The film is a perfect recipe to commercialise Indian culture and values for global consumption.
Note: There may be spoilers ahead.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is a magnum opus that captures convolutions of heroism, valour, loyalty, treachery, deceit, intrigue, betrayal, conspiracy and, most importantly, love, nationalism and revenge in a well-packaged, visually stunning and breathtaking epic film.
Baahubali 2 is more of a prequel than a sequel and answers well beyond the most-awaited question in the last two years: Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?
In the present, as India debates on virtues of nationalism against constitutionalism, Baahubali 2 offers interesting insights. The movie gives the strong message that constitutionalism bereft of dharma shall only lead to ruin and decay of a nation, even if it be Mahishmati, the most powerful empire that was made of gold and glitters.
The last scene holds the defining image and message of the film. Bhallaladeva’s monstrous golden bust crashes and crumbles in the depths of the falls besides the Shivlinga (from the first film) placed upright, implying that power acquired through nefarious adharmic means is impermanent while dharma is eternal.
Queen Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) and Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas) dwell on the ethical and moral dilemma that has reverberations of Mahabharata when protagonists have to choose between vidhi (constitutional law of land) and dharma (moral obligation).
Sivagami’s assertion, Mera vachan hi hai shashan (My word is the law, i.e., once spoken, it cannot be withdrawn), resembles Gangaputra Devrat’s dilemma as, bound by his shapath, he was forced to choose the path of adharma that resulted in the devastating destruction of Kuru dynasty.
Questions boldly raised by Devasena (Anushka Shetty) in the royal court to the queen Sivagami is reminiscent of Draupadi’s inquiry on the limitation of powers that be upon the choices and independence of a woman. Can freedom for a woman to achieve outcomes that she values and has reason to value be restricted by the state?
The film begins with the victory of the two princes of Mahishmati over Kalakeya, when Amarendra Baahubali is anointed as the King of Mahishmati by Queen Sivagami, whose coronation is to happen shortly.
On her advice, Prince Amarendra along with Kattappa leave for the countryside disguised as ordinary citizens to understand the problems of common folk.
Here, Amarendra and princess of Kuntala kingdom Devasena fall in love with each other. The romantic saga between the two, despite covered quickly, is comparable to Abhijñānaśākuntalam of Kalidasa in terms of depth, gravity and believability of the plot. Perhaps Titanic is the only Hollywood love drama that has such comparable intensity.
Meanwhile, back home Bijjaladeva (Nasser) and his son Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati) plan to take back power. The dirty politics of intrigues begins which ultimately leads to the killing of Amarendra Baahubali at the hands of the ever-faithful Kattappa.
The sequel part, which deals with the revenge of Queen Devasena through her son Mahendra Baahubali (or Shivudu), is wrapped up in the last 45 minutes including the slightly stretched, albeit riveting larger-than-life battle between Mahendra and his uncle Bhallaladeva, which ends with burning to death of the latter in the same funeral pyre that Devasena had made by collecting sticks and straws in the last 25 years of her captivity.
The remarkable star cast has done honourable justice to their characters. Ramya Krishnan and Anushka Shetty as two powerful, unyielding and uncompromising queens maturely showcases the feminine power that we can only aspire to today. Anushka, especially, is a revelation, outperforming her previous best as warrior queen in Rudhramadevi.
Prabhas is impressive both as father and son: as former he stands by dharma with conviction to the extent of challenging Queen Sivagami’s reasoning, and as latter he is thirsty for revenge. In both roles, his character appears unquestionable even while moving boulders, taming wild beasts and removing everything – yes, everything – that comes his way in protecting people who matter to him.
Heath Ledger shortly before his death reportedly said, “A good villain is one whom the audience hate to the extent of disgust”. Daggubati and Nasser fit this characterisation of Ledger’s villain very well.
Tamannaah has a very limited and forgettable role this time.
The real star of the film certainly is S S Rajamouli for braving to take such a big risk and finishing it with style on a thought-provoking story by K V Vijayendra Prasad. Music by Keeravani is soul-stirring while cinematography is striking. The VFX team is the backbone of this visual delight. One can confidently say that Baahubali is the Lord of the Rings of Bollywood.
Rajamouli offers us glimpses of his next project Mahabharata in the form of Baahubali. Many similarities can be drawn, starting from the struggle for power between a just and eligible prince against his unjust and undeserving ruler. Bijjaladeva represents Dhṛtarāshtra in terms of the predicament of a disabled father who was denied the throne and connivance of Shakuni in conspiring intrigues. Thus, we are hopeful that Rajamouli’s Mahabharata will be an even better and bigger project.
The Baahubali series acts as a textbook guide on how to promote Bharatiya values and culture through popular cinema. This is also heavily dependent on Indian icons and imagery to deliver the message. Statues of Lord Ganesh, Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva have been used liberally to send messages of might, devotion and righteousness respectively. The bright colours reflect the diversity of the nation.
Do yourself a favour: Watch Baahubali this weekend!