First off, if you want to know why Katappa killed Baahubali (and I really don’t think anyone should worry themselves too much over it), you don’t need to watch 167 minutes of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion to find out. Simply log on to Twitter and follow Kamaal R Khan (the “director”, not Salman’s co-passenger in the car he never drove). KRK decided to spill the beans on the eve of the film’s release.
But if you’d rather experience X-Men on acid, starring Rana Daggubatti and Prabhas, go watch the film. Much as I did. And found that Baahubali 2 is so much more than just a loud, garish, nonsensical film with jaatra-style acting. There were life lessons to be learnt, which will carry us forward. Starting from the charged up audience who hooted, applauded, laughed and jumped to their feet for the national anthem and then followed up their show of nationalism by shouting, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
So here’re the key gleanings from the film.
The holy cow is always useful – In between scenes of Baahubali Senior (Prabhas in a double role if you will) roaming the countryside while mingling with his people, we saw random shots of Kambala being practised. Not just were the cows handy in those scenes, an entire fight sequence has Prabhas emulate Ajay Devgn standing on two bikes from Phool Aur Kaante. Instead in this scene, the bikes are replaced by cows, with their horns on fire. Inspired. The cows kick up stones, which maim the evil army. Maybe we could use the millions of cows, which will be running amok across the country, to make an army of cows that can run over anyone who upsets the government? The possibilities are endless.
Feminism for the win – Much like Zakhmi Aurat, in Mahishmati (the kingdom where Baahubali en famille rule and live) too, molesters are frowned on. Only difference, in Zakhmi Aurat, Dimple Kapadia castrated people. In Mahishmati, people’s fingers are hacked off by molestees. Out of respect for those who don’t like spoilers, I won’t reveal who hacks off whose fingers. But suffice it to say, it’s a royal treat. Also, and full points to the makers of Baahubali 2 for scripting this in, the women characters can fight alongside the men, refuse to marry anyone against their choice, get married, have children, fight against sexual harassment and avenge all wrongs. Sivagami (Ramya) and Devasena (Anushka Shetty) have as strong characters as the men.
Mothers-in-law are always evil – Even if they are played by Ramya. Baahubali 2 proves yet again that mothers are obsessed with their sons, and think they have every right to choose their son’s brides. And if their son decides to exercise his own choice, it is, of course, the fault of the woman he is in love with. This could well be a Balaji saas-bahu serial, going by the dynamics on display. Sivagami (Ramya) sends off her son, Amarendra Baahubali (the would-be heir to the throne) to mingle with the masses and see how they live. She promises him that in the meantime she’ll procure for him a good wife. Procure being the operative word, because when she makes an offer to a kingdom for their princess’ hand in marriage, she sends bushels of gold and goods – and is appalled when the woman in question (Devasena) refuses. And proceeds to dislike her forever afterwards.
Rana Daggubati is no Gerard Butler – Rarely has a man acted so little and so poorly. For the first half of the film, the unfortunately named Bhalla (Bhallaladeva/Rana Daggubati) has barely one line of dialogue. He spends his time on screen staring into the camera without cracking an expression and usually in side angle, standing as if he is just about to climb up a step. When he does have a line of dialogue, you understand why director SS Rajamouli kept him as the strong and silent type. When he is not trying to emote, Daggubatti flexes his nipples and breasts. It’s quite the visual extravaganza.
The original mutants – The royal family of Mahishmati and its side-characters are all actually X-Men. Daggubatti, Prabhas and Sathyaraj (Kattapa) can fly through the air, withstand being riddled with arrows, walk up the walls of buildings, willfully eject weapons which have penetrated their bodies, and occasionally stand on the heads and backs of various beasts. All in stately regalia. Wolverine has nothing on these men and what seems to be the adamantium their bones are made of. Serena Williams may have won the Australian Open while two months pregnant, but will she be able to give birth in a hut and then dress up in a silk saree, full jewellery and make-up and carry her newborn baby across a kingdom to confront her detractors? I think not. If you thought Hindi cinema stretches your imagination, this requires a whole new level of suspension of disbelief.
SS Rajamoulli seems to know what the people want – I have rarely seen a crowd in a multiplex seem as involved in a film, as while watching Baahubali 2. While we may have been rolling our eyes at the ludicrousness of the film (at one point, a ship which is sailing in the sea, starts floating in the clouds using its sails as propellers), the audience seemed to be loving it. People were applauding when the molester’s fingers were hacked off, or when Baahubali and Bhalla were fighting. The people are pleased. So what do we critics know? The good news is that all loose ends are tied up and there is no chance of a trilogy.
Should you watch this film, though? If you have half a day to spare and can keep your expectations to a minimum, go ahead. This is one of those films that is so bad, that it’s good. The silver lining is that Prabhas and Daggubatti make a fine case for the swarthy charms of the Telugu and Tamil hero. And for man buns. If not for sensible cinema.