Friday, April 28, 2017

REVIEW 488: BAAHUBALI – THE CONCLUSION


Release date:
April 28, 2017
Director:
S.S. Rajamouli
Cast:


Language:
Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishna, Sathyaraj, Nassar, a few seconds of Tamannaah Bhatia
Telugu

(Note: This is a review of the Hindi dubbed version of the Telugu film Baahubali: The Conclusion.)


Fans of the Baahubali franchise have been discussing the hashtag #WKKB on the social media for a while now. If you have not guessed yet, that stands for “Why Kattappa Killed Baahubali”, a reference to the teaser in the closing scene of Baahubali: The Beginning in 2015. You will not find spoilers on the #WKKB front in this review. Hold on to your seats though for the answer to a far more pressing question: #DRTOHS.

In the first film, the tribal boy Shivudu (Prabhas) discovered that he is, in fact, Mahendra Baahubali, son of the late great Amarendra Baahubali (also Prabhas) who was robbed of the throne of Mahishmati kingdom by the machinations of his cruel cousin Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati) and uncle Bijjaladeva (Nassar). In Baahubali: The Conclusion, Mahendra hears the story of why and how that happened before setting off to avenge the deaths of his father and foster grandmother Sivagami (Ramya Krishna) and to free his mother Devasena (Anushka Shetty) from imprisonment in Mahishmati.

As with the opening film, this one too is an Amar Chitra Katha-style blend of mythological references and palace intrigue laid out on a vast canvas of visual grandeur. The proportion of the ingredients has been changed though, with myth and socially regressive themes being scaled down, family politics being scaled up, and the decibel levels being raised by several notches.

The novelty of seeing an Indian film so laden with heavy special effects at such a scale from start to finish has worn off in the two years since Baahubali 1 was released, and it is hard now to forgive this one for Mahishmati’s plastic façade and those painfully obvious CGI beasts. Somehow, nothing here seems to match up to that waterfall in Part 1. Still, when the going is good, director S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Conclusion is pleasing to the eye, in particular with its costumes, lavish interiors and innovative stunts.

A film of this nature obviously requires a suspension of disbelief in that last department. And frankly, if we are willing to swallow the invincibility of the likes of Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis and the various Bonds down the decades, then there is no reason why we should not buy that scene in which Amarendra mounts an elephant by walking up its trunk with the animal’s assistance and – my favourite of the lot – that war-time gimmick involving palm trees, shields and Newtonian physics towards the end.

Those stunts, M.M. Kreem’s background score and the use of his songs to up the tempo of the narrative are what keep Baahubali: The Conclusion watchable even when the ridiculous over-acting becomes hard to take and the lack of freshness in the storyline sinks in. Daggubati and Shetty – both gorgeous, both equally charismatic – keep themselves relatively in check, which is admirable considering that over-statement seems to be the demand of Rajamouli’s storytelling in this cinematic diptych (“relatively” being a key word here). Prabhas’ pretty face somewhat compensates for all that self-indulgent posing about he does, most notably while Devasena sings a song about Lord Krishna in a scene that unwittingly betrays her man’s Oedipus complex.

The rest of the cast is laughable, with each rivalling the other for the year’s Worst Acting Awards. There is the usually wonderful Nassar who hams here to such an extent that he makes Sohrab Modi seem under-stated in comparison. The extras in every single scene – soldiers, courtiers and subjects – seem to be competing with the memorably howlarious bit-part players of the black-and-white era. And Subba Raju playing Devasena’s beau Kumara Varma is so bad, he should be declared a threat to society.

The queen of the film’s hamsters though (if such a word does not exist in the acting lexicon, then it should) is Krishna whose eyes remain fixed in a bulbous stare through the nearly three hours of this film’s running time.

For all its seeming innocuousness, Baahubali: The Beginning was a horribly narrow-minded film that rolled out a range of stereotypes couched in its good-looking frames. The black-denotes-evil cliché was exacerbated by its white-is-glamorous conviction. Disability coincidentally found its way only on to evil people. And Sivagami’s power paled into insignificance in the face of Shivudu’s sexual violation and ultimate subjugation of the warrior Avanthika played by Tamannaah Bhatia.

