Book Review: Heads You Win

Bahubali - a violent saga

I was one of those who was not bitten by the Baahubali bug.  In fact I watched the Baahubali - the Beginning in TV (can't remember if it was Tamil or Malayalam version) - that too, in bits and pieces, fast-forwarding songs and other (to me) uninteresting pieces.
Baahubali movie poster (courtesy Wikipedia)

Following the hype of Baahubali 2 - allegedly the first Indian movie to do 1000 crores of business and Karnataka Chief Minister paid 1000-odd rupees to watch it (did he watch the Telugu or Hindi version? surely it can't be Tamil!)),  I wondered that there must be something I am missing.

It was a while since I had met up with two of my College-mates.  So when we discussed and decided to meet, we thought we might as well do it "over a movie" (and lunch).  Based on the languages all of us knew, Tamil was the choice (did Baahubali release in English?  that would have been fun - a fitting response to English movies being dubbed in regional languages).  It being the 3rd week,  Tamil shows of Baahubali in Bangalore had come down and each Multiplex had just a show or two.  When we checked Saturday morning, most of the theatres only had the Gandhi class seats left.  For the uninitiated, Gandhi class is the first row.  In the good old days (I am talking 20+ years back), Gandhi class was the cheapest ticket available.  But today, the rates are the same as other rows, but you still sit in front.

We managed to find 3 backrow seats for Sunday morning show (9.40) in Sigma Mall, Cunningham Road.  Officially Multiplex ticket prices are capped at Rs.200/- (not sure for how long, with the Court, in fact, exempting the cap on weekends and holidays).  But the taxes and Bookmyshow charges together increased it by 33% (thus Rs.300/- for a ticket finally).

Anyway, I managed to weave my way through the multitude of signals around Cunningham Road and reached the Mall on Sunday morning.  You could easily miss it considering the lack of any signage or display boards.  (As we found later, the Mall is on the verge of closing down, with hardly any shops inside - it is surviving possibly only due to the Cinemas).

After the statutory National Anthem, the movie started.

At nearly three hours, it is a fairly long movie - a usual thing in Bollywood and other "wood" (barring Malayalam, where I rarely find movies going beyond 2.5 hours.). The Conclusion continues from where the Beginning left off.  Having been annointed the King, Baahubali undertakes a visit to other kingdoms, to understand the life and culture and thereby be a better ruler. He is accompanied by Kattappa.  His travels bring him to the kingdowm where resides Devasena.  She is a skillful archer and is heir to the throne of that kingdom. Baahubali and Kattappa are incognito. In order to woo Devasena, Bahubali assumes the role of an ignorant youth, looking to learn something for a living.

Devasena's cousin, who himself is quite timid,  tries to teach Baahubali.  It is not long before Devasena suspects the dimwit is someone else.

Devasena's kingdom is attacked and Bahubali's cards are revealed.  Back in his Kingdom, he falls out with his mother on account of Devasena (I don't want to reveal too much of the plot).  The rest of the movie is about what leads to the infamous incident of Kattappa killing Baahubali and subsequently, his son Baahubali taking revenge on his uncle.

When it comes to story, it seems to be borrowed in bits and pieces from various Indian epics - the wicked uncle, the jealous brother, the incognito phase, the battle royale... When it comes to visuals, the director seems to have been influenced a lot by Game of Thrones.  If a gigantic statue of an elephant welcomes visitors to  Mahismati, it seems no different from the status of the Titan of Braavos.  Likewise the blood and violence. The gravity defying sequences come right out of Chinese action movies but a weak imitation.  As for the emotional outbursts (I wouldn't call them dialogues), which form the rest of the movie, there are enough parallels in the evening soaps in the TV channels.

While I did appreciate the visual spectacle of the movie thanks to the huge budget, it didn't make up for the weak story and plot, which was dormant in the Beginning.  It is hard to believe that the much accomplished Queen Mother takes actions based on hearsay, that too from her relatives who have given no indication that they mean good (surely she can't be that gullible, can she?)

And why so much blood and violence?   Being a fan of Marvel Thematic Universe, I feel those movies are much more kids-friendly and watchable, despite the fights.

The actors have done their job well and seem to have enjoyed doing the movie (especially Nasser and Satyaraj).  If someone should feel disgruntled about her role in the Conclusion, it is Tamanna.

Anyway, I contributed my part to Baahubali making 1000 crore.  But it will be a while before I force myself to watch a similar movie!


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