For those recently new to Bollywood, S. S. Rajamouli's 2009 action drama Magadheera may have been an introduction to the Telugu film industry. The heroic love story featuring a brave and valiant soldier who fought for his king and lady love against a hundred men and won ... sort of.
It should come as no surprise that after the success of that film, S. S. Rajamouli has taken the epic vision he first laid out in Magadheera to another level. With the release of epic adventure film Baahubali: The Beginning the characters are larger than life and the story is bigger, bolder and full of more fighting men than you can count.
You've got to hand it to S. S. Rajamouli and the Telugu film industry - they do epic well.
While the film contains some physics-defying leaps, lifts, and lobs as well as some readily apparent CGI and green screen, the stars, sets, music and story manage to successfully transport you to a different time and place filled with strong women, strong men, and battle-ready armies.
The story begins with the tale of an infant rescued from a river who is adopted and grows into the strong and handsome young man Shivudu (Prabhas). He loves his mother but feels drawn to find out what exists at the top of the waterfalls near his village. After numerous failed attempts to get to the top of the falls, he succeeds and there he finds Avantika (Tamannaah) the woman of his dreams.
It turns out, she and her tribe are fighting against the evil king of the Mahishmathi kingdom Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati). King Bhallala Deva captured queen Devasena (Anushka Shetty) and has kept her in chains in the public square for the past 25 years.
While Shivudu is focused on wooing Avantika, she is sent on a mission to rescue Devasena. Avantika is nearly captured en route to the Mahishmathi kingdom. Shivudu steps in and a fight and avalanche later, he insists on carrying out Avantika's mission himself. This fulfills Devansena's long-held belief that her long lost son would one day rescue her, for unbeknownst to Shivudu, he is the son of Devansena.
Shivudu succeeds in rescuing Devansena but they are nearly killed by the Mahishmathi guard in their escape. When slave warrior Kattappa (Sathyaraj) recognizes Shivudu as the son of Baahubali, he narrates the story of how Bhallala Deva and Baahubali grew up together as brothers in the royal palace. The two matured under the watchful eye of Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), who ruled the kingdom until they were old enough and one could be chosen as the next king. When the enemy kingdom of the Kalkeyas goes to war against Mahishmathi, the two men have a chance to show their true nature and suitability to sit on the throne.
Thus begins the epic battle sequence featuring strategy of sword, shield, spear and catapult - where each of the princes displays their clever war tactics and love for their kingdom. In the end, Bhallala Deva wins the battle but Baahubali wins the throne.
After hearing Kattappa's story, Shivudu yearns to meet his father King Baahubali. But with tear-filled eyes, Kattappa explains that Baahubali is dead - killed by Kattappa himself.
This is only the first part of a two-part film. You'll have to wait until 2016 to watch Baahubali: The Conclusion and find out how Baahubali and Devansena came together, why Kattapa killed Baahubali, and whether Shivudu will unite with Avantika and claim the throne (my guess is yes).
Writing, designing and filming this epic fictional story required quite a bit of imagination. S. S. Rajamouli claims the Mahabharata and Amar Chitra Katha comics as the inspiration for this story. In an Indian Express article, he explained:
My father had introduced me to these comics at a young age. Ever since then, I’ve been living in this world of larger than life characters. I love fantasy, history, folklore and mythology. I dabbled a little with these genres in my previous films. The success of those films gave us confidence to make "Baahubali".
Putting aside the moniker as the "most expensive Indian film" to date, the reason the often told tale of king-and-usurper-and-lost-heritage-regained works can be found in the telling. With strong characters, striking set design and beautiful cinematography, S.S. Rajamouli's telling of this tale of two brothers is an epic treat.
Find out more about this film in the following playlist which features the trailers and making of videos.
Baahubali: The Beginning Posters
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