In that respect, Baahubali: The Conclusion is a step up. Devasena remains strong and active from start to finish, and is at no point reduced to being Shivudu or Amarendra’s sidekick. She is a partner, not a prop. Still, the marginalisation of Avanthika in this film is almost tragic. In Part 1 she was a feisty woman whose mission was taken over by Shivudu once he ‘makes’ her fall in love with him and discover her inner femininity. In Part 2, she is an absolute nobody with nothing to say and just a few seconds of screen time in mass scenes. In that context, giving Bhatia fourth billing in the closing credits (after the two leading men and Shetty, but before Krishna) comes across as condescension, not an acknowledgement of her star status.

There is so much else that is troubling in Rajamouli’s worldview: for one, the undisputed right of the Kshatriya to rule. If there is a question here, it is only: which Kshatriya – the good guy or the bad guy? And either way, it has to be one of the guys. All the spectacle in the world, the Durga-esque positioning of Sivagami and Devasena, and the emphasis on Mahendra/Amarendra’s virtues cannot camouflage Baahubali’s disturbing romanticisation of social status-quoism.

This then is the conclusion of this review: Baahubali: The Conclusion is a cocktail of fun stunts, attractive stars, grand settings, terrible acting, conflicted attitudes and closeted conservatism. (Aside: The Hindi dubbing is impressive. A bow here to the choice of voices and to Manoj Muntashir, dialogue writer and lyricist for this version.)

As is always the case, each viewer’s response to the film depends on her/his priorities. My priority, I admit, is not #WKKB but #DRTOHS: does Rana take off his shirt (in the film, as he has for the posters)? Answer: yes he does. For good measure, so does Prabhas. Both men rip off their upperwear in an extended scene of hand-to-hand combat, to reveal perfectly sculpted, stunningly muscular torsos in what has now become commercial Indian cinema’s most-used formula across all states. In the way it is told, #WKKB is not as dramatic a revelation as expected. #DRTOHS, on the other hand, is absolute paisa vasool.
  
Rating (out of five stars): **1/4

CBFC Rating (India):
UA
Running time:
167 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:




15 comments:

