I watched Bahubali a few days ago and since then I am going gaga over the film, it’s story and the stunning visuals. It’s a beautiful film made with utmost devotion and the magnanimity of the effort is evident through the beautifully crafted scenes and characters.
The film is a must watch for all those who gush about the graphics of 300 or crave for an original action-adventure movie from the Indian sub-continent.
Films that come from South India are always high on muscle bulging, adrenaline dripping male heroes and boast of logic defying action sequences. Bahubali is not different in the respect that yes, it has a hero with perfectly shaped abs and is capable of some impossible stunts. But the movie is far from a typical hero-worshipping saga. The film to my surprise has some meaty roles for women and has shown them in equally powerful roles. Which brings me to my next point.
I have seen an ongoing debate in media about how the film is regressive about women, the character in question is Tamannah Bhatia’s Avanthika. Avanthika is a warrior in the film dedicated to the cause of freeing the queen. She is good at combat and her devotion to her clan is unquestionable. However, things go haywire when she falls in love with Shivudu or Shiva played by Prabhas who reminds her of the woman hidden behind her mask of a warrior. First of all I did not find anything regressive about the whole idea. You can find it regressive only if you feel that a woman’s emancipation is true only when she is able to dress up and behave like men (here I mean the popular ideas that are associated with masculinity). A woman who is a warrior and ruthlessly kills is emancipated but the moment she wears makeup, it is downright demeaning.
I would like to elaborate on my understanding of Avanthika’s character. Avanthika is born and brought up in a tribe ( I use tribe for the lack of a better word to fully explain the situation) which is dedicated to the cause of freeing Queen Devasena. Now what I understand is that Devasena was captured and imprisoned long before Avanthika was born. I conclude this because while the older member of the tribe quickly identify Shiva (who looks just like his father) as the son of Bahubali, Avanthika who has spent time with him has no clue. Now Avanthika is born in a tribe whose sole occupation is to try and free Devasena. This is the only goal that Avanthika has known since her childhood.She along with other boys nad girls of her age have had no other education except combat and war training.
There is a scene in the film where Avanthika is keeping watch at night. She begins to feel asleep so she goes to a nearby river/pond. She looks at her reflection in the water and feels a sense of longing. Our reflection is a means of identification, a way to know who we are. For Avanthika , it’s a reminder. If you rewatch the scene closely you could feel her angst about her self and identity. When she finally meets Shiva, he asks her who is she or precisely what is her true self apart from the mask that she wears everyday. Shiva introduces her to a different self, a possibility of becoming something else or someone else.
Avanthika loves her new self and the possibility of a different life, but she does not forget the cause to which she is devoted. After a romantic and passionate encounter with Shiva, she undoes her role of an enchantress and lover and again dons the avtaar of a warrior. She is attacked by Bhallaldev’s soldiers and is injured in the process. Shiva comes looking for her and saves her. He also promises her that he would fulfill the task assigned to Avanthika. While the logical answer to this is that Avanthika is injured so Shiva being her lover takes up the daunting task of fulfilling her promise. But looking at the film’s story, one could clearly see that this is a plot device to move Shiva closer to his destiny. One shouldn’t read too much into a plot device because at the end the film’s main plot line is about Bahubali.
While looking at the women in the film one shouldn’t just concentrate on Avanthika and must look into other female characters that leave a strong impression to the mind of the movie goers. I for one was smitten by Ramya Krishnan’s character Sivagami. Sivagami is the de-facto ruler of Mahishmati Kingdom until the princes Bhallal and Bahubali grow up and a suitable king is selected from the two. Sivagami is a strong woman, unbiased and the epitome of justice. She is a shrewed politician who knows how to keep the throne and kingdom safe from betrayers and attackers. She ensures that the two princes are given equal training, education and opportunity to prove their worth. I won’t delve much into the plot-line and disclose the story but I would say Ramya Krishnan has done a highly commendable act in the role of Sivagami.
Rana Duggubati as Bhallal is amazing. He is treat to watch. Prabhas as Bahubali is spectacular. Rohini in the role of Sanga is endearing to watch. Other actors have done a commendable job too in their various supporting roles. Sathyaraj as Kattapa is a treat to watch and also the source of the most intriguing cliff-hanger. The second part of the two-part saga is slated to be released in 2016.
A few words about Queen Devasena played by Anushka Shetty. Anushka Shetty has a cameo role in Bahubali: The Beginning. As queen Devasena she is amazing. Even in her small appearance she impressed me with the grit of her performance. With her powerful acting she has registered her character as a powerful, strong and determined woman. Despite her imprisonment of 25 years Devasena has not lost hope for the return of her son. Despite claims from all quarters she is hopeful that she will get her revenge someday. Anushka Shetty evokes all the emotions with such ease that it feels that it’s not Anushka we are watching but indeed Devasena of Mahishmati.
A word on how this film has changed our perspective and the face of regional cinema. Bahubali has not just garnered positive reviews from all quarters, it has also given tough competition to Bajrangi Bhaijan. Salman’s movies have dominated the Eid slot for last few years and have never been challenged by any film maker. This time however, Bahubali has certainly shaken the throne. After Bahubali, I hope that people’s response in hindi speaking regions of India to regional cinema will change. Every year many gems are produced in regional cinema but people rarely flock to theater to watch them. In most cases these beautiful movies remain unheard of.
Anyways to get an idea of the beautiful picturisation and the dream like concept of the film. check out the song below. It is one of my favorite songs from the film. In this song the hero, Shiva, climbs a waterfall that has so far eluded him. I loved how an adventurous quest could be set with the backdrop of such melodious music.