The trailer for Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is out and buzzing nonstop since yesterday. On April 28, the much-awaited sequel simultaneously releases in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam. In 2015, Baahubali: The Beginning became not only the highest grossing Telugu movie of all time but the first Hindi-dubbed release to cross the Rs 100 crore mark, clearly commanding a mainstream, pan-India viewership with few parallels and global ambitions.
Variously referred to by reviewers as the “stuff of blockbusters” and “fantastic bang for the buck”, director S S Rajamouli skillfully blended in it old school palace politics with sophisticated, state-of-the-art VFX – thus making new inroads into the fantasy blockbuster category that has by and large eluded Indian productions.
The change from Eurocentrism in a production of this scale was a breath of fresh air too. Instead of disguising an excuse of a story for the sake of graphic effects, Baahubali for the most part was supported by a detailed and meticulously written plot which rendered the whole visual experience meaningful. The wait for the sequel for its fans is driven, not by an empty visual “dekho” for the scale and spectacle, but a real cliffhanger: why did Kattappa kill prince Baahubali?
Undoubtedly, with its tropes of a kingdom under siege, kings and queens, brothers turned enemies, flashbacks and epic war sequences, the movie was easily reminiscent of the Mahabharat epic. The mythological themes in it are familiar in the glossary of tropes in Telugu and other South Indian cinemas. Star Rana Daggubati had compared Baahubali’s Indianness in its culture and war sequences with the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s success in exporting Chinese mythology internationally. Yet, Baahubali resonated both ways also because it managed to deftly tell a universal tale of adventure and romance, love and betrayal, valour and weakness. As Mike McCahill wrote in his review of the film for The Guardian: “The eponymous hero combines many legends for the price of one. Plucked from a river, the infant Baahubali could be Moses; shifting a stone shrine several hundred feet, his teenage self is as hefty as Hercules; swinging from vines so as to climb the waterfall his village sits under, he’s as romantic a figure as Tarzan.”
Telling a tale as old as the hill that Sivu (Prabhas) wants to climb, the strength of Rajamouli’s delivery lay in a fresh delivery with epic, modern proportions. A new rehash of the old Indian with a universal heart: this could be an enduring blockbuster outline for the Indian film industry to revisit going forward.