Cast: Rana Daggubatti, Tamannaah Bhatia, Prabhas, Nassar, Anushka Shetty,
Director: S S Rajamouli
Rating: * * ½
‘Aiming for magnificent but settling for cheesy’ -That’s the story on this epic S S Rajamouli wannabe magnum opus that drinks in nearly Rs 250 crores(Parts 1 & 2 running to over 5 hrs of footage) in production but doesn’t show up as good as gold. And that’s the case mainly because the CGI, though breaking new ground( in terms of Indian cinema) doesn’t have the finesse, smarts or the seamlessness of a high-end cinema.
This first issue titled ‘Bahubali-The beginning’ is more of a masalafied mythic fantasy that aims for historical splendor but doesn’t quite make it there. It’s a wannabe ‘300’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ but the impossibly ballooning ambition alone can’t do the tricks.
Shiva(Prabhas) the heir apparent was saved from sure death by a valiant surrogate Queen cum foster mother/aunt Sivagami(Ramya Krishnan) who slips into an enormous gorge one handedly holding the baby way aloft the water level while she walks underwater all the way to the banks before letting go. Her dying fingers point to way above the fake looking gigantic waterfall signaling that the boy was from up above the (g)enormous waterfall where the sprawling kingdom of the Kings is located. The rescuers adopt the little child and christen him Shiva because the current foster mother is a Shiva worshipper. The growing boy is shown trying to scale the precarious waterfall while his new mother keeps taking a promise from him not to. He finally promises to so after establishing his triceps as the strongest in the land. Then a fantastic looking apsara like creature lures him back to the high place and this time he succeeds. After that he is shown going up there to establish a tryst with love- a warrior woman Avantika(Tamannaah Bhatia) who bears a startling resemblance to the apsara. They mate and there’s symbolism to show for it before he takes on her crusade as his -Infiltrating the kingdom and suddenly coming face-to-face with his true mother(Anushka Shetty in gold make-up and styled on Rakhee as in Karan Arjun) who has been heavily chained to a pillar near an open dungeon for the past several decades. Then comes the back story about Amarendra Bahubali(Prabhas again) who was tricked and back stabbed by his own army general Kattapa(Satyaraj) at the behest of the king’s cousin and second in line to the throne, Bhallala Deva ( Rana Daggubatti). The film ends with Shiva’s father the original Bahubali being killed in a battle under mysterious circumstances. Bhallala is the antagonist who is expected to get his comeuppance in the sequel.
My biggest peeve with this film is the manner in which the characters are drawn- too cartoonish and derived from mainstream Bollywood/Hollywood to curry favor with a discerning audience. Shiva prances about emulating Hrithik and scales mountains and precarious waterfalls a la Tarzan. He is a little too childish to be impressive. The CGI looks fake and for most-times quite unbelievable. the scale of the mounting may be huge but it just doesn’t measure up to reality. There’s this sequence of a giant statue of Bhallala being erected and Shiva alone is the one to prevent it from falling. He is shown grabbing the rope just when the statue is about to topple on the minions. But the rope he holds looks slack and just not capable of keeping the statue from falling. Quite a crude and shabby set-up. The fight sequences have their moments but the discontinuous manner in which they are set-up , makes it difficult to enjoy. There are severe lapses in costume design where these ancient Rajas are caught wearing cut-off tees below their splendid armor plating, continuity glitches, Shiva’s indulges in silly juvenile antics of a love-sick Romeo, self-aggrandizing dialogues, atrocious make-up, hammer and tongs musical serenades and ditzy camerawork. Even the copious symbolism doesn’t quite work.
While the scale of the mounting is pretty much impressive, there’s no finesse or enchantment to the finished product, to allow for any great attachment. At best this is a notch higher than tele-series like Ramayana and Mahabharat but definitely way below the Gold standard of a Cecil B De Mille enterprise. S S Rajamouli has a lot to learn from this monstrous mistake!