Film: “Bahubali – The Beginning”; Language: Hindi dubbed version; Cast: Prabhas Raju, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannaah Bhatia, Nasser, Ramya Krishna, Satya Raj, Sudeep, Adavi Sesh, Tanikella Bharani and Rohini; Director: S.S. Rajamouli; Rating: ***
On par with any big ticket Hollywood caper, director S.S. Rajamouli’s “Bahubali- The Beginning” is visually monumental, spectacular and colossal. It should not be mistaken for a story from the Jain scriptures.
A fiction drafted by V. Vijayendra Prasad and narrated in a melodramatic manner with surreal fantasy, songs and epic battle scenes, it is a tale of a prince who is unaware of his identity.
The film begins with a brief geographical layout of the kingdoms of Maheshmati and Kunthala and that of Singapuram’s Bandits. And, with picturesque high waterfalls as the backdrop, the tale begins dramatically with a woman, carrying an infant in her arms and an arrow piercing her back, fleeing from her tormentors.
After a brief fight and successfully eliminating those chasing her, the lady slips into the gushing waters of the Ganges and drowns, but not before baptising the child with “Mahendra Bahubali ko jeena hoga”, and holding him up in one hand, above the waters, till he is rescued.
The child, now raised as Shiva (Prabhas), by a foster mother Sangha, is curious about the waterfalls and the land beyond. And one day, when he is about 25 years old, after he finds a mask washed ashore, he is determined to explore the forbidden land.
So after scaling the water falls, he meets Avantika (Tamannaah) a rebel citizen of Maheshmati. Romance brews and soon he is embroiled in the politics of the land and the eventuality is predictable.
While most of the characters are larger-than-life, the acting is over-the-top and every actor is allotted their glorious moments. Prabhas Raju as “Bahubali – The Beginning” is soft-spoken and charming. His moist eyes, rugged physique and agile demeanour, make him apt for the role. Rana Daggubati as Bhalladeva has little to offer as an actor, but he excels in the scenes where he has to flex his muscles with the bulls and in the post-battle scenes.
Sathyaraj as Kattapa the loyal warrior, Nassar as Bijjala Deva, the former king’s brother and Sudeep as Aslam Khan, the arms dealer from Kabul, are impressive in their short but marked roles.
As for the ladies, they have equally etched slots. Ramya Krishna as the Rajmata – Sivagami and Bijjala Deva’s wife, is remarkably inspiring. Anushka Shetty as Devasena, Bahubali’s mother, reminds you of veteran actress Rakhee in “Karan Arjun” as she repeatedly hams from serious to funny tones pouting, “Mera beta aayega.”
Tamannaah as Shiva’s love interest and a rebel warrior, adds the mystic value that makes her special. But she fails to leave an imprint in your mind, as her character is under-developed.
On the technical front, the film is artistically conceived. Every frame is picture perfect with; brilliant atmospheric visuals, elaborate sets, beautiful costumes, well-perceived computer generated images and well executed video effects. The music and background score by MM Kreem add to the cinematic experience.
Unfortunately, the dubbing is not up to the mark and the screenplay by S.S. Rajamouli, Rahul Koda and Madhan Karky traverses from frivolous fantasy to well thought action-packed scenes with ease. While the tale focuses on Shiva and his back story and the mega battle scenes, it fails to explore his romance with Avanthika and his knowledge of battle strategy. The sub-plots too are half-baked and taken for granted.
Overall, while the film has a feel good factor, the story and its visuals are heavily inspired by Hollywood historicals. Watch the film for being an Indian version of a grandeur film.