This “review” is split into three sections:

  1. A completely spoiler-free opinion that does not have even the smallest of hints as to what happens in the movie. Stop at this section if you wish to watch the movie without knowing what to expect (recommended)
  2. A slightly more detailed version of the review, touching upon a few minor details which don’t spoil anything important, but might talk about some general plot details. Stop at this section if you haven’t watched the movie and are interested to know a little more than what the trailer gave away.
  3. A spoiler-filled opinion piece that talks in detail about every major aspect of the movie. Read this section only if you’ve already watched the movie or don’t intend to watch it or if you don’t mind reading spoilers before watching the movie.

You’ve been advised. Proceed at your own caution.

Also, this will be my last “review” of any kind (book/movie/game) on this blog as I’m moving to a new format starting this Sunday. I’m glad to sign off with this excellent movie.

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion – The Review

I. The Spoiler-Free Opinion

Go watch this movie! But you didn’t need me telling you that anyway, did you? Anyone who calls themselves a movie buff must watch this movie. Is it perfect? No. Is it worth the wait? Yes! It fills in a lot of the story that was missing in the first part and gives all the major characters enough time to shine. Whether this movie is better than “The Beginning” or not is subject to individual opinions.

In fact, I’ve seen different “critics” awarding this movie anywhere between 2 -5 stars on a scale of 5. Some of them thought the first was much better, while some thought the second was “ten times better”. Some thought the actors were at their career best in this movie while others thought everyone was “over-acting”. Opinions may be many, but everyone agrees that this movie is a fun spectacle that should not be missed.

I felt that both movies balance each other perfectly. And since Rajamouli has repeatedly said that this is one single story, I would prefer treating both movies as one and when you do so, it is a gem indeed.

The only drawback perhaps is that there were some pacing issues, with some parts of the story becoming sluggish while others seemed to rush due to lack of time. As a whole however, it never stops being entertaining.

II. The Detailed Review, With Minor Spoilers

Why did Kattappa Kill Baahubali?

Who came up with this question? And why?! I never came across this question during the month that The Beginning came out. For me, that was never the motivation to watch the second movie. This question started cropping up only after a few months of the movie’s release and was soon weaved into the marketing campaign of The Conclusion.

However, if you paid attention to the first movie’s dialogues, the question is easily answered. Still, I won’t “spoil” it in this section, but will discuss about it in the next section.

The Conclusion answers the question, but only after making you wait for nearly a hundred minutes. In fact, we don’t meet the present day characters until the very end. The movie opens with Kattappa continuing his narration of Amarendra Baahubali’s story.

The war against the Kaalakeyas has come to an end and Baahubali is waiting for an auspicious day to be crowned King. He is advised by Sivagami to tour the kingdom and get to know his subjects better. This is an excuse to set up the introduction of Devasena, the warrior princess from Kuntala.

This is also an excuse to introduce an element which was missing from the first movie – humour. I won’t spoil this part, but be prepared to see the characters you know well behave in ridiculous ways in an attempt to infuse some comedy into the fantasy-heavy story.

A couple of songs and some impressive action sequences later, the couple are madly in love. When they return to Maahishmati, all hell breaks loose and the family begins to tear apart. We reach intermission with almost an identical setup as the first movie, but arguably with a lot more noise.

At this point, I was reminded of Magadheera (2009), which had a similarly annoying first half where nothing much happened. Sure, it was entertaining, but when you think about it, that’s a lot of time spent to narrate very little.

After a few more minutes of heavy drama, we finally reach the pivotal point in the story where Kattappa kills Baahubali. And although by now you have a pretty good sense of where the story is headed, you probably still find yourself entertained.

Then just as you’re wondering if we’re out of time and the twist is that there’s a Part 3 to the story, we return to the present. The characters then get into a rush to finish the story in exactly – and I timed this – 23 minutes. This…was a little disappointing to be honest.

Think about it – the whole of the first movie was setup to lead to an epic battle between the younger Baahubali and the older Bhallaladeva. And all we get is 23 minutes. Sure, those 23 minutes were highly entertaining, but the team clearly had to rush here.

In the end, this story turned out to be exactly like every other Rajamouli movie – a fun, visually gripping treat with a few rough edges. The director is a master at storytelling and his creativity continues to prove limitless. There were surprises at every turn of the story. You know you’ve seen such stories before, but never like this. Again, I will discuss in more details in the next section, but if you’re going to stop reading at this part, know that you won’t be disappointed in investing your time and money to watch this film. It’s easily one of the best pieces of cinema to come out in recent times.

