Director: SS Rajamouli
Walking out of Baahubali 2, my mind was filled with concepts relating to the art of communication. Most of them were surrounding the view that a movie becomes complete only in the minds of the audience. Yes, from the most submissive to the most dismissive audience member, everyone, in some form or the other, prods the movie in his or her own way to understand what the director is trying to convey through the silver screen. While watching Baahubali 2, I had more than one thought propping up in my mind; but not all were positive.
Take for example the last shot of the film. The golden statue head of Bhallaladeva is thrown into the river on Mahendra Baahubali's command to demonstrate the consequence of acting against dharma. The head drifts and falls from the waterfall, tracing the path of Shivudu’s ascend in the part 1. Rajamouli, the director, clearly wants to convey that Bhallaladeva is falling from the same heights that Shivudu climbed and eventually become king and stresses that life and the movie are a circle, what with the movie ending the same way it began. Yet, while watching this sequence, considering how the gold statue was made by robbing the common man, I thought why can’t Baahubali be more economical in making a statement? Similarly, when Amarendra Baahubali and Devasena fight in the war against Kuntala kingdom, I was wondering should the heroism of Baahubali be established at the expense of the home soldiers' inefficiency.
I am not nitpicking the film with an agenda. No film is perfect and yet one succeeds, at least in first viewing, by making the audience not concentrate on these trivial questions and instead on the intended narrative and USPs. Baahubali 1 did this marvelously. It took a plot that any film or literature enthusiast would have come across in life and made it mesmerizing by tweaking it in a novel manner; be it through visuals or ingenious plot devices, all the while giving something for every character to do. The ‘how’ which made an ordinary scene into an engaging one in Baahubali 1 is seldom present here. Going back to the war in Kuntala kingdom, the ‘hows’ do come in the form of bull-fire and the archery romance that happen between the leads. Yet, they weren’t packed enough to stop me from asking those trivial questions. More importantly, the whole Kuntala kingdom episode which takes up a lot of screen space is on one note to show how Devasena is in awe of Baahubali. I would any day take the troubling romance between Shivudu and Avanthika over this long drawn drab. Even the much hyped why Katappa killed Baahubali, although convincing as idea, since it was squeezed beyond its milkable level, tested my patience by bordering tv serial level of drama, especially by Bijjaladeva. It also doesn’t help that Bijjala Deva continues this one trick approach throughout the movie. Another highlight of Baahubali 1 was the ingenious and street smart tricks in the war sequences. While the scale of visual grandeur is higher here, idea-wise it sure is a letdown, especially in the manner with which Mahishmati is taken down after setting it up with so much protection strategy in part 1.
It doesn’t mean Baahubali 2 is a disappointment. Conceptually, this part is equivalent to the first if not better in terms of how the screenplay is designed intricately. Take for example the fire pot sequence in the beginning of this film. What seemed like a typical hero introduction scene (a good one at that) has more significance in the end, on paper. On screen, it needed little more fleshing out instead of being content with generic and random underlined punches. The portion that captivated me the most was the whole stretch from Devasena entering Mahishmati till Baahubali and family are banished. Thinking back, the reason I seem to have enjoyed that stretch a lot is because of how tightly packed it was with the ‘hows’ and the equal footing it gave for all principal characters, something which was maintained throughout Baahubali 1 unlike here. It also doesn't help that the whole living with people reminded me of Lingaa more so because of the Sabu Cyril connect.
Ultimately, all my concerns are due to the inherent form of the two-part film. The first part was draped with whys and hows as the characters wandered into the maze. Holding back key information and unleashing them at the right moment was the underlying theme of the first part. Heck, the character of Bhallaladeva was effective for the same reason. Meanwhile, the second part, in trying to answer all the questions raised and to give a befitting end, transformed into a neat labyrinth from being a maze, consequently became less interesting compared to the first. Nevertheless, seen as a single film, this is still a towering example of audacious imagination.