  1. WHAT IS #DRTOHS..?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You really don't get the meaning of a fantasy film, do you?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The trolling you have been receiving for this review is deplorable. It's senseless on part of the trolls .... no one is stopping them to watch and rewatch the movie if they like it. It's appalling they don't understand this, or can respect your review as a person's point of view. Personally, I enjoyed/liked the movie but that doesn't mean I can troll for having an opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A review as expected �� It clearly shows the reviewer went through great trouble to find any possible fault( according​ to her perspective) even when it doesn't seem to be there. Firstly it's a FILM. A work of art, where there is cinematic freedom to express one's ideas. And based on this fact, Rajamouli has truly shown cinematic brilliance like no other filmaker in India. Be it VFX, stunts, cinematography, screenplay, writing, direction, etc.Secondly, it's a film based on Concepts Of Indian Mythology, Indian culture in those times(as shown in the film) hence emphasizes Kshatriya Rule. As they are the protectors, ruling comes naturally to them. A Gene thing. One should research this stuff before writing reviews. Qualities of a true ruler shown beautifully. One who thinks of the 'praja' before himself. And graciously accepts their love and takes the role of Swami as portrayed in the movie. Many great rulers of India have lived their lives on the same lines. Even Indian Mythology points to the same thing.
    All the women have been beautifully depicted as 'true feminine', who fight when necessary and nurture too. Including Avantika, who's hiding her true self of the 'nurturing feminine' behind her need to be the 'warrior feminine' as is the need of the hour. At one point in the film, she sees her refection in the water, which hides her true self and isn't happy about this,but Shivudu helps her to express that side, which, is not violent at all; but shows how deeply he understands her.
    Acting is superb by everyone. There was no useless over-the-top posing, but the aura of a true warrior in Prabhas' stance, his talk, walk and entire presence. And his portrayal of innocence as a son, and portrayal of a 'protector' as a husband, is truly remarkable.
    An era of equality, truth, wisdom, freedom, men as real men, women as goddessess, nurturers and warriors, evil for what it truly is(not black is bad, white is good; as Prabhas is clearly in-between; wheatish or 'shyam' i.e. of dusky complexion- since this was highlighted in the review), darkness of human nature, beautifully depicted in the movie :)
    Kudos to the team for showing what India truly stood for and hopefully will continue to stand for. 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ to Baahubali franchise for this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A review as expected �� It clearly shows the reviewer went through great trouble to find any possible fault( according​ to her perspective) even when it doesn't seem to be there. Firstly it's a FILM. A work of art, where there is cinematic freedom to express one's ideas. And based on this fact, Rajamouli has truly shown cinematic brilliance like no other filmaker in India. Be it VFX, stunts, cinematography, screenplay, writing, direction, etc. Secondly, it's a film based on Concepts Of Indian Mythology, Indian culture in those times(as shown in the film) hence emphasizes Kshatriya Rule. As they are the protectors, ruling comes naturally to them. A Gene thing. One should research this stuff before writing reviews. Qualities of a true ruler shown beautifully. One who thinks of the 'praja' before himself. And graciously accepts their love and takes the role of Swami as portrayed in the movie. Many great rulers of India have lived their lives on the same lines. Even Indian Mythology points to the same thing.
    All the women have been beautifully depicted as 'true feminine', who fight when necessary and nurture too. Including Avantika, who's hiding her true self of the 'nurturing feminine' behind her need to be the 'warrior feminine' as is the need of the hour. At one point in the film, she sees her refection in the water, which hides her true self and isn't happy about this,but Shivudu helps her to express that side, which, is not violent at all; but shows how deeply he understands her.
    Acting is superb by everyone. There was no useless over-the-top posing, but the aura of a true warrior in Prabhas' stance, his talk, walk and entire presence. And his portrayal of innocence as a son, and portrayal of a 'protector' as a husband, is truly remarkable.
    An era of equality, truth, wisdom, freedom, men as real men, women as goddessess, nurturers and warriors, evil for what it truly is(not black is bad, white is good; as Prabhas is clearly in-between; wheatish or 'shyam' i.e. of dusky complexion- since this was highlighted in the review), darkness of human nature, beautifully depicted in the movie :)
    Kudos to the team for showing what India truly stood for and hopefully will continue to stand for. 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ to Baahubali franchise for this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Did you get a blow on head when you were young?

    ReplyDelete
  7. You: "The novelty of seeing an Indian film so laden with heavy special effects at such a scale from start to finish has worn off in the two years since Baahubali 1 was released"

    Me: Seriously? Is this just for you? Or are you claiming this for all of India. Can you show some proof that the novelty has worn off through a scientific survey? Otherwise many readers will conclude that you are probably lying and just munching on sour grapes. As an "honest journalist and film critic" you cant allow that to happen right? You cannot simply state your opinion as a fact. I bet you know this already.

    You: Somehow, nothing here seems to match up to that waterfall in Part 1.

    Me: I totally agree with you.

    You: self-indulgent posing about he does
    Me: Or simply confident and sure of himself?

    You:betrays her man’s Oedipus complex
    Me: Seriously?????? Do you even understand what this term means? Are you telling me that as per the story shown to us on screen, Amarendra Bahubali desires to have sex with his own mother? If thats your interpretation of the movie then you are probably mentally sick. Ever wondered?

    You: And Subba Raju playing Devasena’s beau Kumara Varma is so bad, he should be declared a threat to society.
    Me: These sort of extremely silly and worthless comments in your review, cast serious doubts on your ability to review any film.

