I now proudly belong to the privileged class of people in the country and overseas who’ve borne witness to the highly coveted, most anticipated and the single most majestic cinematic experience of the year: Bahubali 2.
270 rupees poorer and almost 3 hours later, when I exited the movie theatre, it wasn’t the brilliantly beautiful graphics or the mind-blowing, VFX-enabled (gazillion or so) fight sequences that were playing on a loop in my mind after the movie ended, it was a sense of perplexed incompleteness.
Not to belittle the feelings of millions of fans who have seen the movie and absolutely loved it or the expectations of those who are still waiting to catch it, I strongly believe that if it weren’t for some minor glitches, the movie would be damn near perfect. Regardless of my critical opinion, I liked it and it was 270 bucks and three hours well-spent.
But let’s not get carried away by the opulence and grandiosity of those enchanting (and totally fictitious) locations and the magnificence of the palaces that make your eyes pop out of their sockets in covetous admiration. We as intelligent audiences owe it to ourselves to conduct an analysis of what we saw, heard and understood instead of just posting happy boastful status updates of the kind: #firstdayfirstshow #lovedit #totallyawesome
At least give me a chance to make a case for all that that bugged me about the movie which admittedly was a really great entertainer. Starting from the least problematic stuff to the most troublesome, I have listed 5 instances when Bahubali kinda got on my nerves (in addition to Bhallaldev’s but I didn’t dare give his supaari to Kattappa now, did I?).
Here they go:
#5) INCONSISTENCY IN CHARACTERIZATION:
Bahubali: the beginning introduced us to some really strong, larger-than-life characters who weakened and waned along the way in the final instalment. Take Shivagami for example, her character was that of a strong shrewd stateswoman and an insightful as well as an unbiased matriarch with integrity and rational, moral judgement.
What the hell happened to her high moral ground when she made flamboyant displays of wealth and reduced Devsena to the status of a plaything that could be bought for her scheming son? What happened to her discerning intellect and strong sense of justice when she kept mum when Bhallaldeva sacked Bahubali from the post of ‘sena-adhyaksh’? And what in Mahishmati’s name was she thinking when she believed that her own Bahubali could be so power-hungry and conniving as to commit fratricide?
It’s not just the Rajmata I have a serious issue with, it’s also the other significant female character in the movie—Devsena. I was so impressed that there was at last not just another dolled up damsel-in-distress kinda princess waiting for a Mario to rescue her from the dragon, but a woman of substance—courage, boldness and pride. She would’ve been a great hero herself (not just a sweet, supporting pillar to the Superhuman hero) had she stayed like that throughout the movie. Losing her man should’ve maddened her, boiled her rage and made her warrior’s heart burn with revenge. But no, all those skills, that archery prowess—all went in vain. Why? Because like a good little Indian woman, she chose to be a martyr. She freaking decided to spend the next 25 years of her life in wait for her son—a man to rescue her from another.
I mean, seriously? Women empowerment and all aside, but that didn’t even corroborate with her character at all! Well, I can see the fans rolling their eyes at this seemingly self-righteous outburst of mine as another feminist agenda on one hand and on the other, cinema-goers who condemn the act of making too much out of a story or finding logic and reason would be thinking: “Duh! They wouldn’t have much of a plot if there was no poor victimised mother to avenge for our hero number 2”. But I still see an issue with the characters waning.
# 4) INJUSTICE TO SHIVA AND AVANTIKA :
I know the movie’s called Bahubali and is centred on Bahubali Sr. (honestly the multiplicity and frequency of the Bahubali-praising-anthems that make up about a third of the film don’t ever let you forget who’s the daddy) but his progeny Shiva/Mahendra remained a character that wasn’t given a fair chance to develop. In both the parts, he just served the part of an instrument of revenge, a bit clueless about his purpose in the first movie, with a little “tarzanry” and mountain-climbing romance thrown in with no follow-up in the final part. I mean what do we know about the guy apart from the fact that he was the descendant of the great Bahubali? He patiently heard the story of his birth parents and immediately hopped to the rescue of a lady he met hours ago and vowed to kill the bad guy. Did it seem a bit out-of-the-blue and completely abrupt to anybody?
Now, coming to his love interest, Avantika who was another female character that showed promise with her warrior’s focus and sense of responsibility and purpose. Much to my disappointment, her character fizzled out too; it didn’t take a 360° turn—poor Avantika wasn’t given much screen time in the second part to have any scope to develop or do anything. Not a single line to speak! Now she’s just remembered for the pretty blue butterflies on her back and her dream sequence moves. What a shame!
# 3) CHAOTIC CLIMAX, NOT ENOUGH BUILD UP–
My next problem isn’t with the characters or the plot but the editing of this amazing film. Was it just me or did anyone else notice how the climax was rushed? In my humble layperson’s opinion, there wasn’t much strategy to the son’s revenge plan—it was hurried, sudden and haphazard. Just one inciting speech and voila—you have an army within seconds. I mean, Maggi takes longer to cook. Hmm…You know what, I think I’ll have to sue Nestlé after all (but not for their little health controversy).
# 2) FIGHTING AND VIOLENCE: TOO MUCH, TOO OFTEN—
While I realise that the movie is of an epic Mahabharata-like status which means it is bound to have violence and gore and fighting and wars—your basic action 101; sometimes it seemed as if all of it was drawn out (read: the blazing bull horns scene) just to show off amazing cinematography and visual effects or perhaps to show the audience what stuff our hero’s made up of (I’m partial to the elephant scene in the beginning). Either way, there were physical confrontation scenes in the movie that could’ve been shortened or if the director really wanted them—they could have kept those and had a third part (with a conclusive climax in place of a hurried one). And wouldn’t that be great for us fans?
# 1) SURREALISTIC VOYAGE SONG AND A FEW IRRITATING MELODIES (HINDI VERSION):
Perhaps my biggest motivation to write this critique despite being a fan (and watching the movie on the day of an exam) was the music of the movie. Well the dubbed hindi version, anyway. While some of the songs dubbed in Hindi are quite nice and catchy, others are a hazard to your auditory health and sanity. Case in point: the voyage song—it was not only annoying to listen to (with lyrics like “Oh oh re rajaaa” and an irritating string of 6 na-na-na-na-na-naaa) but it was equally ludicrous to watch. Now I would’ve digested seeing ships like those used in Harry Potter for the Beauxbatons but I draw the line at freaking unicorns and breaking out in a dance for no reason at all (that’s mainstream Tollywood and Bollywood for you). Now, I would’ve dozed off through the entire song had it not been for its ear-splitting, headache-inducing vocals and the fairytale visuals.
Having vented all my consumer complaints here, I still don’t think I didn’t get my money’s worth. Although on second thought, the capitalist priced popcorns and coke made a huge dent in my beggarly monthly allowance but did little to allay the bulls (with blazing horns causing acid reflux) in my belly. Let me give you 5 reasons why you should avoid getting ripped off by multiplexes and their luxurious goods…or maybe some other day.