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Bãhubali: The Beginning (2015)

CRUMBLIES… 4 crumblies

Oh, this is fun! A big, crazy, melodramatic adventure full of simple baddies and silly heroes, it touches on the legendary, flickers from over-earnest glowering to camp romance to mighty battles between ancient kingdoms. Oh yes. And there’s a background tale about an old slave-soldier that had the TV room leaning forward in fascination and – in the final moment – gaspiness! So, Vibrant Vinay hunted down a subtitled version for us (bad Amazon Prime; good Netflix…), ran through the DVT exercises, and slapped on Bãhubali: The Beginning.

So, a senior lady runs through trees and rocks and into a river, hunted, dying, she loses the battle but is found in the river, beside the waterfall, beneath the mountain, her hand above the water with a child held safely. Oh yes, it’s that kind of film. There is music. There are friendly villagers. There is a life sped up as the baby becomes a boy becomes a powerful, kind young man strong enough to drag stone – who finds a wooden mask at the foot of the mountain. He fills it with sand to see the actual face and, gosh, she’s beautiful.

So, he is Shivu (Prabhas giving good hero with improbable strength) and she is a warrior atop the mountain, Avanthika (Tamannaah giving good Leela from ’70s Doctor Who). He has to get up the impossible mountain first, which involves a few scenes of improbable physics, falling back to the bottom in moments of astonishingly-still-alive luck, and day-dreaming about a girly version of Avanthika. They do meet, but she’s much more the warrior than the lover before – unbelievably to the TV room – she gets all romantic and the two of them ponce about in floaty nature shots. He has to save her first, the film basking in his growing strength and the real back-story: there’s a kingdom up there, a trapped queen who mothered a long-lost child and an evil king. Yup – guess the destiny of the long-lost child…

Okay – there’s lots more plot, including the rescue of the queen and the telling of a complete other legend about how this state of affairs came to be. And it’s great fun: over-wrought, loud, declamatory and Lord-of-the-Rings silly. I loved it. A long old story of two generations of young people fighting to own a kingdom and being judged by the old and the wise for their character.

And so it should be.

Now, to the slave-warrior. He’s not the lead, but works in the kingdom on the mountain looking grizzled and knowledgeable – enduring the snarky games of the evil queen. For he serves the trapped queen who is chained at the heart of the city. Kattappa is played by Sathyaraj, who is terrific. He is a man carrying a duty and a secret. Don’t we all. Circumstances and a ton of swordplay get in the way of the former and, in an open invitation to the follow-up film (and there’s a third one in 2019), a proper emotional shock underpins the latter.

Gave away nothing there, didn’t I? Given it’s called The Beginning, I’ll just say this feels like three hours of introductory fun. The actors give it their all, much like the CGI wizards who do largely convincing work. The human eye and the laws of physics intrude every so often, and some of the translated dialogue is a bit odd, but Bãhubali is great big and silly fun. And the resonance comes from the oldsters…

As I said, English subtitles are on the Netflix version.

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