Baahubali 2 review

BB2

A movie with a slow first half. The second half bursts into prominence with the superbly shot war sequences. It also sets the viewer up for what should be a very good and better second part

This is how I ended when I wrote about Baahubali. Now having seen Baahubali 2, I can venture to say though the movie wasn’t bad by any measure, it did not match up to the expectation that I had set on the film. Whose fault is it? Mine or the director’s? It’s a combination of both.

While the first part started with a superb song and a sequence that makes you invest your thought process into the movie, the second part starts off as an exercise to eulogise Amarendra Baahubali.

The titles in this movie roll brilliantly: a sequestered attempt to tell the previous movie story through statues. In this movie, constrained by the need to move the story forward, Rajamouli takes his own time to whip up a frenzy. Like the first part, the first-half lags for quite a bit. If we have to describe it in the form of an anatomy of a wave, it hits a trough straight from the crest. The amplitude was ‘Baahubali’ sized one.

There are scenes that grab your attention in this drab phase too. One of them is where Rana and Nasar keep comparing Satyaraj to a dog. He reads through their scheming minds and says the loyalty of a dog is enough to do it. Another scene is where Anushka struggles to release two arrows from a bow but Prabhas teaches her to shoot three arrows at one go. That scene is also indicative of chemistry between the lead pair.

The drab phase seems drab because of the attempt on the part of Rajamouli to induce forced humour. It was needless. It is at this stage that we are drawn away from the movie. Thankfully, it doesn’t last for a long while.

Anushka’s entry into Mahishmathi and her subsequent showdown with Ramya Krishna are what wet dreams of actors are made of. They both excel. Ramya Krishna more so. She is a delight whenever she is on the screen. She has a presence that can’t be replicated.

Once Rajamouli gets the story moving forward, he doesn’t stop. He goes full-throttle. Rajamouli is let down by Background Music or lack there of. Keeravani does let him down horribly in this movie.

***

Prabhas, much like the movie, meanders along in the first-half of the movie; finding himself as a part of an irrelevant comedy thread, he stutters along before coming into life in the action sequences. The man has screen presence that justifies everything. Even when his visage changes from a commoner to a warrior in an instant, you believe it. His role as Amarendra Baahubali has got more screen time than that of Mahendra Baahubali. He comes into his own after coming back to Mahishmathi.

One of the best scenes of the movie involves his killing at the hands of Satyaraj. Though it does provide the answer to the question ‘Why Kattappa Killed Baahubali?’, Rajamouli isn’t driven by the need to answer the question. He doesn’t get swayed by the need to take cinematic liberties to answer the question.

For a certain length, the movie concentrates on the conflict between Devasena and Sivagami, played by Anushka and Ramya Krishna respectively. That’s the time when Amarendra Baahubali’s unwavering devotion to his mother comes through and Prabhas plays it superbly. Caught between wife and mother, he chooses to follow the right path as taught by his mother. The mother-son relationship is shown brilliantly though it is just an undercurrent. That comes across beautifully well because of Prabhas and Ramya Krishna.

Prabhas can only grow from here. One question though, has Telugu Film Industry lost Prabhas as an actor exclusive to its films? If it has, probably Prabhas might well be on his way to becoming the first pan-Indian superstar.

***

Rana’s role in a way reminds us of Manisha Koirala’s role in Dil Se. He doesn’t have a lot to say in the first half of the movie. His menace really sets in when he starts talking. He says  his rule’s effectiveness was known by how much he tortured Anushka and with her missing from the kingdom, it isn’t known anymore. Aided by dialogues, Rana becomes a different beast altogether. Of all the roles from the first part, his is the one that’s let down most by the director.

***

Anushka’s role in this movie is longer and better. Nobody envisaged the conflict angle between her and Ramya Krishna. Both shine in the respective roles. Her chemistry with Prabhas is worth watching. Before Magadheera, heroines were treated with a bit of contempt in Rajamouli’s movies. Anushka’s role is well-etched and is on par with Prabhas for the length of her role.

***

Ramya Krishna, to borrow from a review for another actress in another movie, has the other actors for breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever she is in the scene. She adds to the role and makes you want to thank Rajamouli for his inspired choice

***

Satyaraj and Nasar being the seasoned actors that they are live in the roles given to them. One has to feel for Subba Raju for accepting the role that he did, but it’s his death that sets the ball rolling for #WKKB. It’s in keeping with what he had said in an interview – I look for what the role does, not the length of the role.

***

Rajamouli leaves nothing untied in the movie. If one has to be critical, it can be said that he could’ve tightened the first-half in both the movies better. While he himself said that he lets the visuals do the talking, here he lets the actors also do the talking. There are good dialogues for everyone in the movie.

The war scenes in the second part don’t match up to the ones in the first part. He takes time in this movie to establish the characters in the movie and rightly so. To reveal the ending of the movie and yet make the movie-goers wait with anticipation for his movie is a feather in his cap

There are a few scenes where he takes the cinematic liberties to the limit. At that stage, one is reminded of a Shankar interview where he said that one cannot limit dreams.

