If you’re looking for the answer to one of this year’s most eagerly asked questions – ‘Why did Katappa kill Baahubali?’, I’m sorry to disappoint as you’re not going to find the answer here as I’m keeping this review completely spoiler-free.
That’s a good thing too, because telling you the answer to that query would be a great disservice to the bravura storytelling on display in SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, the follow-up to 2015’s Baahubali: The Beginning.
It is truly refreshing to see a big-budget Indian epic that for once puts it’s focus on the storytelling rather than using it commendable budget on yet another ambitious yet poorly executed action sequence with truly horrid implementation of CG (One needs to only turn to recent films from director Sankar to understand what I’m referring to). Don’t get me wrong, Baahubali 2 does have it’s fair share of such sequences but the strength of the storyline and the complete earnestness of the film makes you overlook the flaws and appreciate the film for its achievements.
Picking up where the first film left off, Baahubali 2 is in fact, a prequel of sorts, as it delves into the story of Amarendra Baahubali and why, in fact, Katappa, his once-loyal Chief-of-Guard/Friend ended up killing him. I’m not going to go any further into the plot here as I’ll leave it to you to discover the film’s surprises for yourself.
Now, I must preface my thoughts by saying that while I really liked Baahubali: The Beginning, I couldn’t help but feel that it’s strengths (which include a glorious final battle sequence) was hampered quite a bit by really uneven pacing in the first half, an unnecessary romance (made even worse by Tammanah’s acting) and an item song that was so obviously shoehorned in.
Thankfully however, the sequel rectifies ever single one of the aforementioned flaws (except for the shoehorned song bit), resulting in a film that is far more enthralling and confident in it’s storytelling than it’s predecessor. In fact, an hour into this film, I realized that I hadn’t noticed how much time had passed as i was engrossed in the truly captivating story that was unfolding onscreen. Even the film’s romance sub-plot between Baahubali Sr. (Prabhas) and Devasena (Played by Anushka Shetty) isn’t just window dressing and is actually well-developed and given enough time to breathe. That’s not all, this is perhaps one of the only big-budget Indian films where I’ve seen proper story arcs given to even the smallest of side-characters, which is such a breath of fresh air.
This is further elevated by Anushka Shetty’s excellent performance as Devasena, making it a relationship to actually root for rather than roll your eyes at. In fact, the same goes for the all the relationships portrayed in the film. Be it between the Queen Mother Sivagami (a truly electric performance from Ramya Krishnan) and either of her sons or Baahubali’s relationship with Katappa himself (A role that Satyaraj goes leaps and bounds towards making his own), the character interactions in this film make for some of the best sequences in this big-budget action epic, all thanks to a strong screenplay (written by Director SS Rajamouli’s father V. Rajendra Prasad). Prabhas himself does great work in the film, bringing across the likeable-but-badass personality of Amarendra Baahubali remarkably well.
While most of the action sequences are top-notch ( a particular standout being a Battle of Helms Deep-esque battle where Baahubali and Devasena team-up using only arrows to fight), The film isn’t without its flaws. There is still some shoddy implementation of VFX to be found as well as some sequences that uses Physics like a doormat (One sequence in particular reminded me a lot of the mechanics of the Angry Birds video game). Yes, the over-the-top nature of the film should make such sequences unsurprising but a certain narrative tension is definitely lost due to this, which is a shame. Another thing I felt was that, due to the prequel nature of the film and 90% of the film being focused on Amarendra Baahubali (The Father), there is little to no character development for Mahendra Baahubali (The Son) which made me feel a little underwhelmed by the final battle, featuring the latter with an ending that feels thoroughly abrupt.
It’s like this – in a movie like The Lion King (Don’t scoff. The Lion King is one of the best films ever made, animated or otherwise), we root for Simba in his final battle with Scar because we’ve spent an ample amount of time both with him and his father, Mufasa, that he wants to avenge. It wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if we’d only spent time with Mufasa and very little with Simba, which is effectively what has happened here.
Now, I’m making it sound more egregious than it actually is but I can’t help but wonder how much better this franchise would’ve been if the storytelling had been presented in a linear fashion rather than the non-linear style that director SS Rajamouli has opted to go with.
All that said, Baahubali 2 is still an epic piece of entertainment that doesn’t let its flaws detract from the overall experience. It is without a doubt, the best big-budget film to come out of India and hopefully, will inspire other big budget filmmakers to use their budgets to service a great story. With this franchise and 2012’s Eega, SS Rajamouli has cemented himself as one of the most ambitious and imaginative directors in the country and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. (Fingers crossed for a multi-part Mahabharata series)
Rating: 8.0 / 10