Moviemavengal no spoiler video review of Bahubali 2 – I was interviewed by Kartik of BollyFools

 

Kartik of BollyFools was seeing the IMAX showing right after mine so he asked if I would do a short video review after seeing the very first showtime of Bahubali 2 in the US.  Salim of BollyFools then edited it down to this video they posted on the BollyFools Youtube channel.  Thanks for the opportunity!

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Bahubali 2: The Conclusion — Does Not Disappoint! It’s Amazing! No Spoilers

With a sequel, especially one this anticipated, there is that fear that it just cannot live up to the first movie, or the hype.  I am here to tell you, after having just spent $40 to see the very first IMAX show of the day, that it satisfies.  It completely satisfies.  Rajamouli has done it again!!  It was absolutely glorious to see it on the huge IMAX screen.  Totally worth the money to me.  Kartik from Bollyfools Youtube Channel interviewed me moments after I came out of the screening:

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Everyone has spent two long years wondering #WKKB – Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali.  The first film left us with possibly the biggest mystery cliffhanger of all time.  I’m not going to spoiler the movie for you.  You need to experience it all for yourself.

I just loved how the movie circled back to the beginning in lots of ways — thematically and visually.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

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I loved being in a first day crowd that was whistling and yelling for the big entrances.  Prabhas is AMAZING!  One thing I really loved about the film is that it had some wonderful moments of humor.  After I saw Bahubali the Beginning, I sought out Prabhas’s other films, and in his rom coms especially he has such a mischievous sense of humor and play in his wooing.  And Rajamouli let him show that side.  Kattappa as matchmaker is just a delight.

Rana as Bhalladeva turns SO evil.  Shockingly so in some parts.  Great performance as the villain, and the final epic battle between Shivuvu and Bhalla at the end of the film is everything you could hope for in a mano a mano fight.  Really thrilling.

Anushka Shetty really shines as the proud warrior princess.  She does have flaws — I liked that she wasn’t just a perfect doll.  Unfortunately, Tamannah is only really seen in the final battle sequence.  This movie is more about the love story of Shivuvu’s parents.

There are great battle scenes, too, but much of the movie, which almost till the end takes place in the time of Bahubali the elder, is about the family drama.  What leads to Bahubali’s death?  Why did Bhalla chain Devasena in the courtyard?  Who put that arrow in Sivagami’s back?  All the answers are very satisfying.  You can guess where the story is mostly going to go, just from the first film, but there are still some surprises along the way.  Pride goest before a fall, is all I’ll say.

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Someone asked me if I like this better than the first film, and I can’t really answer that.  Because you can’t get back that feeling of wonderment the first time you saw the imagination and visuals of Bahubali.  Now you expect Rajamouli to blow you away.  There was one love song that literally went into a flight of fantasy that had me saying “Wow” out loud.

The score is particularly effective in heightening moments of tension and drama.  I don’t know that the soundtrack songs are quite as catchy earworms that the first film songs were.  But especially the beautiful harmonies of the female voices singing together in this one are growing on me:

I saw Bahubali the Beginning four times in the theater alone.  I don’t know how many times I’ll see this one, but I know I’m taking all three of my sons to see it for Mother’s Day.  I’ve told them this is what I want for my present — for us to see it together.  That will make the second Indian film they’ve ever seen, but the first in a theater.  I loved that at my 2:30 shows there were parents who had taken their kids out of school early to see the show.  I told one little boy that someone must love him very much.

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There are scenes and tableaus from this film that will always stay with me, but one in particular is Prabhas sleeping with his head in Sivagami’s lap.  Since I don’t speak Telugu, I didn’t realize some of the songs lyrics talk about that.  This film does have a romance and brother rivalry, but at the core it’s about the relationship of a son with his mother.

This is such a great film!  I left ecstatic and wishing I could see it all again right away.  There’s revenge that’s sweet, and redemption, too.