***

Verdict: Though a natural progression to the first part, this movie has you craving for more in bits and parts. When the director gets his bearings right, we are in for a ride

Picture credit: idlebrain.com

Baahubali movie review

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“Killing 100 people can make you a warrior, saving one person’s life makes you a god”

Thus says Ramya Krishna towards the end of the movie. During the promotional tour, everyone went gaga over her and her performance in the movie. One wondered if it was a hogwash or were they speaking the truth? We know it now. They were indeed speaking the truth. Of all the stars in the movie, it’s Ramya Krishna that shines the best. Be it quelling the rebellion, showing equal love to children or the way she sits while deciding/strategising, she looks every bit the epitome of justice that her role was promoted as.

She appears in the first scene in the movie and is there towards the end as well. Going by  what her character says in the first scene, she seems to have an equally important character in the second part of the movie as well.

There are humongous expectations on Baahubali. Touted as the biggest movie made in India, there is a huge pressure on the movie to earn back what was spent on it. One thing that no one can fault the team is for their preparedness. When you are shooting for long stretches of time, there are problems of continuity. This movie doesn’t suffer from it. A lot (or rather, entire) of credit must go to the second line director for that. S.S Karthikeya, the son of Rama Rajamouli and SS Rajamouli is the second line director for this movie. You appreciate it when you see the smaller things in the movie – the soldiers looting gold of the denizens in the kingdom, the costumes on the lead characters etc. If you had to pick faults, probably the only thing would be how Nasar’s hand looked in one of the sequences, but then they had it draped for the rest of the movie.

***

A few months ago, there was an interview of Jagapathi Babu that I was watching in which he lamented the fact that he wasn’t considered for Posani Krishna Murali’s role in Temper. He said that had he acted, it would’ve lent more credence to Jr.NTR’s role.

Whenever you see Rajamouli’s interviews on a movie, he is at pains to explain the fact that he writes the script first and chooses the actors later. Going by what Jagapathi Babu and Rajamouli say, casting is very, very important for a movie.

Sathyaraj, in the role that he has, from the beginning to the denouement in the movie, appears a perfect fit for his role. One just has to marvel at his ability in playing around with the sword. He does a brilliant job of it. The scenes where he confronts Prabhas are among the best scenes in the movie.

***

Tammanah was a late inclusion in the movie. Looking at her role for a time, you might wonder if her role was also a late inclusion in the movie. It’s her role that keeps the slow first half moving. The first half has some sequences that has you literally waiting for the sequences that the movie has been hyped for –  the war sequences.

The song ‘Pachcha bottesina’ has K Raghavendra Rao written all over it. It won’t be a surprise if in director’s cut we are told that he was the one who conceptualised and picturised it. The song also takes us back in time when bushes and scrubs covered the essentials.

Whether or not Tammanah has a lot to contribute in the second part, she has done her bit in enhancing the glamour bit for the movie as Anushka appears in a deglamourised role in this movie.

***

When ‘Nenu, naa Rakshasi’ released, it was unanimously thrashed. It will always be discussed when the topic of worst of Puri Jagannadh is broached. It was the worst that a protagonist in a Puri Jagannadh looked and behaved. To go from that disaster to various other roles and then to the antagonist’s role in Baahubali takes some belief. Rana seems to have it in bagful. He looks the part when he has to be menacing towards Anushka’s Devasena or be scared of return of Prabhas’ Baahubali.

His dialogue modulation in the movie is top notch. Though he gets overshadowed in the second half, look for the scene before the interval where he performs incredibly well. Him, Ramya Krishna, Anushka seem like they have brilliant roles in the second part of the movie.

***

Anushka has literally ‘next to nothing’ in terms of contribution to this movie. There are a couple of scenes in which she figures. Her scene with Sathyaraj is a good one . She better have a lengthier role in the second part of the movie

***

Playing a titular role is not easy. It is shown in the way Prabhas performs in the movie. In the first half, the way he talks and behaves, it looks as if he is suffering from a hangover of Bujjigadu and Ek Niranjan. As the movie and the proceedings get revved up, so does his acting and the screen presence. From the time he promises Tammanah’s Avantika that he would complete the task she is assigned, Prabhas’ role undergoes a metamorphosis for the better.

It is difficult to find a better sight than Prabhas running in Mahismathi kingdom in the movie. He has a regal look in the movie and carries it very well. The speech he makes to the troops in the battle sequence must be his best sequence in the movie.

For a director wanting to make an action movie, Prabhas is a dream. He came off unaffected from the disaster that ‘Rebel’ was. The action sequences in any movie, particularly Rebel, looked more believable because of Prabhas. He has that sort of screen presence

***

MM Keeravani provides brilliant background score for the movie and the rest of the family performs what is expected of them.

