Movie Review: Bahubali

July 10, 2015

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The world of S S Rajamouli’s “Bahubali” is decidedly strange – there are arid plains alongside cascading waterfalls, and tropical gardens magically emerge from snow-clad mountains. But the Telugu director’s imaginary world in the first film of a two-part epic fantasy fits in so well with the story that such discrepancies don’t matter.

For two-and-a-half hours, “Bahubali” (which means the one with strong arms) consistently delivers top-class entertainment and spectacle, which is not true of any movie to have come out of Bollywood in a long, long time. Rajamouli’s scale and vision are as towering as the waterfall that forms a crucial part of the film’s backdrop.

The film’s biggest achievement comes from the fact that it marries Hollywood’s grandeur of scale with an inherently Indian tale of good and evil. The use of computer-generated imagery to depict the tale of ancient kingdoms and bloody wars is clearly inspired from the Ridley Scott and “Gladiator” school of film-making. And the result is a near-perfect mix of entertainment.

Shivudu (Prabhas) lives at the foot of a massive waterfall that fascinates and frustrates him at the same time because he is never able to scale the slippery rocks or the mountain.

But when he eventually makes it to the top of the mountain, he discovers a kingdom in turmoil. Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), the despotic king of Mahishmati, has imprisoned Queen Devasena (Anushka Shetty) for many years now. Shivudu, unaware of his connection to the kingdom, spends his days wooing Avanthika (Tamannaah Bhatia), one of the followers of the queen. But when he replaces her in a mission to rescue Devasena, his past unknowingly catches up with him.

In spite of intense visual effects, Rajamouli never lets the story slacken, revealing twist after twist right until the end. He uses every single cliché – song and dance, mother-son bond, good-versus-evil battle and sibling rivalry – but doesn’t stereotype them.

The cast blends perfectly with the look of the film. Prabhas is the perfect male specimen, with rippling muscles and washboard abs, displaying charm and intensity with equal ease.

Daggubati looks menacing and Bhatia has more to do than just simper and smile, which is a big deal for a movie like this. In fact, the women in “Bahubali” are more than just decorative items, which is worth applauding, because it is easy to make it into a film about machismo.

The film, produced by Karan Johar and Anil Thadani, is an adrenaline rush, a spectacle of the kind we haven’t seen from an Indian film-maker before and hopefully it is a sign of good things to come. Rajamouli ends the film with a cliffhanger so that you buy tickets to the sequel that comes out next year.

[To read – Telugu cinema’s “hit-machine” Rajamouli comes to Bollywood, click here]

The Telugu film released in cinemas on July 10 and has been dubbed into Hindi and other languages.

(Editing by Ankush Arora; follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay, and Ankush @Ankush_patrakar. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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