    You: The extras in every single scene – soldiers, courtiers and subjects – seem to be competing with the memorably howlarious bit-part players of the black-and-white era
    Me: Again. Your comments are so silly and worthless. Do you even know how many extras were in the movie? Have you genuinely reviewed each and every extra's acting in this movie before you comment on this? Was there any need to comment on the extras? You are just spiteful.. are you not?

    You: The black-denotes-evil cliché was exacerbated by its white-is-glamorous conviction.
    Me: So Prabhas/Ahushak Shetty/ Satyaraj are white??????? Doesnt this show your own racial bias and how narrow minded you are. So If according to you Prabhas is White then is rana black?? What the hell are you even talking about? Such a bigot you are.. Caught red handed...are you not?

    You: There is so much else that is troubling in Rajamouli’s worldview

    Me: And do you claim to know his world view? Have you spoken to him about it or lectured him? May be you can teach him the craft of film making as per the "correct world view".

    You: the undisputed right of the Kshatriya to rule
    Me: Do you understand the terms "mythological", "period film", "fantasy film" ? Did he personally tell you that a Kshatriya should rule India and the world right now too? who according to you is a Kshatriya? can you enlighten us?

    You: does Rana take off his shirt (in the film, as he has for the posters)? Answer: yes he does

    Me: I can only say, shame on you for being such a bigoted woman. You sound like a pseudo feminist who just lusts after good looking men who take off their clothes on screen. Your opinion is probably not worth 2 cents to most of the readers.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anna---What happened? That was the first thing which struck me when I read this review of yours. I have been following your reviews (both print as well on TV) for years, and I have found your deconstruction of the often sexist, chauvinistic and misogynistic portrayals in our cinema, to be hard hitting and generally extremely well thought out.

    Which brings me to the utter bewilderment I felt when I read this review. I was completely baffled when I read it over 10 days ago, but refrained from posting any feedback on it as I certainly did not want my comment to be mistaken for/ clubbed with the storm of vitriol you were enduring at the time. But while I stand completely opposed to the kind of venomous rhetoric you have been subjected to for expressing your point of view, I must state, in all good conscience, that this review of yours was a far cry from the perceptive and analytical take one has come to expect from you.

    Let me at the outset itself state, that while I loved both Baahubali--The Beginning & Baahubali--The Conclusion; to my mind, neither is a 'perfect' film. It is debatable if there is even such a thing as a 'perfect' movie in the first place; There are always some tropes/cliches used in any film, which make you quirk an eyebrow, even if momentarily. But the hallmark of a truly great film is (IMHO) if it makes you accept those tropes; see them perhaps, as acceptable within the frame of the ethos/mood the movie is set in. I was simply blown away by the grandeur and breadth of Rajamouli’s imagination here.

    Which is not to say that there were no blemishes whatsoever. For example, I found myself largely in agreement with your reservations/ condemnation of the scene in the first film, where Shivudu goes about 'rearranging' Avanthika's clothing and goes so far as 'apply makeup' on her with berry juice and various other 'natural ingredients' to make her appear 'more feminine'. It was narrow minded, sexist and playing to the stereotypical, atavistic attitude of what some men, unfortunately, treat the wooing process as. However, there too, I did feel that your interpretation that it 'romanticized rape' amounted to a trivialization of the horrendous and awful crime that rape is. There was a wonderful article posted on firstpost by Sweta Ramakrishnan, which, if you haven't read it yet, you really should. I feel you certainly would appreciate the perspective it contained, though you might not agree with it completely. ( http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/why-the-love-scene-between-prabhas-and-tamannah-in-baahubali-is-not-rape-2373868.html )

    I find myself quite a bit in agreement with that article, which expressed discomfort and disagreement with the scene where Shivudu 'dresses' Avanthika, but pointed out that it was incorrect to term it as rape. If I may be so bold as to paste the relevant sections of a very perceptive article in my next post:

    ReplyDelete
  9. I quote:

    "" Of course it’s chauvinistic to say a woman needs to be feminine, that she needs a man to discover her ‘inner beauty’, that a man marking her as his is her ultimate sringaar. There's a very strong case to be made about how we sexualize and the beauty standards we set for female heroines and women in general, through cinema. But is this rape?

