Baahubali - SS Rajamouli And Me
Yes, it has been a privilege to know SSR for a long time and be a friend of his. I will talk about it later as the point of this post is not that.
Tuesday night I watched baahubali. Watched it with family. As a dear friend of SSR, I should have watched it at the pre-screen show or atleast on the day of its release. I did not do that. Why ? He knows that I have banned and abandoned the telugu movies for 17+ years. Well, it’s a ban on telugu movies only. Hollywood has gotten my money twice a week if not once. So. Anyways coming back to tollywood - SSR never forced me to watch any of his either. Until my wife wife broke my ban telugu movies vrata by forcing me to go with her and watch pawan kalyan’s attaarintiki daaredi. It was not SSR’s. But, I was impressed after 17 years. About the state of telugu movies.
Any ways, back to baahubali - It was 6.45 PM tuesday night and right in the middle of dinner I put the proposal on table, that we will go watch baahubali at 8.15. My wife right away rejected the proposal. I said why ? I hope you know the price of the tickets, was her answer. I smiled. No smiles needed, lets go out for a stroll after dinner and that will be healthy was the second note she threw at me. I was on my last mouthful of "maagAyi" and the windpipe jolted with her answer. But being an angel, she gave me water and hit on my head three times just like my mom and said, someone is thinking about you. I instantly knew who was thinking of me. It was SSR.
I said, ok, its baahubali that is thinking of me so lets go see him. I usually donot say anything twice. Most of the time I agree with her and keep her happy. She heard the second bell which does not happen often and said ok, right away. You will have to cut down your star bucks for couple weeks to make up for the movie money she said. I said yes, I will. There were few, just handful in the theater.
Couple lines about my pick of the movie day - If I ever want to go watch a movie, I pick tuesday for the reason that it is just outside the border of the monday madness and most of the telugu people will not go to movies on tuesday nights. They will be couch potatoes on tuesday as if to get relief from the mad rush monday days. The fact is there is RUSH MONDAY. No mad monday. Though we all work the same way and donot feel any difference between the amount of work every day of the week we just go with the flow of the colleague folk who say Uggh! Monday. It’s a well known fact. To me, Monday is no different than Friday or Wednesday or Thursday or any day. I work the same and not complain. Ok! Two lines done! Cut Cut Cut! Now back to the movie.
Started off silently. And then a bang happens. Sivagami standing under the waterfall and the visual of her looking up was stunning. That SHOT will linger with me for a long time to come. Right away marcus bartley came to my mind. What a stunning camera man he was! This was on par with his shots. The death of sivagami and survival of sivudu was too melodramatic and far from reality, but hey, it’s a fiction and top of it it’s a telugu movie. What else you would expect. I heard sighs around me in the theater and couple of giggles toned with murmurs of how ridiculous it is to see a dead woman’s hand in water, up in the air giving life to sivudu. What they, the murmerers donot know, for that matter I donot know either, if Sivagami will come back to life in the “conclusion”. The giggles and murmurs calmed down and the damsel descended after a beautiful mask sequence. And boy it was another memorable shot while tamanna avantik”awed” the movie goer in me. Though the blue butterflies were lousy CGI attempt, she stood tall, voluptuous and gracious in her white costume. Blue butterflies were at the bottom and were ignored by my eye.
Avantika reminded me of tauriel. Of Evangeline lilly. While lilly is beautiful, as beautiful as tamanna, she has a hard model look and cannot get expressive which is not the case with tamanna. Avantika delivered in initial encounters. Her anger, her sadness, her flamboyance, her speech were complimenting each other in quite a few frames. Tauriel costumes match avantika’s but avantika scores a 10 over tauriel. Her bow handling skill fell short for a visual. If you are into bows, you will notice that her stance and the arrow followthrough are a disaster. Tauriel scores 5 over avantika here.
Now to sivudu. Sivudu impressed with the sivalingam on his shoulders. That body rocked. I bet many young ladies would have thrown away all their boyfriends, imaginary or otherwise for this lion. His encounter with the waterfalls and the looking ups at the waterfall were not that impressive though. Visually something was missing by the time sivudu looked up at the waterfalls and beyond. No where near sivagami shot though. Tanikella bharani’s character as ganachari guru was a joke as was his make up. A real homeless man with real beard from any of our temple steps would have done the job and it would have felt real. Tanikella Bharani should have been used more wisely. Having said that chalapathi rao should have been used more wisely too.
By this time since sivudu has proven his sivalingam carrying abilities, we know his shoulder strength. That gave life to the avalanche frame and kept the aha movie goer moment. It was a very good CGI. The avalanche part of it. More than sivudu, avantika excelled here in this frame with an expression. But a hero is hero and he will remain one. And that’s a proven thing in films, and especially is telugu films. Sivudu was cool headed and so the frame survived. By the way CGI on the fish – tattoo sequence, snake – tattoo sequence was cool.
