Some Ramblings - Baahubali 2 by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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The opening moves on the board, particularly when it is the grandmasters at work, are so fast and furious that the end game looks just around the corner a la a Mike Tyson, in his heyday, bout that used to be finished off with a knockout before the audience even settled into their chairs. But this is different. Here, the opening itself is not the game, it merely is a setup/draw for the elaborate intrigue that it eventually settles into. Once all the pieces move into their positions, the franatic pace gives way to a thoughtful crawl, mindful of all the mines and the pitfalls that await each move. This is not the lack of pace or direction or an unseen plot gone astray. The middle is indeed the true beginning to the final flourish. And when the final piece (the most satisfying one being a piddly pawn that walks to the other end and becomes the most powerful one on the board, the queen) captures the opposite king into submission, all the moves - the initial rush, that appeared thoughtless and rash, the deliberations, that looked long and unnecessary, and the final kill, that went a bit overboard - finally make sense in grand scheme of things. In here, the fun is in the possibilities, not the pace, and the excitement is in the build up, not in the end game and it certainly is not in the coup de grace. The audience that gathers around the screens watching the live action from a distance might hoot and cheer for the bold moves and sigh and shake their heads for pitfalls and the crestfalls. But the true appreciation begins from when they are back home referring their notebooks, reading the moves at leisure. The object is not to look for perfection, but to marvel at the progression. If the game has enough intrigue built into it, well, it becomes one for the books, to be studied by the later generations for inspiration. This is chess.

The decision to split the movie up into two parts turned out to be an inspired choice by Rajamouli. It was a stretch for two complete movies, but it definitely would have felt a cram job had he tried fitting it all in one too. While the first one was all dazzle, the real devil and the details were reserved for the second one. The plotting in the second part greatly impresses, for even for a garden variety palace-intrigue story, the emphasis and the exaggerations on all the right parts, the hold backs and the pull backs during the key moments, all add up to the necessary build up. Rajamouli chooses wisely, when he has set himself up for spectacular failure taking the visuals to stratospheric levels (quite literally) in the first part, by not taking the same route and try simply chasing the earlier success by merely amping up the visuals. Instead he makes a more conscious move of being deliberate and low key, this time concentrating on adding all the meat to the frail first part. This could be the reason why the first one could work as a standalone visual spectacle, but the second one could not survive on its own needing the skeleton of the first one to build upon. The father-son duo have done a commendable job leaving little loose ends, rightly justifying the motivations of the 6 key characters, and answering what somehow turned out to the one important question everyone talked about without inducing any groans and eye-rolls. Purely from a scripting standpoint that is a major achievement, for, no amount of additional visual splendor could have replaced all this detail and all these details were indeed important for accounting for the world of Bahubali. With the ending of the movie already signaled well before the start of the movie (or at the ending of the first one), it isn't the conclusion that is the regaling end to the world of Bahubali, but, as the cliche goes, it is the journey that is the more satisfying part.

Rajamouli's imagination at work as seen in a few key sequences is nothing short of spectacular. The archery-ballet sequence is at once operatic and romantic, mirroring the calligraphy sequence in the first part, a definite influence of the renowned Chinese film-makers, Yimou Zhang, Ang Lee (Taiwanese), creative works that combine visual artistry with story telling, be it in the shooting of the arrows while flying on the tree-tops, or the graceful movements while playing out gory sequences, the slow motions of the hair tresses caressed by arrow tips whizzing past too close to comfort - Rajamouli finds the tone of the scene and calibrates and choreographs the movements to match it up just right. While there is no winning over in the war sequences the second time around, having set himself an impossible high bar in the first installment, the creeping fatigue factor after each war sequence, with the same hordes of people rushing in from both sides of the frame, trying to dismember and disembowel each other with a variety of weaponry, it is in the little moments, like the above archery-ballet, or wild boar chase, that his creativity really comes to the fore. But really, the second part IS NOT above the visuals, though there are some great standalone moments that deserve sound applause, like the lighting sequence when Bhallala enters the frame to rejoice Amarendra's death, or the sword dripped in blood dragged slowly along the steps leading up to Sivagami's harem. Lost in all the visuals and the story details are the impressive dialogues that hold them all together, words that do not explicitly call attention to themselves with the usual overboard and bombast and yet convey the mood and the mind of the already established characters appreciably. The dialogue writers stand up to the impossible task of putting words into the mouth of characters that have already become legends in their own right, whose challenge becomes one of finding the right words that match the character and not the legend. And so, not every word that Amarendra becomes a rousing speech, but when the moment indeed calls for a rousing speech ("Amarendra Bahubali anu naenu..."), they truly resonate (in that sequence, literally and figuratively). After the resouding success of the soundtrack of the first one, Keeravani's job becomes the second toughest one in the production. As a sequel, if not from a story perspective, the urge to repeat the earlier format is resisted successfully by Keeravani who delivers are more matured soundtrack this time around, carefully avoiding the song for song replacement pitfall.

Imagining of productions as these mounted on such scale (in both the real and virtual worlds) rest on caliber and capacity of a visionary. But the execution rests on thousands of other foot soldiers who carry forward the singular vision of the director to put on the screen a spectacle that existed only in a person's mind till then. This success is not just of Rajamouli's and his team who share the beginning credits but every single entry in the rolling credits in the end, but for whose hard work, the world of Bahubali would have turned out a lot less exciting and enticing and eye-popping. భళి భళి భళిరా భళి...జయ హారతి మీకే పట్టాలి...పట్టాలి...



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