    Conversations about sexual consent need to happen in India and it’s great that writers like Vetticad discuss these issues. However, with the surging interest in women’s rights and violence against women since the infamous Delhi rape case, words like rape have also become something of click bait. It’s a term that attracts attention, and encourages anger and outrage among many today. This is a good thing. It’s certainly better than associating rape with shame and silence, as it has traditionally. But let’s not use the word rape casually.

    Rape is a crime in which one person forces another to commit or submit to sexual acts without consent on the victim/ survivor’s part. Even if you think the swashbuckling Avanthika is incapable of resisting Shiva physically, the scene in which she’s stripped and re-dressed is not a sexual act. That comes afterwards – during the song sequence when a thoroughly willing Avanthika rolls in the grass with Shiva. In the offending scene, Shiva is seen leaping around, dressing Avanthika and doing her make-up in a frenzy. That’s more like being backstage at a runway show than in a romance.""

    Unquote

    I would think a writer like you who values dissent and freedom of expression, would go through this well written article to see how that scene, while undeniably very poorly conceptualized, sexist and condemnable, was not rape.

    Anyway, now to move on to your review of Baahubali--The Conclusion. Somehow, from the word go, I got the feeling that you had sat through the movie, never once trying to immerse yourself in the world which Rajamouli had so painstakingly crafted, but all the time jotting down points to object to and critique. A film like this, set in a mytho--historical space, and in the epic--fantasy genre, needs (as you yourself accepted) a certain suspension of disbelief. You need to evaluate and analyze such a film with your heart as much (or perhaps even more so) as your mind.

    I don't expect you to leave your thinking cap behind, but would it really have hurt so much so soak in the sheer poetry and powerful historical/mythological references which the movie richly depicted? Did you never get swept up in the intricacy and compelling nature of the drama unfolding on screen, the way it harked back to the Pandava--Kaurava dynamic, the way some of our tales portray the Arjuna--Draupadi--Karna interplay of emotions?

    ReplyDelete
  10. When you talk about 'closeted conservatism', 'disturbing romanticisation of social status-quoism' and the 'undisputed right of the Kshatriya to rule'---are you not forgetting the fact that this is a film set in a historical time frame? From all indications given in the films (as well as in the book spin off, 'The Rise of Sivagami'), we know that the period it is loosely set in, dates to about the 7th/8th Centuries C.E. Assuming the 5th to the 10th centuries C.E as a safe bandwidth, one is obviously going to have portrayals of monarchy, of a ruling class, of people deifying the ruler/being subservient to them, of war narratives. What would have been unrealistic for this setting, would have been to show a democracy or a completely egalitarian society on a nation wide scale. (Mind you, they did show Amarendra Baahubali organizing a kind of limited local self government while he was in exile!).

    Also, I don't know what you saw/heard in the Hindi dubbed version, but the Tamil film I saw contained no dialogue referencing the 'undisputed kshatriya right to rule'. Rather, there was a dialogue between Amarendra Baahubali and Kumara Varma, where Amarendra tells him about the duties of a Kshatriya (as was tacitly indicated, was understood in those times)---of showing valor, protecting one's people, not giving way to fear. Of course, harking back to caste identities in a modern India is not judicious, correct or desirable. But surely, you do see that one cannot retrofit current sensibilities---valid and undeniable though they are---to a *period film*, set in a time where warrior clans were generally kshatriyas?

    Besides, if one really has to analyse the 'caste angle' supposedly shown in the movie, it would not have escaped your notice that the chief antagonists---shown to be Machiavellian, evil and malicious--comprise Bhallaladeva and Bhijjaladeva--Kshatriyas, are they not? Not to mention a slyly conniving priest and a minister who are partisans of Bhalla---who, going by 'caste based logic', could probably be assumed to be Brahmins? I therefore don't see how this movie glorifies the caste system at all. If anything, it unambiguously highlights that famous quote from the 'Harry Potter' books: "It is our actions that make us what we are, not our abilities". And taking that quote further, it is the actions of the characters in the film that make them heroic antagonists or vile antagonists---not the accident of their birth into a particular strata of society.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Plus, I need to ask you this, did the performances really strike as you as being so bad as to deserve the headline 'terrible acting'? OK, you may have found some performances over the top or hamming. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all. But to uniformly tag the performances casually as 'terrible acting', was, IMHO, not justified and rather reductive. Not at all in keeping with your usually analytical review style.

