In anticipation of this movie, I organised a screening of the 2015 magnum opus for friends at my humble abode and I can safely proclaim that everyone enjoyed it. There are some movies which are not meant to be enjoyed alone; the spontaneous uproarious unbridled fist-pumping reactions of an audience drive up the enjoyment of the movie to a whole new level. Baahubali: The Beginning is that type of movie. With the right mindset and an adventurous spirit, the movie can open a door into a whole new world of cinematic pleasure.
Baahubali: The Beginning literally ends with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that matches the driving ambition of the narrative. For more than a year, I was thinking about how S.S. Rajamouli would explain the ending and after watching Baahubali 2: The Conclusion I was not only more than satisfied, I was stunned out of my senses. Putting both movies together, I can now clearly see that part 1 is just a world-building and character set-up appetiser, the scrumptious main dish and delectable dessert are all in the sequel. What a blast! That’s it! Review is done! Go buy a ticket already!
Still here? Okay… let me drop a few more paragraphs…
Baahabuli 2 takes us back to the kingdom of Mahishmati and puts a spotlight on the feud between Baahubali (Prabhas) and Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati). Will Shiva, the son of Baahubali, succeed against the tyrannical and treacherous Bhallala Deva? Will he regain authority of the kingdom that was snatched from his family by Bhallala Deva? Why did Bhallala Deva keep Devasena (Anushka Shetty) captive all these years? Why is Sivagami so determined to save the baby that she literally drowned standing up in a torrent of on-rushing water? Finally, the million-dollar question that was literally the final frame of Baahubali 1 is answered.
S.S. Rajamouli’s method of upping the ante for the sequel is the typical “more is better” approach, but he takes it much further. The visual opulence is astonishing, the kaleidoscope of colours awe-inspiring, the humongous sets jaw-dropping and the costumes resplendent beyond my wildest dreams. Every frame is meticulously crafted. Every detail and stylistic serve the narrative. He clearly understands what made the first movie so well-loved and we are given not one, not two, but three battles involving huge armies. But kudos to him for not making the battles feel repetitive by underscoring them with different stakes and fighting methods. The last one involving tall trees and human catapults is so inventive. I have seen hundreds of battles on the big screen, but I have never seen what was depicted here.
Just like the earlier movie, this one reinvents its own rules and is totally devoid of cynicism. Comparing with the first film, Rajamouli takes fewer risks in this outing, but the narrative is still joyous and filled with court intrigue, family drama and deadly double-crosses. The characters may be the size of mountains, but they are flawed human beings with weaknesses that are absolutely cathartic. Yes, I know the main caveat on most people’s mouth is that it is way over the top. But for this armchair movie buff and part-time critic, the storytelling is so compelling, the characters so larger than life, the love story so affecting and the energy so propulsive that I didn’t mind swimming in the sheer excess. Heck! Baahubali is meant to leap across a 50-metre abyss, catapult 100 metres over walls and he is a way better than archer than Legolas! I believe everything!
I apologise for the excessive use of exclamation marks but this movie earns them, and please allow me to drop a few more. This is frigging cinema! This is the reason I love going to the theatres and once in a while I love getting totally stoned out of my senses with the possibilities of cinema!
4 / 5
PS – I am so going to Mustafa next week to pick up the soundtracks to both films. WTF! I don’t even know what they are singing but the music is so rousingly awesome.