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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Katappa's Treachery Finally Explained. Is It Worth The Wait? Here's The Answer

Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Rajamouli is an exceptional storyteller and craftsman. It is in excess that the strength of Baahubali 2 lies and it makes no bones about it

  | April 28, 2017 18:28 IST

Rating:

<i>Baahubali 2</i> Movie Review: Katappa's Treachery Finally Explained. Is It Worth The Wait? Here's The Answer

Baahubali 2: Prabhas in a film still

  • Genre:
    Action, Drama
  • Cast:
    Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannaah Bhatia, Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj, Nassar
  • Director:
    S S Rajamouli
SPOILERS AHEAD

Baahubali: The Beginning, with its intriguing open-ended climax, had wound up with a teasing, million-dollar question: why did Katappa kill Amarendra Baahubali? Why indeed would a loyal soldier have betrayed his beloved master, we were left wondering. The Katappa conundrum whetted the curiosity of Baahubali fans and fanned a rare degree of craze, turning the follow-up into one of the most anticipated films in the history of Indian cinema. So here finally is the film that contains the much-awaited answer. The bigger question on our minds as Baahubali: The Conclusion unfolds is: is the sequel worth all the brouhaha? The scale and sweep of the no-holds-barred fantasy epic set in a spectacularly garish fictional kingdom are expectedly phenomenal. It is the riot of colours, the robotic action, and the resultant kinetic heat that are a strain on the senses. They suck the air out of the nearly three-hour-long film and turn it into a limply mechanical show of superficial wizardry.

Baahubali: The Conclusion is a film that is so in awe of its own grandiose canvas that it tends to lose sight at times of the need for tighter editing and more believable characterization. Just about everything in the film falls prey to the lure of excess. It has several flamboyantly mounted passages that drift in the hope that the 'magic' of the visuals would be enough to keep the audience from noticing the film's over-indulgent strain.
 
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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Prabhas in a film still

 
Baahubali 2 is blindingly flashy, overly dramatic and mightily entertaining (if you dig flying arrows, flashing swords and rogue bull-taming warriors). The members of the cast go along with the frenzied flow of the story. Prabhas and Rana Daggubati, all brawn and bravado, are suitably muscular, Anushka Shetty goes convincingly from being pretty and peppy to being traumatized and worn-out, and Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj and Nasser are easily excitable and prone to bouts of loud theatrics. It's a world where everything is doled out in smothering bushels. Be very, very impressed!

But are we? For all the stunning imagery that writer-director S S Rajamouli and his army of VFX artists have put on the screen, Baahubali: The Conclusion is ultimately only a lightweight yarn buttressed by flashy technical inputs designed to dazzle and disarm the audience.
 
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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Prabhas in a film still

 
Parts of Baahubali do just that, but as was the case in the first installment, the battle sequences are interminable and fatiguing. The film as a whole, and not just the all-out climactic war that breaks out between a good army and an evil one, demands an awful amount of suspension of disbelief. Especially superfluous are some portions of the love story involving Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas) and a beautiful princess Devasena (Anushka Shetty). They render the first half exasperatingly sluggish. In the second half the film gathers some momentum but never manages to free itself from the spirit of randomness that informs its core.

If one were to take a more critical view of the film, Baahubali, both The Beginning and The Conclusion, represent status quo cinema at its most brazen. It propagates archaic notions of the divine right of the ruler and the inescapable fate of the ruled - "mera vachan hi mera shaashan hain (my vow is my royal diktat)", both Rajmata Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) and Mahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) declare at different points in the film.
 
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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Ramya Krishnan in a film still

 
In Rajamouli's universe, the royal brood occupies a higher moral plane than the people that they govern and it, as a matter of right, thrusts its religious rituals - one of which requires the queen to walk all the way to a temple many furlongs away with fire on her head to ensure the kingdom's invincibility. Through the film, there is talk of agni prasthan, Vijayadashami, Krishna puja and Vaastu dosham, among other loftily pure notions and it travels from the top down. The people of Mahishmathi, including the brave and invincible Katappa, are a subjugated lot - they swear unquestioning and unswerving allegiance to the king. The only distinction that they make is between good and evil. Baahubali is good, Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati) isn't. No other nuances are allowed in this cut-and-dried landscape.
 
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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Rana Daggubati in a film still

It is disconcerting when segments of the audience whistle, cheer and clap when blood is drawn, a severed head is displayed, bodies are impaled on the battlefield or a man has his throat slashed with a scimitar in broad daylight. Nor is that all. Baahubali 2 also pushes troubling ideas of masculinity, motherhood, fealty of subordinates, codes of honour and the valour of warriors, all the while upholding the appeal of the cult of violence and blood feuds.
 
While Avantika (Tamannaah Bhatia) is reduced to an extra, Devasena, the Kshatriya princess of a small kingdom has a big part to play in Baahubali 2. The girl is proud of her lineage. She is as proficient with a bow and arrow as she is with a sword. But she isn't above social expectations that are reserved for women in this film's culture of conservatism. Somebody suggests that her family should much rather be focusing on finding her a bridegroom than letting her hone her battle skills "like the men".
 
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Baahubali 2 Movie Review: Anushka Shetty in Baahubali: The Conclusion

And when the stage is set for Devasena to accompany the besotted hero to Mahishmathi as his bride, the latter assures her sister-in-law: "Nischint rahiye ab yeh meri zimmedari hai (Rest assured, she is my responsibility from now on). Really? Devasena is as good a thrust-and-parry artist as any, goddammit!

Even in strictly technical terms, Baahubali: The Conclusion is glaringly uneven. Some of the CGI is breathtakingly fabulous, and some rather ordinary, if not outright tacky. The animals, particularly the bulls and the elephants, look like stuffed toys. Many of the backdrops conjured up for the action have a papier mache or cardboard feel.

When the key revelation about Katappa's 'treachery' is sprung upon us, it does not quite catch us by surprise. Presented as a fait accompli, it is terribly underwhelming. It turns out that the hook that held us in thrall all these months is after all no big deal.
 


But, all said and done, Rajamouli is an exceptional storyteller and craftsman. He packs just enough into this magnum opus for his fan base for the film not be dismissed merely as a hollow extravaganza. It is in excess that the strength of Baahubali 2 lies and it makes no bones about it, take it or lump it.

Verdict: Baahubali 2 is more of the same - actually, a great deal more of the same - minus the soul of the original. But the packed houses are bound to tell another story. Katappa has done his bit.
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