    Lastly, I really don't see how you drew the conclusion that Amarendra Baahubali has an oedipus complex? Did you miss the scene wherehe stood up in unambiguous terms to Sivagami, telling her she was wrong (in forcing Devasena to marry Bhalla)? Normally, it portrayals of the 'good son' in our movies, one would have expected to see him ‘obediently' going all self sacrificial, and ‘giving up’ his love, to ensure family harmony. But Amarendra did two things---he never tried to impose on on reduce Devasena's sense of self, her agency and right to make decisions for herself; nor did he ever unjustly rally to his mother's side against his wife. Wherefrom the allegation of his supposed 'Oedipus complex'?

    In this film, Amarendra obviously adores his adoptive mother---she is the only parental figure he has ever known, and the only one in his immediate family who genuinely cares for him. Is it not understandable that he should show immense filial love for her? But I never got the feeling that an oedipal complex was involved here---perhaps, it was owing to you *wanting* to see that angle and thereby critique the movie, that you imagined it thus?

    And at least in the Tamil version of the 'Kanna nee thoongu da' song where Devasena and her companions/ ladies in waiting dance and sing before the idol of Shri Krishna, the feel of the song was more of indulgent/affectionate gopis singing to Kanha, lovingly soothing him to sleep. I did not see where or why this should be construed as a 'maternal' song; and for conclusions/parallels of a supposed oedipal complex, to be drawn for the listening Amarendra. By that logic, so many movies have shown one of the leads caring for the other when (s)he was extremely unwell. Are we to assume that this is a paternal/ maternal gesture? Do spouses not take care of each other, soothe each other, strive to lull each other to a blissful, restful slumber if in temporary discomfort or pain?

    It all depends on point of view, and frankly, Anna, with all due respect, you seem to have *chosen* to take a very jaundiced view of the film when a much more favorable interpretation was the more obvious (and correct) one.

    I will sign off by saying this again---you have every right to your opinion, as does every one who sees the film. But I really wish that you had shown some more objectivity in judging the film for what it was, the period and ethos it was set in; rather than excoriate it for not matching up to modern/ contemporary sensibilities and mores which are not precisely relevant for the period this film was obviously set in.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anna---What happened? That was the first thing which struck me when I read this review of yours. I have been following your reviews (both print as well on TV) for years, and I have found your deconstruction of the often sexist, chauvinistic and misogynistic portrayals in our cinema, to be hard hitting and generally extremely well thought out.

    Which brings me to the utter bewilderment I felt when I read this review. I was completely baffled when I read it over 10 days ago, but refrained from posting any feedback on it as I certainly did not want my comment to be mistaken for/ clubbed with the storm of vitriol you were enduring at the time. But while I stand completely opposed to the kind of venomous rhetoric you have been subjected to for expressing your point of view, I must state, in all good conscience, that this review of yours was a far cry from the perceptive and analytical take one has come to expect from you.

    Let me at the outset itself state, that while I loved both Baahubali--The Beginning & Baahubali--The Conclusion; to my mind, neither is a 'perfect' film. It is debatable if there is even such a thing as a 'perfect' movie in the first place; There are always some tropes/cliches used in any film, which make you quirk an eyebrow, even if momentarily. But the hallmark of a truly great film is (IMHO) if it makes you accept those tropes; see them perhaps, as acceptable within the frame of the ethos/mood the movie is set in. I was simply blown away by the grandeur and breadth of Rajamouli’s imagination here.

