Baahubali is a film that has been getting mixed reviews all over the internet. It was marketed and promoted as one of the largest budget Indian films that has been filmed in Telugu and Tamil and dubbed into Hindi and Malayalam. It also received huge openings and collections in the box office over the past two weeks and is still selling out to large crowds worldwide.
Baahubali is a historical fantasy/fiction film based on the trials and tribulations of the ancient Indian kingdom Magizhmathi (also known as Mahishmati). The main character, Shivudu (Prabhas), is found as a baby in a river by a village couple who decide to raise him as their own son. The rest of the story revolves around the adventures of Shivudu as he discovers his relationship to Magizhmathi and learns of its history.
The opening scene of Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) holding baby Shivudu and fighting off soldiers is one of the most powerful and gripping scenes that unfortunately sets the bar a bit too high for the rest of the film. Nevertheless, there are certainly other positive aspects to be noted. For one, the cinematography and visual effects are simply stunning! Even though the film is not in 3D and most of the locations are likely computer graphics, in some scenes it seemed like I was flying over those natural landscapes myself. Many scenes in the first half with Shivudu were reminiscent of the Hindi film Krrish, in which Hrithik Roshan similarly flies and jumps over mountains and waterfalls.
Baahubali is filled with mythological tropes. From connections to Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to Disney films such as Mulan and Lion King to historical tales of the pride of Mewar and Jhansi Ki Rani, director and screenplay writer S.S. Rajamouli packs a lot into the film. These connections resonate a lot with viewers.
One thing that frustrated me about Baahubali was the contradictory messages regarding gender roles. On one hand, Rajamouli creates strong, bold, passionate, and ambitious female characters like Sivagami, Devasena (Anushka Shetty), and Avanthika (Tamannaah Bhatia). Yet, on the other hand, women are objectified in a split second with an item number or a romantic love song, both of which could have been choreographed and filmed in a more classy and aesthetically appealing fashion.
In addition to conforming to and breaking stereotypes of femininity, one can find strong affirmations of manhood and masculinity in Baahubali. Violence, blood, and shirtless muscular men (namely Prabhas and Rana Daggubati) abound in this film. Though I found the military strategies in the second half fascinating, the editing of violent war scenes definitely could have been more crisp (particularly for ahimsa aficionados like myself). On the lighter side, the music and background score by M.M. Keeravani were interesting and added an extra shot of flavor to this action flick.