I envisioned this page to be a reflection of my thoughts, mostly about books and anything related to reading. What I did not expect is that I would write about a movie in these early days itself. But, Baahubali is not just any movie. Its an epic experience that I am totally maniacal about. 2 years ago when the first movie released, I was in a kind of a daze for a couple of weeks and ended up watching it 5 times in the theatre. Call me crazy but that was the impact of the movie. One or two viewings would not satisfy me who has grown up watching the telugu movies of yore which had stories from our Indian epics. Even though this movie is a fictional epic fantasy, the effect on me was similar. I was swept up in the visual grandeur – the breathtaking waterfalls, the gravity defying action sequences and the massive unending land of Mahishmati – all while reflecting its Indian ethos. Having always been impressed with epic Hollywood fare like The Ten Commandments or the Lord of the Ring series, Baahubali was more satisfying because it was OUR movie. These were my heroes whom I could relate to.
But why I could relate to the movie to such an extent? I have been an avid reader of Indian epics since childhood. I don’t have a count of the number of different versions of Mahabharata or Ramayana that I have read. The versions could be translations of the original, the author’s interpretations, the regional folklore or even the fictionalized ones. These stories always draw me away from any other international bestseller that I might be reading at the time. These stories might belong to an ancient era but they contain life lessons which are ever relevant. The heroes in these stories are flawed human beings whose travails teach us a lot. It is these characters that I have always loved – be it Lord Krishna or Lord Ram or Arjuna. And it is on these heroes that the characters in Baahubali are based upon. Watching my heroes come to life on screen albiet in a fictionalized manner was very gratifying. Let me put down my thoughts on how some of these characters have been created and what values and traits from our epic heroes do they embody.
Amarendra Baahubali – As the principal/titular character in the movie, he encapsulates most of the essential qualities from both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He is very wise and calm like Sahadev and it is very rare that we would find him acting otherwise, even if it feels so. He is beauty personified like Nakul and exhibits a lot of grace and humility even though he is the crown prince. He is a great archer like Arjun and his enemies stand no chance when he is firing away his arrows with such speed and agility. He is physically very strong just like Bhim and even coconut/palm trees have to bow before his strength. But of the five pandavas, the one he resembles the most is Yudhisthir. He strongly believes in Dharma and would defy anyone for upholding what he believes is right. He embodies the sheer determination and will power of Abhimanyu, never backing down from a fight even if the odds are stacked against him. The parallel is so telling because he also dies fighting without ever witnessing the birth of his son. He is a devoted son like Lord Ram when he takes his banishment in stride because it’s his mother’s decision and his duty to abide by it. Just like Ram, he remains the beloved king of his people even if he is no longer the crown prince. He is naughty and charming like Lord Krishna, also always standing up for a woman’s honor. He is such a heroic and likeable character that any viewer will fall in love with him, enjoy his heroics and be saddened when he is killed in deceit. All of these exemplary qualities in him are why he is the titular character and leaves a mark on the viewer long after leaving the theatre.
Bhallaladeva – No story is complete without a powerful antagonist and Bhalla is just what you need for this movie to have such a huge impact. His whole life revolves around his jealousy for his brother and his lust for the throne, just like Duryodhan always felt betrayed for not being made king in the first place. He is also enraged with the behavior of Devasena and derives immense pleasure from keeping her captive just like Draupadi is disrobed and insulted in the court of Hastinapur. His character is probably more evil than Duryodhan though, because Duryodhan still loved his subjects and only directed his anger at his brothers but for Bhalla, the throne comes first and everything else is unimportant.
Devasena – The most powerful female characterization in recent times in cinema (the cinema I watch ofcourse), she seems like a true feminist from the olden times. She is a fierce warrior but is as confident in court as she is in the battefield. She insists on a woman’s right to choose her partner and also rubbishes the ridiculous laws of the kingdom in front of the King and Queen Mother themselves. She is a fighter like the Sita of Valmiki Ramayan but also a loyal wife at the same time like the Sita of Ramcharitmanas. She also showcases the ambitious nature of Draupadi when she demands that Baahu fight for his right to ascend the throne. Just like Draupadi never forgets the insult to her dignity and waits for Bhim to get her the blood of Dushasan, Devasena also waits confidently during her decades of captivity for her son to arrive and help her burn Bhalla alive.
Sivagami – Being the other most powerful female character of the movie, it seems quite difficult for me to relate her to any particular historical figure. She is like Queen mother Satyavati, ready to take any steps to ensure the safety of the subjects and future of the kingdom. But she also becomes like Kaikeyi when she banishes Baahu by believing falsehoods about him. She is probably one character who showcases different shades when she transforms from a death sentence giving Queen Mother to just a grieving mother when she realizes the sin of getting her beloved son killed. The fact that she is ready to repent for her mistakes by sacrificing her life too makes her truly admirable.
Bijjaladeva – He symbolizes the disabled and disgruntled father figure of Dhritarashtra who is extremely jealous of the fact that neither he nor his son are getting their due as the rightful kings of Mahishmati. He also schemes and conspires like Shakuni to ensure that Baahu is banished and ultimately killed to ensure that his son is made the ruler.
Kattappa – He is the most important character around whom most of the story revolves. Even though his character is of a slave here, he epitomises all the qualities of duty, honor and loyalty that we usually relate to Bheeshma Pitamah. Just like Bheeshma, he would do anything to protect the throne and Baahu but the story takes it a little further by making him the killer of his beloved son-like Amarendra Baahubali. Ironically, instead of Bhishma lying on a bed of arrows, here we see Baahu taking in a barrage of arrows in his back to save Kattappa before getting killed later by him. However, its the love and loyalty of Kattappa towards Baahu that makes this movie and his character so memorable.
After drawing all these parallels between our epics and this movie, it would be an injustice to not talk about the actors depicting them on screen. Everyone of them lives and breathes the character and exhilarates us with their screen presence. However, I will admit that I am totally biased and I only had eyes for Prabhas and Anushka. They totally look like a King and Queen and I was floored by their royal and majestic persona. Prabhas as Amarendra Baahubali will forever remain etched in my heart and I hope to see him many more times in the coming days. Jai Mahishmati!!!!