In 2015, director and screenplay writer S.S. Rajamouli worked with writer Vijayendra Prasad to create one of the most popular Hindi films of its era. “Bahubaali: The Beginning” swept across the main theatres of India, and even to a small Western theatre in Fairfax, Va. There, I saw the film on a whim. I had nothing better to do that day and the poster looked fascinating. As a Hindu, I occasionally see Hindi films and try and keep up with the latest Bollywood trends. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a two-film saga of epic proportions.
In the first few seconds of the first film, I was hooked. The story is very complex and spans more than one lifespan. The first follows Amahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) who lives in a small village under a vast set of waterfalls and cliffs. Baahubali dreams of climbing the cliffs in search of a beautiful woman he sees there, Avanthika (Tamannaah Bhatia). He is unaware of his true identity and abilities. Then the film goes back in time to the character Shivudu (Prabhas) who is the younger prince to a proud kingdom. His mother, Shivagami (Ramya Krishnan) is perplexed about who will take the throne, for her eldest son Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati) is not pure of heart or shows the making of a good king. He tricks his younger brother and steals his one true love Devasena (Anushka Shetty) as well as slaughters his own countrymen to try and win the crown on the battlefield. To ensure the crown, he plots to have his younger and beloved brother killed.
In “Bahubaali: The Conclusion,” the second film, which came out in 2017, the viewer catches up with the powerfully dynamic characters as the journey continues with the princes. However, the two films come full circle as Baahubali learns of his identity as well as comes face to face with his uncle, Bhallaladeva.
The epic is about five hours long when both films are watched back-to-back. The soundtrack is otherworldly and allows the viewer to be transported into the film entirely. Two years later, I still enjoy listening to the soundtrack, and with strong Hindu overtones as well as religious imagery, the film is beautiful. The beliefs do not overwhelm the viewer, but religious context does create great depth within the film itself. Perhaps the color of Devasena’s sari reflects the power of Durga and Shivudu’s archery reflects the might of Rama. Even the animals featured reflect more about each scene as well as the characters in them.
Earning its spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, the epic of Bahubaali definitely deserves it. It was the most expensive CGI film ever made in 2015, and as a result the scenery created is breathtaking. At some moments, the viewer must grant the film some creative license, but even the combat is very realistic and terrifying. But, what really makes this epic powerful is the characters. Their unique personalities echo a lot of archetypes as well as transforming them into more dynamic individuals that can change or break out of their destinies. Some characters are cliché, but the passion in the epic itself creates a perfect film to watch if you are after action, romance, heroism and some great music that you will be humming long after the film is over. Both Bahubaali films can be found on Netflix and Amazon Prime.