Bhallaladeva reminded me of Richard Kiel - body frame wise. He is tall, well built with broad shoulders just like his babai venkatesh. His intro frame was cool. He was well projected initially. It turned upside down soon. With the entry of the bull. The bull was a nonsense. Utter non-sense CGI. Did you watch little Krishna video animation series ? That comparatively had much better CGI. How ever to compensate that nonsensical CGI offered, senthil could have take that shot in dark, or evening hours just to mask the bull. He probably wanted bhallaladeva in light, to show the powered darkness in him. It miserably failed for the movie goer in me. Or senthil might have been in the dark for the fact that the CGI was added later to floor his shot. Pottelu punnamma real action fares better here. Or for that matter couple of super star Krishna, sobhan babu movies where they fight with bulls had much better frameshots. What ever it was Bhallaladeva did not gain momentum with in my heart even with the push senthil gave him.
Aslam khan entry as a arm dealer was no surprise and sudeep fit well into it. He had some nice shots at acting and he fared well. But the highlight of that frame was kattappa’s destruction of the Persian sword. And it is intended to be that way. To project kattappa as the great warrior lord or the guardian of throne. If not for that visibly poor make up Satyaraj was impeccable. Both in action and delivery. I remember him from way back when, well, from when I was into movies 2 decades ago. I donot remember the movie name, but I remember a shot of him, an excellent one where he does push ups and lets the heroine sit on his back while he was exercising. That was a novel shot. And I was so impressed with him that I wanted to do that shot myself, which never happened ofcourse. Cut Cut Cut! Back to movie.
The leader of avantika’s group was another wasted character. Just because the actor was not able to deliver the goods. He wanted to do it passionately, I am sure, but it never converted to it on stage. Atleast to me that is. In good olden days, baalayya or prabhakar reddy would have fit that role perfectly and executed perfectly too. How ever the cave set was perfect. The details they put into that set are wonderful.
Sivudu comes into the kingdom and things happen. Devasena’s make up was lousy. As lousy as superstar krishna’s make up in mOsagALLaku mOsagALLu desert scene. Why could they not do a decent job, after a rigorous three year effort, that puzzles me. Or senthil is to blame for poor shots ? I donot know, but it was bad. Anyways, the point of this paragraph was to highlight the downfall of CGI schema, which is clearly visible when sivudu jumps over the fort walls as soldiers are at the back of him. It almost gave me a feeling that using pinheads on a magnetic field would have greater effect than watching these shots. Again little Krishna video series fares better here.
The part of amarendra and bhallaladeva growing up was a rasagulla. Amarendra calling Kattappa “mama” and asking to share his food was mesmerizing. Kattappa showed that he is a REAL ACTOR in that scene. Sivagami excelled again. As she did through out the movie. I would not comment on bijjaladeva as he or his character or characterization is not worth mentioning. Make up was horrible, and delivery was terrible and action paraplegically mind numbing.
The military secret stealing frame popped in with out a proper intro or a reason, but it led to the much awkward and disgusting item song, a truly great action scene of amarendra catching the traitor over the cliff and then the much needed kaalakeya army. The awkward and disgusting and not impressive item song had a clear raghavendra rao impression and it is understandable why. Having said that - CGI for kaalakeya army shots improved quite considerably. May be, by the end of 3 years there were vast improvements in software to implement. Prabhakar as the kaalakeya chief did a splendid job. His make up was cool too. When bhallaladeva runs into the army with his chariot and a flipped sword version of Ben-hur chariot race mounted to the front instead of the sides, the impression was, yes, they did a very good job here.
Amarendra was the better portioned half of sivudu. His horse riding skills during the kaalakeya war and delivery of "maraNam" dialogue was crazyily fantastic. He stole me. He stole the movie goer in me for a second. Likewise sivagami stole me with her "Saasanam" delivery.
I will limit the post / review now as its getting too long – but will finish up with couple paragraphs.
Music scored will be on a minus graph than on a plus graph. SSR’s cousin MMK did a second grade job. When it, the movie is of this humongous scale, music should carry the weight all by itself or elevate it to that kind of level that it makes a LONG STANDING impression. I mean a LONG ONE. I think MMK is capable of doing a first grade job, but he has to step up. STEP UP like right NOW.
When 140+ crores are spent ( that’s the figure I was told by someone at the theater) and I am sure 80% of it went to CGI, I would sue the CGI generator company, pull them by collar and get them to sit down with you and ruthlessly blast them for ruining some frames, sometimes important ones. Or make them re-do the old ones where the software architecture was much newer. If I were the CGI company executive, I would do it for free, atleast the re-do part of it - just to show the commitment to this unbelievable and majestic project. I also think SSR hands were tied to do anything there. He must have been overwhelmed with the magnanimity of it.
Ofcourse he is a visionary and a trendsetter for this kind of movies, no doubt about that. BUT, he can do better. He is the only one we have as of now.
And yes, you can blame me for sitting on the other side of the bank and throw the stones. I will say YES and NO. Yes for the reason that I spent my dollars for his product and if it, the product is not to my satisfaction, it will be returned in a favour. No, in the sense that I think SSR, my dear friend, is smart enough to take stones and turn them into flowers as he did with this movie.
Oh by the way, I never knew or was friends with SSR until baahubali. I could see my dreams in this movie, so he became my friend. My longtime friend. So long..
Thank you SSR. You are the best. You will be the best. Stay there for long my friend. Stay there.
PS: Wife says, after the movie, keep your star bucks visits intact. I will pay for this movie. I said, no, I will stop going to star bucks and keep that money aside to watch the CONCLUSION. And you will be with me. She laughed heartily. Dark-Night was lit up bright with gazillions of stars.