Baahubali: The Beginning

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Baahubali: The Beginning
Release date: July 10, 2015
Directed by: S. S. Rajamouli
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah, Anushka Shetty, Sathyaraj, Nassar, Ramya Krishnan, Sudeep

A few months back, some popular bottom-feeder ‘listicle’ websites reported the probability of an Indian TV adaptation of HBO’s Game of Thrones. How credible was that piece of news, you ask; all of the internet and the particular websites just shrug in unison. Director S. S. Rajamouli, on the other hand, with his mighty metaphorical Atlas-like shoulders, lifts the fantasy film heavens from the deeply-rooted in mediocrity Indian epic film genre, and delivers a spectacle of sight and sound and wonder, never seen before in an Indian movie.

Firmly encrusted in war, turmoil, and chaos, the story begins with the mystical emergence of an infant from a pristine river. The child is adopted by a tribal family and raised to be known as Shiva (Prabhas), he’s obsessed with the place where he emerged from, that is, the river. The river is set to be emanating from a place as high as the skies. Shiva is driven by the purpose of exploring the lands beyond the insurmountable water body. Shiva’s progression from a little boy to a full grown hulk is facilitated by this obsession.

Through his attempts and defeats, he pulls off feats of superhuman strength and determination, only to be gifted with the lure of the unknown kingdoms laced with forests, magnanimous castles, sand-colored cities of a royal era. It is here, that the film’s silliest portion leads him to the obstacle of the narrative. He chances upon the highly trained in combat, Avantika (Tamannaah) who’s perfectly unassumingly nonchalant about vanity, until Shiva chauvinistically tells her that he knows she’s a “girl” inside, and a small derogatory love angle develops. He claims that now that they’re both together, her problems are his as well. He will fight alongside her, for her cause.

Individual supporting characters and multiple subplots are allowed to develop simultaneously. There’s the loyal commander Kattappa (Sathyaraj) who has a character defining moment with Aslam Khan (Sudeep) and both of them are slated for bigger things in the future course of the film. Then there’s the massive Bhallala Deva (Rana Dagubati) who fights a freaking bull with his bare hands. And then there’s his churlish father (Nassar) and his just and wise wife Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) who thwarts rebellion with one hand, and pacifies her newborn with the other.

The city of Mahishmati is built as frighteningly detailed and magnificently as Westeros and Middle Earth from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings respectively. The drone-like shot of the entire city is enthralling to say the least. The wars are fought immaculately and the costumes are designed with restraint and grace. There are sights scarier and more worthy of emotional investment than the ghastly Jurassic World. Thus, making it greater than the “Highest earning film of all time (yet)” in a flash.

Rana Dagubati’s Bhallala is the Mountain Man quite literally, and Shiva/Baahubali isn’t any far behind in the super-strength department either. He’s the Oberyn Martell in some moments, and the Mountain in a few others. The actors dip themselves into the skin of their heavily-decked up characters and the film keeps running at a good pace from the moment it sheds the tone of being a pandering pretender to turn into the real contender. The real contender worthy of being one of the greatest films ever made in India.

Time to stop waiting for that rumored TV series remake and now it’s the moment to bask in the blinding glow of Baahubali: The Beginning, and await the release of its followup, Baahubali: The Conclusion.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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