Monday, 5 June 2017

Film conversations: Baahubali: The Beginning and The Conclusion

Here's the question that was bothering the collective consciousness of the entire nation for the last two years: Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?  Now we know.

But here's what rankles: surely a character like  Sivagami who is an astute Rajmatha, and is also aware of the hatred Bijjaladeva has for Baahubali, would have thoroughly investigated matters before ordering Kattappa to kill Baahubali.  Here's one probable reason for this: Baahubali 2 has a lot of ground to cover in terms of plot development, which makes her decision seem hurried.    

While Baahubali: The Beginning was about setting the tone and raising the intrigue in the minds of the audience, Baahubali: The Conclusion is all about recounting the events with a rather rapid culmination of the story.  

As with other films, the first part appears a better film than the second one because of those twin reasons: the freshness of the first outing, and the fact that the second part does not live up to the enhanced audience expectations after the rousing first part.

It's not that the Conclusion does not try: it throws everything in the book into the narrative to keep you enthralled.  As a result it does appear to be cramming in a bit more than it should; as opposed to the Beginning that was a right combination of measured approach and jaw dropping action.  The tribal war scene from the Beginning, to me, beats the climax of the Conclusion any day.  

Having said that, overall the two films are an awesome exhibition of film-making, reflecting the story writer's and director's (who happen to be father-son duo, respectively) grand cinematic visions.  Well done to the entire team for creating a pan-Indian phenomenon, and for putting an Indian film on to the global platform, without any significant involvement of the Hindi Film Industry.

But here's what's very intriguing for me, personally: the epic story seems to have been inspired by the two original epics of India: Ramayana and Mahabharata; especially the latter.  Here's how:

Baahubali is Bhima/Arjuna-like figure with a combination of power and heroism, and his antagonist Bhallaladeva makes for a fine venom spewing Duryodhana.  The latter's father, Bijjaladeva is at once the embittered Dhritarashtra as the older brother who was deprived of the right to rule due to his deformity, as well as the evil schemer, Shakuni who plots the downfall of Baahubali.  

Devasena's character too appears to be inspired by the stories of two women: Draupadi who is insulted in a court full of people, and the captive Sita who is kept against her will in the Ashoka Vatika while she awaits her redemption.  Kattappa is the Bhishma who is bound by honour to serve the kingdom and is therefore forced to do certain things against his will.

Even some of the events fit in with the stories from the epics.  Take for instance the sequence in the Conclusion where Baahubali, who is living incognito, rides with the coward prince on a wild boar hunting ride and inspires him to take affirmative action when faced with danger.  

This is so very like Arjuna as Brihannala inspiring the timid Uttara Kumara when faced with the Kaurava army (even the character in the Conclusion is called Kumara).  Then there is also the cattle reference: the go-harana episode in the Mahabharata at the end of agnyatavasa, appears to have been adapted as the stampede of the cattle with their horns on fire in the same subplot.

This is not a complaint; just an observation.

The makers leave a couple of doors open towards the end of Conclusion: Bijjaladeva is not killed, which raises the possibility of him scheming again; and there is a child's voice that asks (during the end credits) whether Mahendra Baahubali's son becomes the next king to which an elderly man's voice tantalizingly replies, 'who know's what's in Shiva's mind?'

I sincerely hope there are no plans for a third outing.  Baahubali 1 was the beginning, and 2 the conclusion, as clearly mentioned in the titles.  Together they tell one killer of a story, and contain some of the most memorable characters ever: Kattappa and Baahubali have entered the echelons of other iconic characters of Indian cinema such as Gabbar Singh and Mogambo.  And there they should remain.  

One hopes that their creators are not tempted into milking the story and stretching it into another never-ending franchise.

On the other hand, it would be great if they move on to depict the epics that seem to have inspired Baahubali: Ramayana and Mahabharata, with the same awe inspiring grand cinematic vision and fervour.  

Let's hope they do.

Image source: