalking out starkly different plan of war-action for the two, it is all meticulously constructed, soaring with inventiveness. It is hard to not hoot for the fantastic scene in which Bahubali burns out a section of the enemy's army. The battle that takes up 30 minutes of the film's runtime redeems almost everything that had gone wrong.

You wish that the film had begun post interval and ended just the way it did. It would have been perfect with all the breathtaking action keeping us on the edge of our seats. But unfortunately, that isn't the case here. You have to tolerate Tamannah's woody expressions and Anushka's Rakhee-style 'Mere Karan Arjun ayengey' mixed in with Kabhi Khushi Khabhie Gham's Jaya Bachchan who has the dog's nose and sniffs her son's presence even before she has seen him. Dappers Prabhas and Rana Daggubati have the needed swag but they both never own the film. Rana sadly has little to do except flexing muscles and giving wicked expressions. Prabhas, with the Midas Rajini touch in his mannerisms, never soars above the character but doesn't disappoint either. It is the overdramatizing which plays a spoiler in this film.

As it ends, one hopes that 2016's Bahubali has none of the above discrepancies and is in true sense of the term India's answer to Avatar is terms of being a cinematic landmark. For now, this movie is all fluff, that transports you to into another world far-away from yours, done with a lot of help from the VFX team. It is part entertaining, part engaging and part watchable.

We rate it a judicious 60% on the Pinkvilla movie meter and hope for better. Au revoir!

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