Grand, majestic, magical, path-breaking – these are the few adjectives used by fans and the media to describe director SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus that released on Friday worldwide to an unparalleled response. It was a rare sight to see a houseful board outside single screen theatres, in spite of releasing on a record number of screens across the country. Rajamouli has taken a simple story of envy and rivalry between two warring brothers and turned it into India’s one of the biggest film franchise. We have seen this story play out on the big screen several times and in different timelines. But, the presentation of this age-old story is what makes Baahubali 2 the biggest motion picture in India.
Well, reviewing the film, many critics have lauded Prabhas’s performance in the film. The actor plays a double role in the film, including the titular role. And, yes all the appreciation he has been getting is well deserved, given that he spent last four years on this movie. (He has a track record of releasing at least two films a year). But, it is surprising that Rana Daggubati’s role in the film as Bhallaladeva has eluded the attention of the critics. I found Bhallaladeva the most fascinating among all characters in the film. Baahubali’s charms have overshadowed Bhallaladeva in the minds of the audience. Let’s face it, the characterisation of Baahubali is very plain and simple. We have seen such roles from the time cinema came into being. He is an epitome of honesty, love, valour and decency. And he is boring. It is always the bad guys (people who are honest to their instincts) in a story that make things interesting.
Bhallaladeva was always ready to kill to ascend the throne of Mahishmati. And unlike his father Bijjaladeva, he was neither a cripple nor was his character weak (at least in the beginning). He was a strong, confident and ruthless warrior and had the unquenching desire for power. The only and main quality Bhallaladeva lacked is compassion, which made him lose the throne to Baahubali. In the first part, his character showed grey spots but the sequel chronicles his progression into darkness. His desire for power takes him down a treacherous path and pushes him to do hideous things to achieve his goal. But, the way he achieves his desire, deprives him of people’s respect and love, which leaves a great void in him. Despite having everything, he feels like he has nothing. And begins to do darker things. In a defining moment in Baahubali 2, Bhallaladeva loses his sanity completely and embrace the darkness and transforms into a fully hateful character. Until, that moment he deserved the benefit of the doubt, maybe, just maybe, he would have made a decent king, if people had accepted him as one.
Although the essence of Baahubali series is enmity between two brothers, writer KV Vijayendra Prasad has convincingly established that even noble people tend to become blind to the truth and forget to be just, when their egos get hurt. It just makes them human. He has also handled big ideas very well. Like, who is the real king? The one who sits on the throne or the one who commands people’s undivided love and respect?
Baahubali was a good man and he died the same. Bhallaladeva did not have the best of virtues from the beginning. His actions were guided by basic human emotions such as jealousy, envy, desire and loneliness. And eventually, he dies as a lovelorn and evil dictator. He is the only character that achieves such a huge transformation through the course of two films.