At a very young age, I happened to watch a Telugu film, Mayabazar, in Tamil. I was so absorbed in the film that it left me pondering over the characters, especially the ones played by superstar NT Rama Rao and SV Ranga Rao (who I'm a big fan of). The impact it had on me was perhaps because Mayabazar was the first period film that I saw. It happened much before Karnan and Bhakta Prahlada, of which, the former evoked certain emotions that still remain unmatched. In the context of cinema, emotion is a strong word that only some writers adhere to.
After many years, here is a film, directed by SS Rajamouli, that has powerful characters that are strongly rooted in the Indian ethos. Baahubali: The Beginning was a landmark film in Indian cinema. Agreed. But not for its earth-shattering box-office records. Not because of the fact that it was from a 'regional' industry, as Telugu cinema has produced some of the finest arthouse and commercial films- most of which are remade in Bollywood. Sure, Baahubali is a 'masala' film of the highest degree. At the same time, it is important to quote National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan here. He pointed out that Rajamouli doesn't necessarily condescend to the genre like most of the filmmakers. Instead, treats it with respect. For the same, Rajamouli is one of the finest storytellers we have today. I mean, he had a housefly as a protagonist in Eega!
Firstly, let's not jump the gun and call Baahubali 2: The Conclusion the 'best' Indian film based on the box-office figures.
However, one has to appreciate SS Rajamouli since the filmmaker has broken the language barriers in Indian cinema. Unarguably, cinema is a mixture of arts and economics. And every filmmaker's goal is to reach out to the masses, be it a Karan Johar in the north or a Mani Ratnam in the south. Hardly does a film live up to satisfy the needs of the Indian audiences. If not for its story, Baahubali became a pop culture phenomenon, thanks to Rajamouli's fascinating characters. For instance, the relevance of why Katappa killed Baahubali in Hyderabad, can be felt in say, Gurgaon. With the well-written cliffhanger paving the way for the sequel, it's safe to say that Baahubali 2 has more drama, more emotions than its predecessor.
For instance, take the interval portion of Baahubali 2. Bhallala Deva is being made the new king of Mashimati. We wait. He takes his oath as the king. We wait. Amarendra Baahubali, now a military commander, shows off his army. We still wait. The crowd in Mahishmati erupts when he says, "Aamrendra Bahubali aagiya nan..." We join in! Prabhas is not your hero. He's not my hero either. He was impressive when he made the 'jump' in Baahubali: The Beginning. But when Baahubali 2 ended, you rooted for him. I rooted for him. Can any other filmmaker recreate this particular portion with even as much as the same effect, leave alone better?
Coming back to box-office figures, the makers left no stone unturned as far as promotions were concerned. For the first time, a Hindi dubbed film has grossed more than Rs 300 crore at the box office in the Hindi-belt, which was dominated by the Khan triumvirate. Reports said that the makers spent a mere Rs 3.5 crore for Baahubali 2's promotion in the North, while Bollywood filmmakers usually spend close to Rs 10 crore.
Like how Kunal Kohli rightly pointed out, it's a triumph for KV Vijayendra Prasad's engaging story.
Having said that, let's admit for a second that Baahubali's story is not something we haven't seen or heard before. But how Rajamouli told the story is a point to be taken seriously here. Some may argue the fact that Baahubali 2 is nothing but a storytelling gimmick used by the director to package the film colourfully. But this is a kind of film you got to watch for its visceral experience.
If you recall the superb portion in Lord of The Rings, where Eowyn stabs the witch king of Angmar, you had your skin erupting in goosebumps. Likewise, in Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, the scene where Katappa stabs Amarendra with a fire motif in the background, the scene left you with your mouth wide open, waiting for the answer to that, well, by-now legendary question: Why did Katappa kill Baahubali? Yes, Baahubali 2 is not great cinema. But given his budget and other constraints, Rajamouli has achieved the unimaginable, and it's a fact.
With Baahubali 2's success, SS Rajamouli has once again proven that Indian cinema is not just Bollywood and South cinema is not just Rajinikanth.