Bravo S. S. Rajamouli!  Bravo Prabhas and the rest of the cast!  You’ve done it again!

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Just How Much Do I Love Bahubali?

A LOT!  That’s how  much I Love Bahubali.  (Is it Baahubali or Bahubali??)  It is one of my favorite films of all time, not just of Indian films.

My next door neighbor Nish two years ago asked if I’d want to go to this South Indian film her coworkers had said was really good.  Sure.  I’m in.  Then we go and the price was $20!  Twice the normal movie ticket price.  “This better be worth 20 bucks!”

Oh. My. Gosh.  It SO was.  I unabashedly fell in love with the film, and I ended up seeing it 4 times in the theater alone.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen the film since it became available on Youtube.  I own the Hindi dub on Blu-ray, but I can’t really stand to watch it without my beloved Prabhas’ own voice.  (For the love of all that is holy Rajamouli, make the Telugu available on Blu-Ray!!)

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This image was my Ipad lock screen for two years, until I replaced it with a new image from Bahubali 2.  I fell in love with Prabhas from this movie, and now own several of his films on DVD.

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I was captivated, jaw hanging open from the opening sequence with that huge waterfall and the kick-ass queen fighting two soldiers with an arrow sticking out of her back — while holding a newborn!

The visuals in this film just knocked my socks off.  I don’t know how many times I watched the Dhivara video!   I explain this film to people who don’t watch Indian film as The Lord of the Rings of Indian Cinema.  It’s mythic and grand in scale with fantastic CGI world building.  S. S. Rajamouli is quite simply a genius filmmaker.  He has a huge vision, and he’s one up on Peter Jackson because he wrote the damn story himself, instead of just adapting a series of books.

After I saw Bahubali, I sought out Rajamouli’s other films, and I was even more gobsmacked.  Who else but the master, S. S. Rajamouli would reincarnate his hero as a FLY?

Even his early film Chatrapathi with Prabhas showed crazy imagination.  Prabhas introduction scene has him fighting a SHARK!

 

Bahubali has amazingly compelling characters.  Prabhas even gets to play two!  Shivu and his father Bahubali in the flashback second half. My personal favorite is the queen Sivagami, who raises both her own son Bhalla and Bhahubali:

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This scene after she squashes a rebellion, knifes an attacker while holding a newborn (!!) and then nurses both infants after mounting the throne is my favorite!  I love her!

Rajamouli has made a film with strong women characters even though the main thrust of the narrative is Prabhas’s story, both as Shivu and Bahubali.  Yes, there is that problematic scene that some call a rape, but my first take was the same as Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood’s.  Tamannah’s warrior is living a harsh life devoid of beauty and joy, and Shivu delights in showing her beauty and love.  And that sexy nibble of her jewelry on her belly gets me every. single. time.

 

I love all the music of the original Bahubali film, and tortured my family by listening to the soundtrack non-stop for weeks and watching the videos over and over.  Especially Manohari.

 

The film does have a few flaws.  For my birthday last summer, I sat down my two younger sons and had them watch the film with me -the only Indian film they’ve ever seen.  (Mother’s Day this year will be all three of my sons going to the theater to see Bahubali 2.  I’ve warned them this is my present!)  My son Zach really liked the Avantika character, but then was upset that she just gets that hurt ankle, and as he put it, “Then, nothing!”  I’m holding out some hope she will have a strong part in the Bahubali 2, but the trailer seems to mostly emphasize the romance with Anushka from Bahuabli’s past.

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And then there’s the racism.  Really, Rajamouli?  Actual blackface on the villain Kalakeya tribe?  Ugh.

The battle scene in the second half also goes on for a very, very long time.  Yes, it’s super cool, but frankly, I’m more interested in these characters than watching Gladiator movie style battles go on and on.

