The Curious Case of Bahubali and Rajamouli

For the Hindi film watching audience, Bahubali had much to offer. Finally, they watched a film which was fantastic to watch on the big screen, which even the most torrent-loyal viewer would accept, with strong characters and delightful revenge story. After so much of promise by the top class Bollywood directors, most of the films didn’t live up to the expectation of the audience. Personally, for me, in the Hindi films, I feel there is no emotional connect. This was the industry which once brought in movies like Ardh Sathya, Ijaazat etc in which we immediately identified with the protagonists.
If we go by the trade pundits the biggest hit in Bollywood for the year 2017 is “Badri ki Dulhaniya”. As a friend of mine often puts in his status, even when he hates to argue or no debates ‘I rest my case’. So one can imagine the delight of the audience when they saw something like “Bahubali”.

Is this the greatest Indian cinema? I, personally wouldn’t say yes. Is it the best of Rajamouli? Maybe. Let us see why.
I am a big fan of Rajamouli. I have been following his movies since 2002 when he made the debut. He introduced Junior NTR to Telugu cinema. He also has the reputation of not using the same heroine in two movies, which he broke in Bahubali. After Bhagyaraj, I would say that Rajamouli is the best in the screenplay as of now. I haven’t seen anybody else handle different subjects with such a success. His first movie Student No 1, became a grand success and it was primarily known for Junior NTR and the adulation of his fans. Rajamouli was reduced to just hit director who was assistant director of Veteran Raghavendra Rao. His second movie was also a blockbuster hit but people didn’t give him the credit he deserved. After an average fair of Sye, Chatrapathi got everybody’s attention. Not for good reason at all. Can you imagine a Prabhas- Rajamouli film panned by audience and critics alike for the worst CGI? It happened. An ultimately laughable Shark fight with the hero was a pain to watch. Then came Yamadonga which rewrote box office collections in Andhra Pradesh. Then came Vikramarkudu, which brought the acclaim that Rajamouli today has. In the meantime, he trained and trained hard in the VFX and made ultimate use of it in Magadheera which smashed the image and won the hearts of critics and audience alike. We don’t have to talk about Maryadha Ramanna and Eega since we know the impact it had created.
So what is new in Bahubali that is not in his fifteen years of experience? Sadly none. When I talk to my dad about Kamal Haasan’s stint in Bollywood, he said Kamal tried too much of things at once in Bollywood. Whatever he did in forty movies in Tamil, he tried to do it all in a single movie in Hindi. Obviously, things didn’t work. Most of the regional directors too face the same issue in Bollywood. They try to impress someone and who that someone is what we don’t know. Srijit Mukherjee could have gone to Bollywood with his National Award Winning Chatushkone or soulful Jaatishwar. But no, he wanted to go in big style and chose Rajakahini to be made as Begum Jaan. The film bombed spectacularly. Rajamouli is somewhat clever in that way.

What did Rajamouli Repeat?

Big battles, palaces, and period setting – We saw that in Maghadheera (though it was just a sequence)
Spear-Wielding Villain – Again Magadheera
Mother Sentiment – Chatrapathy
Trust worthy person responsible for the death of the protagonist, helping him again – Magadheera.
Blood flow stemmed with sand of holy ash – Simhadhri

Except for one movie, all Rajamouli movies are about taking revenge. Rajamouli played to his strength there. His association with M.M. Keeravani and Peter Hein had always helped him which worked wonders in his earlier movies too.

What did Rajamouli do differently this time?

He didn’t strip off his lead females in the second installment – The reason why the movie resonates well with the family audience is there is no item song or uncomfortable sequence. One can safely assume that the success of Vikramarkudu is attributed equally to Anushka’s hip and navel as much as Rajamouli’s direction. There was not even a glimpse of it in Bahubali 2.
Usually, Rajamouli’s hero characters are strong. Not physically but he is a master in making us root for the hero by providing a back story as quickly as possible. In this movie, both Bahubali and his son are strong for no reason at all except that the baby had a tight grip on Ramya Krishnan’s index finger when it was born. I was disappointed by that though.
The big question is where do the stars and technicians of the movie go from here. I am sure Rajamouli would come up with great scripts and movies going forward but for the world, he will always be the man who directed India’s visual splendor. Same with Prabhas, Anushka, and Rana. Even if they give their best and Academy worth performance in the movies to come, people will not be satiated. I can feel that in the recently released teaser of new Prabhas film Sahoo.
Bahubali (both parts) are a wonder for which great technicians from all of South India came together and showed the world that if budget is not a constraint our imaginations know no boundaries. For that SS Rajamouli deserves all the limelight he had got till now. But the real test for the writer and filmmaker in him is his next film. Hoping for the best.

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