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Hollow Spectacle

Saturday, April 29, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’
SS Rajamouli
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Ramya Krishnan, Anushka Shetty, Nasser and others
Rating: * * * (for the GGI)

When the first part of 'Baahubali' was released, the question in the review was, “Rajamouli has made India’s most expensive film so far, and undoubtedly matched the CGI magic of any Hollywood film. But, one couldn’t help stop thinking that if so much money could have been spent on the visuals, couldn’t a fraction of it have been spent on content?” It has the age-old rivalry between princely brothers story that has been done to death in old films. Rajamouli has just taken the SS Vasan kind of costume drama ('Chandralekha'—1948, being a prime example) and updated the technology. It is set in a fictional universe, with no geographical authenticity of any kind—and that doesn’t really matter; because the audience does see it as a comic book on screen.

Part 2 outdoes the first in excess--everything is so huge and opulent, that it is ugly. The look is inspired by Amar Chitra Katha comics, but just like our animation films never move beyond mythology, Rajamouli has also stayed within the confines of an old fairy tale.

'Baahubali 2: The Conclusion', is like a prequel and sequel in one; the audience discovers why the infant Mahendra Baahubali was taken away from the kingdom of Maheshmati by his grandmother and brought up by adoptive parents. Going back into the simple tale, Mahendra’s father, Amarendra (both played by Prabhas) was ousted from the throne by his evil uncle (Nasser) and cousin Bhallaldeva (Rana Daggubatti). The queen, Shivagami (Ramya Krishna--unblinking) is manipulated into agreeing to their plans. Mahendra fell in love with and married the outspoken princess Devasena (Anushka Shetty), who in the first part, was shown incarcerated in Bhallaldeva’s prison.

The romance between Mahendra and Devasena, with him pretending to be a simpleton, is tedious. The comic track involving the loyal slave Katappa (Sathyaraj) and Devasena’s puffed up cousin Kumar Varma (Subba Raju) is not in the least amusing. It is as if Rajamouli was just padding the film with some dramatic scenes in between the extravagant action set pieces, one of which involved a stampede of cattle with their horns on fire.

There is a lot of jumping from heights, leaping over hurdles, shooting of arrows, slashing with swords, and slaughtering thousands of men; the sets are lavish and the CGI painstakingly done, but nothing that is truly enjoyable. The songs (music by MM Keeravani) drones on accompanying bombastic lyrics. Not much acting is required, so everybody performs in an exaggerated style like they were on stage in an old melodrama.

The audiences that made 'Baahubali' a hit, might just shower crores on the second part too. What the film does is prove that such over-the-top spectacles can be made in India too. Hopefully, some day, Rajamouli or some other filmmaker with this kind of budget, will make a film that will marry visual splendour with an absorbing plot. Till then, gawking at flying ships, trees turned into catapults, rampaging elephants and bursting dams will have to pass off as entertainment.

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