    Which is not to say that there were no blemishes whatsoever. For example, I found myself largely in agreement with your reservations/ condemnation of the scene in the first film, where Shivudu goes about 'rearranging' Avanthika's clothing and goes so far as 'apply makeup' on her with berry juice and various other 'natural ingredients' to make her appear 'more feminine'. It was narrow minded, sexist and playing to the stereotypical, atavistic attitude of what some men, unfortunately, treat the wooing process as. However, there too, I did feel that your interpretation that it 'romanticized rape' amounted to a trivialization of the horrendous and awful crime that rape is. There was a wonderful article posted on firstpost by Sweta Ramakrishnan, which, if you haven't read it yet, you really should. I feel you certainly would appreciate the perspective it contained, though you might not agree with it completely. ( http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/why-the-love-scene-between-prabhas-and-tamannah-in-baahubali-is-not-rape-2373868.html )

    I find myself quite a bit in agreement with that article, which expressed discomfort and disagreement with the scene where Shivudu 'dresses' Avanthika, but pointed out that it was incorrect to term it as rape. If I may be so bold as to paste the relevant sections of a very perceptive article in my next post below:

    ReplyDelete
  13. I quote:

    "" Of course it’s chauvinistic to say a woman needs to be feminine, that she needs a man to discover her ‘inner beauty’, that a man marking her as his is her ultimate sringaar. There's a very strong case to be made about how we sexualize and the beauty standards we set for female heroines and women in general, through cinema. But is this rape?

    Conversations about sexual consent need to happen in India and it’s great that writers like Vetticad discuss these issues. However, with the surging interest in women’s rights and violence against women since the infamous Delhi rape case, words like rape have also become something of click bait. It’s a term that attracts attention, and encourages anger and outrage among many today. This is a good thing. It’s certainly better than associating rape with shame and silence, as it has traditionally. But let’s not use the word rape casually.

    Rape is a crime in which one person forces another to commit or submit to sexual acts without consent on the victim/ survivor’s part. Even if you think the swashbuckling Avanthika is incapable of resisting Shiva physically, the scene in which she’s stripped and re-dressed is not a sexual act. That comes afterwards – during the song sequence when a thoroughly willing Avanthika rolls in the grass with Shiva. In the offending scene, Shiva is seen leaping around, dressing Avanthika and doing her make-up in a frenzy. That’s more like being backstage at a runway show than in a romance.""

    Unquote

    I would think a writer like you who values dissent and freedom of expression, would go through this well written article to see how that scene, while undeniably very poorly conceptualized, sexist and condemnable, was not rape.

    Anyway, now to move on to your review of Baahubali--The Conclusion. Somehow, from the word go, I got the feeling that you had sat through the movie, never once trying to immerse yourself in the world which Rajamouli had so painstakingly crafted, but all the time jotting down points to object to and critique. A film like this, set in a mytho--historical space, and in the epic--fantasy genre, needs (as you yourself accepted) a certain suspension of disbelief. You need to evaluate and analyze such a film with your heart as much (or perhaps even more so) as your mind.

    I don't expect you to leave your thinking cap behind, but would it really have hurt so much so soak in the sheer poetry and powerful historical/mythological references which the movie richly depicted? Did you never get swept up in the intricacy and compelling nature of the drama unfolding on screen, the way it harked back to the Pandava--Kaurava dynamic, the way some of our tales portray the Arjuna--Draupadi--Karna interplay of emotions?

    (Con't below in next post)

