Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bahubali: The Beginning Movie Review

One of the most amazing things about Bahubali: The Beginning is that it is not an adaptation. Those characters, that world... they were written directly for the screen, and it is visualized in a way that after watching you realize that it can be told only through visuals and on-screen choreography. Such mystical and mythical world reminds us of adaptations of Tolkien or Ved Vyas. This one is inspired by them and aspires to be among them (Alright, not Vyas, but you got the drift... ). What makes it look underachieved is the CGI (which is still better than what our nation has produced so far). Point of using CGI is to make things look real which cannot be created or done in live action. In a war, if that bloodshed doesn't look natural, will it make you shudder? Would it still be classified as "gore"? If it does not instill that fear, if it does not incite those gut-wrenching emotions, will it still be that "cinematic"? Of course, I am not asking you to show actual blood, but, hey, you got to make it not only look real but also feel real. What's the point, then? (Also, watermarking the words "C.G.I." on frames with animals created using it defeats the purpose. That enraged bull and the poisonous snake on a girl's arm are supposed to make you feel feared. Telling that they are a work of computer while they are in action on screen is like telling that it's a trick while your audience is expecting a magic.)

Rajamouli has a rich sense of visual and musical storytelling. It's stunning how he uses landscapes to deepen the effect of the narrative. The fight after which Shiva rescues Devasena from her 25 years of captive happens under dark skies at night amidst heavy rainfall. The immediate next scene cuts to an arid place in day with dry branches of trees lying around, and one of them is dripping with drops of water and Shiva looking curiously at it while he is introspective about what happened last night. There's another magical sequence in which Shiva appears to be under attack by Avantika in a fight but in the process he is stripping her of her aggressiveness that has worn up on her for years and has kept her away from her inner beauty; he places her in front of a waterfall where the epiphany of self-reflection strikes upon her. (It is poetic how Shiva himself climbed up one such waterfall to reach the place where he learns about his identity.) The romantic dance that follows in orchids is again very visual, very Bhansali-esque-- with colors accentuating the moods of romance (one shot with complete blue, one with orange and another with pink) and how these colors, their dance steps, their body tattoos form the parts of one unified image.

Unlike most of the contemporary Indian filmmakers who get bogged down by their own ambition and in the process forget that they were here to tell a story, Rajamouli realizes that not only scale and scope will make Bahubali an epic, he needs a powerful story. And he has it. And while telling it he creates layers and deals with various themes. The basic to start with is very eccentric to the industry this film belongs to: of treating heroes as on-screen Gods. And what a start it is! Shiva (don't miss the name; alias Mahendra- another name of the same God is played by Prabhas) uproots a huge Shivling which might come across as blasphemous for some audience like the tribal characters in the film; holds it up on his shoulder displaying the strength of his shoulders (again that goes by his name- Bahubali) which gains him the godly respect from the onlookers, and his final act of putting God to a higher place puts him under the status of a demigod. We could go no further with the story if we hadn't bought him as the demigod he is made; but we know who is carrying this film on its shoulders: it's neither the CGI, nor Prabhas, but Rajamouli's masterful storytelling.

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