Watching Bahubali set me on a journey of watching more Telugu films, starting first with the older films of Prabhas and Rajamouli.  I’ve learned about comedy uncles, and machete fight ratings, and on.  I kind of like all the violence and the machismo and larger than life Telugu star heroes.  The comedy uncles I could mostly do without, to be honest.

I even dragged Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood to her first showing of Bahubali (No, you HAVE to see this one!) and then she surpassed me by seeing it what, SEVEN times in the theater alone?

The first Bahubali movie was such a phenomenon.  All over India, and all over the world.  It’s been a long wait, but tomorrow I will finally learn #WKKB – Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali!  I have my $40 IMAX ticket purchased already to the first day, first matinee show of Bahubali 2 at my local theater.  I am beyond excited that it is releasing on IMAX!

 

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Omkara – Shakespeare’s Othello works extremely well in this modern Indian adaptation by Vishal Bhardwaj with a stellar cast

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I was blown away by Vishal Bhardwaj‘s Haider, an  incredible adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet starring Shahid Kapoor.  Omkara is part of his Shakespeare trilogy (Maqbool, Omkara, Haider).  Omkara works extremely well as a modern adaption of Othello in rural Uttar Pradesh India.  This is a stellar cast, and some of the best performances I’ve ever seen of some of these actors.  I have been sitting on this DVD for Netflix for some time.  I knew it was going to be excellent from everything I’d read, but it is such a depressing story!

I think I read Shakespeare’s Othello play in school, but to be honest I’m more familiar with Verdi’s masterpiece opera Otello, which I’ve seen a few times at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  Otello focuses much on the relationship of Desdemona and Otello and the intense emotions and drama lend themselves very well to opera.  It became a signature role for Placido Domingo, even if it’s a bit bizarre to see blackface in a modern stage production.  Giuseppe Verdi is like Vishal Bhardwaj in that he adapted Shakespeare in three Italian language operas:  Macbeth, Otello and his final opera Falstaff.

The music added to a play like Othello only enhances the inherit drama, and if it works so well in opera, then I knew it would translate well to an Indian drama.  The music enhances the contrast between the love between Omkara (Ajay Devgn) and Dolly (Kareena Kapoor) and then the final death scenes.

Otello the opera starts in the middle of Shakespeare’s play and skips the early statecraft plot points, and the bits with Desdemona’s (Dolly’s) father.  But Bhardwaj keeps that all in, to great effect.  The opening scene shows Langda (Saif Ali Khan) [Iago]  telling Dolly’s groom Raj that his bride Dolly is not going to show for the wedding, Omi (Omkara) has stolen her away.  There’s then a confrontation between Dolly’s father, and Omkara.  Ajay has a dramatic entrance wearing a black shawl that looks like a big cape.  Dolly’s father doesn’t intimidate him in the least, and then there is a scene where Dolly admits to her father she went willingly to elope with Omi.  Ajay Devgn is naturally darker skinned than many actors in Bollywood and Kareena Kapoor has very light skin.  The Indian update to Othello being a “Moor” is that Omkara is half-caste, his father a Brahman and his mother a low-caste mistress.

Omkara (Ajay) is described as a Bahubali.  When I first heard this word in the movie, my ears pricked up because I’ve never heard the word except, of course, in the Telugu blockbuster Bahubali.  In the subtitles of Omkara, it’s translated as General.  I looked up the wikipedia article and this is how Omkara’s character is described:

Omkara Shukla or Omi (Ajay Devgan) is a bahubali, a sort of political enforcer. He is the leader of a gang which commits political crimes for the local politician

So interesting!  As I thought that was a Telugu word specific to Rajamouli’s movie.

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Omkara is a powerful political goon, and Langda (Iago) and Kasu (Cassio) are his lieutenants.  After Omkara elminates a political rival, their Bhaisaab (Naseeruddin Shah) is going to be the next representative at the national level, and Omkara will take his place at the state level.  There’s a ceremony to name Omkara’s successor, and the younger Kasu is picked to be the next bahubali over Langda.  Kasu is picked because of his connections to the youth and college students.  This is the source of Langda’s plotting and burning jealousy, that he was overlooked for this promotion, just as in Othello.  Again, the parallels Bhardwaj draws to the rough and tumble of Indian politics work so well, and this is definitely a realm of people taking offence to violent deadly extremes over slights of honor.