    ReplyDelete
  14. When you talk about 'closeted conservatism', 'disturbing romanticisation of social status-quoism' and the 'undisputed right of the Kshatriya to rule'---are you not forgetting the fact that this is a film set in a historical time frame? From all indications given in the films (as well as in the book spin off, 'The Rise of Sivagami'), we know that the period it is loosely set in, dates to about the 7th/8th Centuries CE. Even if one assumes the 5th to the 10th centuries as a safe bandwidth, one is obviously going to have portrayals of monarchy, of a ruling class, of people deifying the ruler/being subservient to them, of war narratives. What would have been unrealistic for this setting, would have been to show a democracy or a completely egalitarian society on a nation wide scale. (Mind you, they did show Amrendra Baahubali organizing a kind of limited local self government while he was in exile!). Also, I don't know what you saw/heard in the Hindi dubbed version, but the Tamil film I saw contained no dialogue referencing the 'undisputed kshatriya right to rule'. Rather, there was a dialogue between Amarendra Baahubali and Kumara Varma, where Amarendra tells him about the duties of a Kshatriya (as was tacitly indicated, was understood in those times)---of showing valor, protecting one's people, not giving way to fear. Of course, to hark back to caste identities in a modern India is not judicious, correct or desirable. But surely, you do see that one cannot retrofit current sensibilities---valid and undeniable though they are---to a *period film*, set in a time where warrior clans were generally kshatriyas?

    Besides, if one really has to analyse the 'caste angle' supposedly shown in the movie, it would not have escaped your notice that the antagonists---shown to be Machiavellian, evil and malicious--comprise Bhallaladeva and Bhijjaladeva--Kshatriyas, are they not? Not to mention a slyly conniving priest and a minister who are partisans of Bhalla---who, going by 'caste based logic', may probably be assumed to be Brahmins? I therefore don't see how this movie glorifies the case structure at all. If anything, it unambiguously highlights that famous quote from the 'Harry Potter' books: "It is our actions that make us what we are, not our abilities". And taking that quote further, it is the actions of the characters in the film that make them heroic antagonists or vile antagonists---not the accident of their birth into a particular strata of society.

    Plus, I need to ask you this, did the performances really strike as you as being so bad as to deserve the headline 'terrible acting'? OK, you may have found some performances over the top or hamming. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all. But to uniformly tag the performances casually as 'terrible acting', was, IMHO, not justified and rather reductive. Not at all in keeping with your usually analytical review style.

    (Con't below in next post)

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  15. Lastly, I really don't see how you drew the conclusion that Amarendra Baahubali has an oedipus complex? Did you miss the scene where he stood up in unambiguous terms to Sivagami, telling her she was wrong (in forcing Devasena to marry Bhalla)? Normally, it portrayals of the 'good son' in our movies, one would have expected to him ‘obediently' going all self sacrificial, and ‘giving up’ his love, to ensure family harmony. But Amarendra did two things---he never tried to impose on on reduce Devasena's sense of self, her agency and right to make decisions for herself; nor did he ever unjustly rally to his mother's side against his wife. Wherefrom the allegation of his supposed 'Oedipus complex'?

    In this film, Amarendra obviously adores his adoptive mother---she is the only parental figure he has ever known, and the only one in his immediate family who genuinely cares for him. Is it not understandable that he should show immense filial love for her? But I never got the feeling that an oedipal complex was involved here---perhaps, it was owing to you *wanting* to see that angle here and thereby critique the movie, that you imagined it thus?

    And at least in the Tamil version of the 'Kanna nee thoongu da' song where Devasena and her companions/ ladies in waiting dance and sing before the idol of Shri Krishna, the feel of the song was more of indulgent/affectionate gopis singing to Kanha, lovingly soothing him to sleep. I did not see where this should be construed as a 'maternal' song, for conclusions and parallels of a supposed oedipal complex, to be drawn for the listening Amarendra. By that logic, so many movies have shown one of the leads caring for the other when (s)he was extremely unwell. Are we to assume that this is a paternal/ maternal gesture? Do spouses not take care of each other, soothe each other, strive to lull each other to a blissful, restful slumber if in temporary discomfort or pain? It all depends on point of view, and frankly, Anna, with all due respect, you seem to have *chosen* to take a very jaundiced view of the film when a much more favorable interpretation was the more obvious one.

    I will sign off by saying this again---you have every right to your opinion, as does every one who sees the film. But I really wish that you had shown some more objectivity in judging the film for what it was, the period and ethos it was set in; rather than excoriate it for not matching up to modern/ contemporary sensibilities and mores which are not very relevant for the period this film was obviously set in.

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