Film Review: Baahubali - The Conclusion
Baahubali - The Conclusion (2017) Director S.S. Rajamouli
Written by Belle McIntyre
Blockbuster films are not something I ordinarily traffic in. However, spurred on by some of my more discerning Indian friends and the phenomenal box office records which are being broken even in the US and Canada by this one, I decided to give it a go. It is the antithesis of the NYIFF which just ended, which is a collection of independent feature and documentary films from all parts of the subcontinent which is is my preferred milieu.
Given my stated bias, I can honestly say that there are myriad reasons to give it a shot. If you have never seen a Bollywood film you might as well plunge into the biggest grossing film in Indian history, which is not actually Bollywood. It is Tollywood, which means it is a product of Tamil Nadu, South India which is rivaling Bombay as a producer of blockbuster films. The English subtitling of this version which is actually a prequel to the former top box office grossing Indian film, Baahubali - The Beginning, no doubt has everything to do with it’s expanded appeal internationally. And for an American audience, with a seemingly limitless hunger for huge action films, loaded to the gills with special effects this one will provide some uniquely different exotic elements.
It takes place in the ancient mythical land called Mahishmati, a civilized and peaceful kingdom ruled by a warrior Queen Sivagami, who has assumed control from her husband, a malevolent cripple who is the father of their son, Bhallaladeva. She has raised him with another boy, Baahubali, who came to her mysteriously as an infant and they have been raised equally as siblings. The queen has always favored Baahubali, who has grown into an exceptional warrior with superhuman abilities and yet a gracious and wise demeanor which has endeared him to the queen as well as the citizens who love and adore him. Bhallaladeva and his father are largely ignored by the queen. So, it should be no surprise that when it is time to chose an heir to the throne the sibling rivalry becomes intense, with court intrigues producing hostile factions and treacherous activities which threaten to split the country in two with devastating effects.
Hostilities are only intensified by the introduction of Devasana, the daughter of the king of a neighboring kingdom, with whom Baahubali falls hopelessly in love. But Bhallaladeva has decided that she must be his and extracted a promise from Sivagami that he will have her. Sivagami does not know of the relationship between Baahubali and Devasana when she makes the promise. But it is unbreakable, apparently. This is the genesis of all that will follow.
There are extraordinary battle scenes with Baahubali and Sivagami fighting side-by- side and vanquishing dozens of warriors single-handedly. They can do amazing flying leaps, remaining airborne for extended periods, shoot four arrows at once with perfect precision and survive otherwise lethal assaults. There is a ferocious war chariot which has horrifying long pointed blades attached to a rotor which acts like a Cuisinart as it charges through army lines. To provide any further plot summary would probably be counter productive and unintelligible since this is a prequel which is actually about the origins of the hero of this film, whose father is the legendary warrior Amarendra Baahubali who had supernatural powers and died before his son was born.
If you are already understandably confused I suggest that it is best to just go along for the ride, which is a long one, clocking in at nearly three hours. But it is full of beauty, thrills and, toward the end, an excessive amount of bloody violence. Both Baahubalis are played appealingly by Prabhas, who is uber handsome, amazingly muscular, and gracefully agile. His protector and sidekick, Kattapa (Sathyaraj) is fiercely loyal and phenomenally brave. The beautiful Queen Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) as well as Devasana (Anushka Shetty) emote eloquently with their eyes in a particularly Indian manner. It keeps you fully engaged with swagger, dazzle and fantasy and no small amount of concentration. If this is your cup of chai, it is as good as it gets.