A few weeks ago, I was reading about the cinematic concept of "Verisimilitude" and how it basically makes cinema a medium to straddle time and space effectively. When one understands this concept, one can't help but chuckle about how commercial Telugu Cinema walks all over it in it's typical 'masala' outings. Physics - defying stunts by actors who look half as bulky as the goons they beat up are as quintessential as the titles now. The biggest success of "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" for me, is that it not only deliberately choose to ignore Verisimilitude but also convince the viewer to do so. I understand that fantasy films often push the boundaries of reality to fit their elaborate imaginations. But when a film makes you 'want' it to do that, you know you're watching something special. "Baahubali 1: The Beginning" did that by making it's protagonist, Shivudu, mount a giant Shivalingam on his shoulder. It made the audiences revel in the absolute style with which that has been pulled off. "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" basically takes the same style and splendor; and sprinkles it all over its almost 3 hour run time. Much of the credit for this goes to director S.S.Rajamouli's vision, Sabu Cyril's production design, and the VFX, helmed by Kamalakannan overseeing 35 studios from across the globe. It is all massive imagination, painstakingly and gracefully executed.
Where the film falters a little, and by the way of making one cringe a wee bit, is when it moves one level down to the characters, their dialogue, and the drama. Vijayendra Prasad's script, although not quite innovative, does cover all the right notes and offers thorough options for plot highs and lows. Rajamouli translates that well into his screenplay, but not so much into the characters and conversations. I wonder why most basic drama in Telugu Cinema has all the subtlety of a TV soap opera. The supporting cast hams their way through the dialogue and reaction shots; and there's very little in ways of exploring the depths of a character. Baahubali 2 also falls into this quagmire, with the characters mostly being uni-dimensional. The shots showing characters talking generally frame only one person, are mostly void of depth, and the general drama is handled trivially. This is slightly disappointing specially when the cast has proven actors like Ramyakrishna, Sathyaraj, Nasser, and Anushka. Even Prabhas and Rana come into elements they haven't much explored before with much vigor.
But for every such drab scene, there's five other fascinating ones. Full of frames exquisitely composed by Senthil Kumar, there's so much poster and trailer material present that film enthusiasts can extract and ponder over for years. Lighting is deftly played with, shadows finding as much importance as highlights. Senthil even gets mighty experimental with drone-esque shots that capture an entire palace in one go, or Go-Pro esque POV shots that place one right in the middle of a battle ground. M.M. Keeravani also gets to have some brilliant laughs by way of very effectively placed songs that underscore the emotion. The Conclusion's album isn't as sharp as the one for The Beginning, so he uses a lot of afterludes from the latter to punch up scenes in the former. The background score teeters on formula, but has moments of genuine elegance.
The frames, the music, and the visual panache, add up rather really well. It all boils down to the crew throwing cards at you, that put you in a sequential state of wonder. It feels quite like gleeful and guilt-free fun, of the type that no other Telugu 'masala' film has ever managed to provide. "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" is out in theaters now.
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