Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Hindi)
(U/A) 168 min
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannaah, Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj, Nassar
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
April 28, 2017
Imagine that you’ve been invited to the grandest, biggest party, a jamboree really. You arrive, dash to the bar, pick a drink and then glide through the chatting, laughing crowds, moving towards the hosts. En route you stop to admire the sights and sounds put up for your amusement.
There’s someone clowning around, so you laugh. Someone is discharging arrows at a man pinned to a revolving ball. You say wow! Someone else is blowing fireballs and some burly, bulky freak is showing off his strength to an elephant, and smashing this, head-banging that…
Your drink is over and there are still about a dozen kartabs to see. But you want to meet the hosts, chat with them for a bit.
They are nowhere to be seen.
You are tired, wondering whether to leave or stay when another guest, thrilled to the gills, asks, “Isn’t it spectacular? Aren’t you having the time of your life?”
It’s rude to say no.
Bahubali 1, which released July 2015, cost a bomb. Baahubali 2, with an extra a, apparently cost even more, Rs 200+, and has already made Rs 500 crore.
Together these two films add up to about five-and-a-half hours of hard work by all involved — especially the director, actors, elephants, and the CGI and art direction team — to shock and awe.
Given the amount of money, effort, sweat and time that’s gone into keeping the hype around Baahubali alive for two years, erecting grand sets, keeping the muscles of the protagonists rippling, the number of arrows made and spent, throats slit, heads crushed, it feels almost churlish to say, “I’m bored. I want more.”
But, sadly, at the grand party thrown by the bahubali of Telugu cinema, S.S. Rajamouli, I admired the spectacle, got the anti-climatic answer to “Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali?”, but was also thoroughly bored, especially for the entirety of the second half.
Bahubali 1 ended at a dramatic moment — Kattappa killing Bahubali. Baahubali 2 explains why. The story, whatever little there is, is mostly about Amarendra Bahubali (Prabhas), but is completed by his son, Mahendra Bahubali (also Prabhas), whom we met in Part 1.
Set within the strict confines of Kshatriya dharma, Baahubali 2 is a film born of the epics, and it moves and roars like one, rather loudly at that.
Its plot is a mishmash of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
A. Bahubali is Ram, Krishna, Arjun, Shiv in equal measure. He prefers swords and bow-arrows.
His nasty brother Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati) is Duryodhan with Ravan’s glad eye. His weapon of choice is a mace with a chain.
Bhallala’s daddy, Bijjaladeva (Nassar), is an amalgamation of Shakuni and Dhritrashtra, with the malevolent intent of Kaikeyi.
Bahubali and Bhallala have a doting mommy, Rajmata Shivgami (Ramya Krishnan), who is Dasharatha with kholed, saucer eyes. She dotes on one son a bit much.
The kingdom, Mahishmati, she has decided, will go Bahubali, and buys some gifts to cheer up Bhallala.
He’s very cut up.
So while Bahubali is travelling around his kingdom, incognito, and meets Rajkumari Devsena (Anushka Shetty), who is two-third Draupadi, one-third Sita, Bhallala announces to his mother that he wants her.
Obvo, mother agrees. But spitfire Devsena is like, hmmm, no chance, doing full baesti of future mom-in-law in bhari sabha.
This family drama makes Rajmata’s glowing eyes enlarge to dangerous proportions and she gives the throne to Bhallala.
Bahubali walks out with the gal, to a life of hardships, hurdles, deceit and epic battles.
It may seem like all this adds up to a decent plot, but it really doesn’t.
The film’s story exists only in short scenes which are wedged between battles of all shapes and sizes. There are small ones with junglee pigs, where blue and pink arrows fly whoosh-whoosh. Then there is a lovely, romantic battle that Devasena and Bahubali fight together, and many, many gargantuan ones with cool stunts that got whistles from the audience, which was about 98 per cent male.
Baahubali 2 is a spectacle for sure. But it has a target audience — adolescent men (if not in body then in mind), and elderly ladies. In a hall full of excited boys, I was stunned to see some old ladies with waking sticks.
Baahubali’s scale — its sets, statues, rousing music, the height to which Bahubali can lurch — dwarfs you. And together these elements add a quasi-pious touch to the battle between good and bad, dharma and adharma, something which makes elderly Indian ladies go moony.
Some of these moments are thrilling, and help us plug into the story, and go along with the fakery and mumbo-jumbo, but its characters remain impressive only in size, not spirit.
Baahubali 2 has the heft and scale of an epic, but not the depth.
It remains a film that is technically astounding, with impressive military formations and battle scenes, but there’s just too much slashing, jumping and leaping about and, after a while it’s all very fatiguing and boring.
All the actors clearly believe in their roles and, having taken inspiration from Amar Chitra Katha, express themselves only with exaggeration.
I found Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty and Ramya Krishnan most effective. Prabhas is sweet and has that cute mix of boyish charm and a killer body. But from the film’s climax it was clear that given a fair chance, Rana would beat Prabhas to pulp. And he won’t take 163 minutes to do it.