We’ve seen Omi (Ajay) be dominant, and quick to kill when someone offends him or insults his relationship with Dolly.  But we also see what a different loving person he is with Dolly.  Bhardwaj also composed all the music in the film.  This love scene has Omi coming to Dolly in anger after seeing her with Kasu, but her singing him an English love song (very badly) spurs this teasing chasing scene.  It’s one of my favorite sequences in the whole film.  With no one else can Omi show this tender side of himself. But one key difference in Omkara to Othello is that Omi does not marry Dolly right away.  He has abducted her, taken her to his home village and seduced her but drags his feet a bit on the wedding itself.  So Dolly is in a very precarious position, separated from her family.

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Saif Ali Khan is so excellent as the diabolical Langda.  (Langda means limp in Hindi, and he is described as having a leg and a half.)  He is Omi’s most trusted lieutenant and advisor, and cannot abide being passed over for the young Kasu.  I am really not a Vivek Oberoi fan to be honest, but he was perfectly cast as Kasu.  Saif also is no pretty boy here.  His teeth are stained from betel leaves, and he has a roughness about him, not his usual suave film persona.

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This is Saif Ali Khan’s finest role ever, in my opinion.  I think he mostly does action movies like Phantom at this point, and I wish he would not be so lazy and take on more work like this.  When he wants to, he really has the stuff.  He relentlessly manipulates Omi into thinking Dolly is cheating on him, gets Kasu drunk to disgrace him and so on.  When you have Ajay as Omkara, you need a worthy Iago, and Saif is just fantastic as Langda.  You hate his guts utterly, but admire the acting.

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I don’t have to tell you the outlines of the plot, and it’s pointless to talk about spoilers with a plot hundreds of years old.  But it’s interesting the Indian touches that Bhadwaj adds to the story.  Instead of the damning handkerchief of the original play, there is an heirloom bridal belt adornment that Omi gives to Dolly to wear, Langda steals and gives to Kasu, who then gives it to his girlfriend (Bips, our item girl.)  Omi completely loses his shit when he sees this loose woman shaking her tail feather wearing the family’s heirloom.  There’s also a clever modern touch with stolen cellphones leading to further misunderstandings.

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Kareena plays the innocent Dolly so, so well.  She’s completely loving, and just bewildered at Omi turning on her.  But she has her honor, too.  In their final scene, when faced with Omi’s wild accusations of adultery on their wedding night, she says, “Then  you’ll have to kill me.”  It’s devastating.

Ajay Devgn can be so brutal on film.  We’ve seen him play many mafia type leaders in movies.  If there’s any actor that can play someone who the audience believe would kill his own bride in a fit of jealous rage, Ajay is the one who can truly pull it off.  But Omkara shows his tenderness, his quick temper, and then his utter desolation as the truth of Langda’s machinations are revealed in the final scenes.

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I don’t really remember if Othello’s sister had as large a role in the original play, but she warrants his final duet in Otello the opera.  Konkona Sen Sharma is a standout in a stellar cast in Omkara.  She is Langda’s wife Indu, and a tough woman in her own right.  She is a friend and support to Dolly, willing to battle her brother when she sees Dolly bruised.  And it’s not Omi that finally serves justice on Langda but Indu.  Thank you Bhardwaj for including that and giving Konkona Sen such a powerful moment.  In the original play, his wife is what leads to Iago’s arrest, but that’s not the kind of swift justice meted out in Omi and Indu’s village.

This film is dark.  Almost relentlessly so, but the acting performances are absolutely fantastic.  This film won award after award, and rightly so.

Four and a half stars out of five.