Excuse the title all the fans! However, this is one movie which again triggered the following chain of thoughts. These thoughts were written post the first movie.
So Bahubali apparently is the movie which represents the technical prowess of Indian cinema-the grandeur, animation, budget and its earnings are all seen as the arrival of India in the top league of technically sound movie making countries. I do not possess the necessary expertise to speak about the technology aspect. However, I will comment on what struck me as I was watching the movie and as I left the theater with a couple of friends who seemed to enjoy the movie.
The success story of Bahubali for me represents everything that is precisely paradoxical about the ‘modernity’, ‘advancement’ of Indian society and country at large. First the issue of ‘nationalism’. I was made to feel like a bit of an unpatriotic cynic when I said that technically though magnificent scenes are depicted, it hardly makes up for the poor story and depiction of characters. I expressed that all that money and resources seem to be wasted with a lack of a good story. At this point, I was reminded that this movie is supposed to be appreciated for its grandeur and the fact that Indian cinema houses have achieved it-period. This reminder seemed to echo with the general trend of arriving at the narrowest possible definition of nationalism, patriotism and liking one’s nation! – Let us not even start thinking about who decides these definitions, is there a thought given to the historical and political economic realities in which these concepts emerged…..These questions are for the unpatriotic cynics, not “normal” people!
Next, I found the entire depiction of all characters, especially the lead characters as the most extreme forms of objectification as can be possible. They catered to every stereotype that we as humans have grown to be comfortable with. I think the problem of portrayal of women is very well captured elsewhere by more accomplished critics. I would just like to say that it was particularly offending to visually see how the lead actress loses her sense of purpose and aim once the actor comes into the picture and becomes this stereotypical feminine character!
Finally, the plot of the movie. I know we stay in an age where medieval settings – Game of Thrones- seems to appeal to people. In this context, it should not come as a surprise that the plot of Bahubali seemed to take us back in time and represent the worst of this ‘back in time’. I mean, cruel kings were shown as snatching jewelry of the commoners, ‘good’ king as saving lives, and the works. But how we as a society do not wish to embrace more complex realities and the paradox this represents with our readiness to embrace complexities of the technical world just never fails to amaze me! I thought movies were about storytelling- this basic purpose itself is conspicuous by its absence in this movie.
I hope good cinema in this country does not leave us with questions like “Why did Katappa (a feudal servant/ knight) kill his master Bahubali?”…I hope cinema provokes us to think why in the first place is a feudal setup even appealing to so many people from my country in the first place? And why the tension that this feudal obsession and technological advancement represents escapes us all?
Post Script: Couldn’t really get myself to watch the second part!!
Disclaimer: These views are mine and are not intended to belittle any cinema goer’s joy of cinema!