It is surprising to see Rajamouli waste Sesh Adivi so spectacularly. It will remain as one of the weaknesses of the movie for me that a few good actors were wasted.

***

When people are going to talk about Baahubali and SS Rajamouli, you would see some nitpicking on writing or lack thereof. It is not a new phenomena. From Yamadonga on, we have seen SS Rajamouli wean away gradually from story telling to concentrate on the grandeur and visual effects in the movie. While it is not a slight on his abilities as a director, one would want to see what Rajamouli can do with a good story in hand.

His visualisation is what makes him the man that he is. It is easy to say that special effects make the movie what it is, but then to feel that a specific special effect can make a certain difference to a scene requires a visualisation that only few can manage. Rajamouli counts among those few. The entire second half, the way Mahismathi kingdom is shown or the way avalanche is shown are indicators to the brilliant visualisation skills of Rajamouli.

In an interview, Rajamouli himself admitted that he depends less on dialogues and more on visuals. He sets the record straight with the very first scene in the movie. Instead of trying to narrate about the various places, he shows it to us on a map.

It looks like Rajamouli has a certain fascination towards Maori culture. The language that Kalakeya’s tribe speaks seems so similar to Maori and other Polynesian dialects.

On a different note, it was brilliant to see him pay tribute to some of the luminaries who passed away recently. It was done before titles started rolling. Brilliant gesture indeed

***

There will be people gloating that we have managed to reach the levels of Hollywood with this movie. Let yourself not be deceived by that. If you have seen the action sequence in Mad Max: Fury road before the intermission, that’s the level that Hollywood can reach to.

Given the budgetary precincts in India, it has to said that Rajamouli has done a brilliant job of showcasing the Indian film industry to the world.

If one remembers, the unit had flown to Bulgaria to shoot a few sequences. Nowhere was it apparent that it was shot abroad.

While returning from the single screen I saw the movie in, TV9 was interviewing a few people. I heard a person say ‘Super hit, 100 days’. It brought a chuckle to my face as the widespread release of the movie would easily prevent that. We will save that discussion for a rainy day.

***

Verdict : A movie with a slow first half. The second half bursts into prominence with the superbly shot war sequences. It also sets the viewer up for what should be a very good and better second part

Image courtesy : idlebrain.com

Baby Movie Review

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Every director, in Indian cinema, has to grapple with the devil called ‘believability’. In such cases, he can do three things – choose an apt actor for the script in his mind, choose an actor who believes in the script as much as he does and is willing to go the distance to justify it or care two hoots for the audience and make the film.

Director Neeraj Pandey, has done the first two things for Baby. He chose Akshay Kumar as protagonist for the movie and Akshay went the length to justify the role. The biggest achievement for an actor, with/without an image, is the moment when audience fails to separate the reel from real. Perhaps that’s the reason why they are so happy when they are called by their reel names.

***

Neeraj Pandey, sets the premise early in the movie and doesn’t beat around the bush. He seems mighty sure of the story at hand. It has been his hallmark in both his previous movies- A Wednesday and Special 26. He has the knack of drawing good performances from every actor. Anupam Kher, these days, seems to reserve his best for Neeraj’s movies. And so does Akshay Kumar. Akshay has given two of his best performances in the recent memory in Neeraj’s movies.

Neeraj’s movies, in movie industry parlance, are ‘somewhere in between’. Not art house films and not your typical masala fare. It would be a fallacy to say that he combines the best of both the forms. The presence of a star gives him the chance to explore the script on a much bigger canvas. That said, not everything is perfect with his movies. If you saw Special 26, you would be as bemused with the graphics work done for the scenes in Kolkata because they seemed to nail the Delhi part well. In Baby too there are some irregularities, but they are few and far in between.

In this movie too, he inserts a few scenes that could’ve led to addition of few more scenes. In fact, you are expecting it. The decision taken against having those scenes is good as we know the reactions to those situations. The fact that he doesn’t have them makes the screenplay tight.

***

The biggest achievement of the director was to take three ‘wooden faces’ in Akshay Kumar, Rana Dagubbati and Tapsee Pannu and make each of them have a defining scene in the movie. OK, Rana, not quite so. The scene of Tapsee Pannu  in Katmandu was probably the best scene of the movie. Everything in that scene sort of surprises you and, yeah, for fair measure, Akshay Kumar too.

Anupam Kher as the foul mouthed technical person seems to be in grip of the proceedings and doesn’t bumble around. He is a dependable artiste in Neeraj’s movies.

Danny as the head of the team performs well

Akshay Kumar, after the character was zeroed in on, had to be just himself and he does a good of handling the proceedings. He lends naturalilty to a lot of scenes that would’ve seemed scarcely believable with other actors. After Sangharsh he has been a changed actor and this movie would surely be remembered fondly by him

Verdict: A Good movie. Enjoyable fare without getting emotionally or jingoistically sucked into the proceedings