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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A year of Baahubali: Why SS Rajamouli's epic became what it did

On the first anniversary of Baahubali, it is quite worth remembering the elements which made the movie a landmark in the history of Indian cinema.

After running for about an hour-and-a-half, Baahubali hits the saturation point. A humongous 120-feet statue of the mighty antagonist Bhallaladeva is raised in Mahishmati. 

Amid all the grand moments, the cinematographer cuts to the hordes of slaves who are seen pulling the statue. An old man crumbles to the ground, followed by the collapse of an entire row of people, which in turn leads to the fall of the statue. When they're about to give in, a masked man comes to their rescue and drags the statue. While the old man takes charge again, the mask is off. His face is exposed. And like the people in Mahishmati, we tend to chant out loud, 'Baahubali'. This is the scene where director SS Rajamouli unleashes his iconic hero Baahubali. 

It's been a year since the release of SS Rajamouli's epic fantasy film Baahubali, whose visual experience made even some Hollywood films pale in comparison. 

On the first anniversary of Baahubali, it is quite worth remembering the elements which made the movie a landmark in the history of Indian cinema. 

One year of pre-production work

While most of us have lauded Baahubali enough for its quest to deliver a whole new experience, it is the artistry of Rajamouli and his creative team who need to be credited for the days of blood and sweat. 

The problem, right at the beginning of a historical film, is the scant attention given to the project at the scripting stage which makes most such films mediocre. 

Right from the lay of the land to the longsword gripped by Baahubali, Rajamouli was meticulous with the details. Also, the makers claim that over 15,000 sketches were done to create the entire kingdom of Mahishmati. 

Rajamouli's knack of storytelling: 

In Eega, the hero dies and is reincarnated as a fly. What does a fly do but buzz around is a question one might ponder over. But that's the intellectual genius of the director, who so impacts the mind of the audiences that at some point, we start empathising for the protagonist of the film - the fly. 

With more than Rs 150 crore in his pocket, what more can one expect from Rajamouli than a Baahubali? However, it's fascinating how the director manages to turn a homespun story into a whole new world. 

Written by ace writer and Rajamouli's father Vijayendra Prasad, Baahubali has a lot of mythological traits in the film - both the characters and the story. A kingdom under siege, kings and queens, jealous brothers, interesting characters and epic war sequences... isn't it all reminiscent of the Mahabharat? 

Unlike most of the films in this genre, Baahubali is entirely plot-driven. For instance, Shivudu required a character called Avantika to get into the mystical forests. It required Avantika to be a rebellious warrior so that Shivudu learns about her mission. Avantika serves as a catalyst in Baahubali and through her, we're exposed to the actuality of the plot. 

VFX and music: 

Generally, people would rely on AR Rahman to compose the soundtrack of the film for obvious reasons. But Rajamouli had MM Keeravani compose the album. Needless to say, the crescendo keeps increasing to the maximum during the pre-interval block and the climax of the film. 

One doesn't necessarily need to talk about the visuals as they speak for themselves. Be it the scenes that revolve around the waterfalls or the escape of Shivudu from the snowslide, it is but a fascinating series of montages. 

Of course, what the film unleashes in the last 30 minutes or so, is the Kalakeya war sequence with jaw-dropping visuals which have been accomplished with sheer brilliance. 

Stellar performance by the lead actors: 

For an audacious film like Baahubali, the script demanded actors and not stars. Rajamouli, who has been choosy in his films, had the most fitting cast who lifted the film with their performance. 

Ramya Krishnan gave the most exhilarating performance as Sivagami, the bold and brazen queen of Mahishmati. She didn't have the need to deliver pages of dialogues to express her attitude; her glowing eyes delivered the adequate. And this was Ramya Krishnan's effortless performance since the release of Rajinikanth-starrer Padayappa. 

Satyaraj, who is often known for his witty one-liners and mockery, donned a different role in the recent past. He plays the role of the royal slave and warrior Kattappa, whose characterisation is akin to the iconic Bhishma from the Mahabharat. 

Rana Daggubati as Bhallaladeva smashes a bison-like animal with his bare arms in his introductory scene. While this may look utterly superficial, the beefy body of Rana with some huge biceps made it believable. 

While the subtle and fun-loving character of Prabhas as Shivudu was enjoyable in the first half, it is the triumph of Prabhas as the fierce Amendra Baahubali post interval. 

Little twists that left us madly waiting for the sequel: 

One question that has been bothering all of us for a year now, is 'Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?' 

For the past one year, this question has been following Rajamouli like his shadow, way beyond the shores of the country. 

The classic end of Baahubali has paved the way for its sequel, which is supposed to answer the unanswered questions. Also, the montages at the end of the film showed us the glimpse of what one could expect from Baahubali: The Conclusion. 

If not for the grand visuals, the audience is willing to dabble with the sequel at least to find the rationale behind Kattappa, who reveals himself as the killer of the mighty Baahubali. 

Also, there's a sly scene in Baahubali, where Rajamouli makes a cameo collecting gold coins hastily from Baahubali. This indeed became the metaphorical implication of the glowing success of the film at the box office. 

One year after Baahubali, its success remains unmatched. And not without reason.

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