Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bahoo-bali 2 [dir. SS Rajamouli]

Being hugely impressed with the first installment of  Bahubali (reviewed HERE)I really wanted to like the follow-up. But while it has its moments of thrill, I found it overall more exhausting than exhilarating.

Let me talk about the good stuff first, lest y'all think I'm just a grouchy snob. The visual spectacle matches up, although does not surpass the first film. The climactic battle scenes like when beta-BB single-handedly opens the drawbridge or they use palm trees as catapults to send up troops are testament to the imagination that transcends the technical quality of the VFX. Also, the way Rajamouli uses the combo of fast and slow motion in fight scenes is a lot more sensible and interesting than others have done. Anushka Shetty's Devasena is the BEST thing by far about this sequel. Unlike Tamanna's Avantika from Pt 1, who meekly sat down once the **HERO** turned up, Devasena is a sexy, feisty firebrand that gives as good as she gets. The scene where she and baap-BB are fighting side by side smolders with sensuous camaraderie, precisely what was missing in the first film. She is also the perfect Draupadi to Ramya Krishna's Gandhari/Kaikeyi and their saans-bahoo confrontations generate sparks (Nasser's Dhridarashtra is more akin to a Shakuni / Manthara).

Part of my frustration has to do with the narrative structure. Part 1 had the responsibility of introducing all the characters and the colorful world they inhabit. I expected that in the second instalment the pace would be significantly accelerated, considering there was so much ground to cover. But the flashback segment just went on an on, with a large segment devoted to another wooing exercise, this time between father BB and Devasena. While there is nothing so distasteful as the disrobing / molestation scene in Pt 1, this should have IMO been handled more quickly and without wasteful song sequences - I doubt anyone from the audience would say "Oh, I won't watch BB2 because it has no / less songs". What makes it particularly galling is that for all the epic scale, the personalities and emotions are so simplistic it does not for me justify the time spent. Bhallaladeva's Duyodhana/Ravana mix could have made for a more layered antagonist, but no, he's purely EVIL [all caps]. And [SPOILER]for all the suspense raised over why Katappa killed father BB, simply saying "I was ordered to" comes off as a damp squib and reduces one's respect for the character if he's going to be a blind cuck. Even Nazi officers who ran concentration camps and gas chambers said they were following orders, how are his actions any more redeemable?[/SPOILER].

Because of the unbalanced pacing, all that there's time for after the flashback is the revenge climax, which hugely short-changes the current characters. Tamanna's role is so tiny it can't even be called a cameo, why then bother having a female "lead" then? Rajamouli has some great ideas and a grand sense of scale, but he also seems to have been fatigued by the rigor of working on such a massive project and lost focus amidst all the threads. Eega was fun from beginning to end (well, at least from where the fly made an appearance), because he took one interesting idea and played it to maximum potential. Here he juggles with too many eggs and a fair number slip his grasp.

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