III. The Spoiler-Filled Opinion Piece

Warning: This is your last chance to stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers! I discuss all aspects of the movie in this section and it is targeted at readers who have already watched the movie.

The Story

Okay, so why did Kattappa kill Baahubali? (WKKB)

The first time I heard that question, I was surprised people were actually asking such a thing. I felt the answer was simple. Kattappa killed Baahubali because he was ordered to do so. As a slave to the throne, he was bound by duty to follow any order. And he clearly regretted his actions, because he’s crying while admitting the fact to Sivudu. My answer stopped at this point, because I never really had any motivation to think beyond that. I just wanted to see how the final fight would shape up.

But apparently, everyone else was more concerned about this WKKB thing. I was almost annoyed to see it crop up as a hastag in the film’s trailer. Even more annoyingly, most of The Conclusion‘s screenplay is dedicated to answering this question instead of focusing on Sivudu.

Indeed, the biggest disappointment with this movie is that it doesn’t deliver on the first part’s promise. 23 minutes of VFX-filled action scenes do not do justice to the characters. What we see is Sivudu hearing Kattappa’s story and immediately running towards the palace to get his revenge. And Bhallaladeva discovers that Sivudu is alive by looking through a telescope and watching him approach the palace. What?! That was really underwhelming.

It would have been so much better if the first half wrapped up the flashback and the entire second half was dedicated to Sivudu planning his revenge by outsmarting the mighty army. Instead we get an obligatory battle that ends as expected. It was really awesome to watch all this, but at some level I was disappointed not to see something else.

Even the battle had a scope of being bigger but time/budget constraints probably held the team back. I was hoping to see Sivudu get an army of his own by taking help from Aslam Khan (Sudeep) who promised to help Kattappa in times of need in the first movie. But maybe having a big battle between two armies would have been too similar to the first movie. The guerrilla warfare we got was a good change of pace.

Coming back to the flashback, what was that first half all about? While still entertaining, it went on for far too long. Without a couple of songs and the forced comedy, we could have sped up through the story without missing anything important. For instance, even after establishing the fact that Devasena has fallen in love with Baahubali, we still get a dream-sequence song about her falling in love with him. Such things padded up the run time a lot.

One can comment on these things but at the end of the day, it is the director’s vision at work. And if you’ve watched this director’s previous films, you would know that he’s always come close to delivering something perfect, but ends up leaving a few flaws. Except for the experimental films Maryada Ramanna and Eega, Rajamouli’s work has always tried to reach out to the masses and that means including unnecessary songs, comedy that doesn’t fit in with the narrative and an excessive dose of drama backed up by melodramatic music.

The Conclusion has these flaws too, but they are almost entirely covered up by the gripping narrative. So I didn’t ponder too much about Kattappa and Baahubali trying to act like simpletons to add some humour to the story. Nor did I mind the fact that the central conflict of this movie arose because Sivagami was too lazy to mention her son’s name in a letter.

The “Graphics”

I’ve read other opinions about how the VFX kept fluctuating between good and awful throughout the movie. I didn’t notice anything to be honest. “Graphics” should never be the judging factor, because “graphics” never age well. If you were to watch Magadheera today, you would find the graphics to be horribly outdated. But when that movie came out, the graphics were the best in town. But you can still appreciate Magadheera today for its drama and silly, yet entertaining story.

The same can be said for Baahubali as a whole. Sure, the “graphics” sold the movie to the nation, but it was the story which brought people back for more.

The Actors

The actors did a fine job here. If you classify their performances as “over-acting”, you probably don’t enjoy such movies anyway. This is a movie targeted at the masses and it delivers. The audience reacted beautifully to each dramatic sequence and their cheers and whistles are proof that the actors did a fine job. I did feel sorry for Tamannah, who literally didn’t speak a word because there wasn’t enough time! She appears only for a few seconds during the 23 minute present day story. Otherwise, everyone else gave their best to their roles.

The Music

The background music was once again well done. However, it was the songs that became a weak link. It’s not that they were bad, but they didn’t fit in seamlessly with the narrative like the first movie’s soundtrack did (except the tattoo song – that was the weakest part of the first movie) Three songs – “Saahore Baahubali”, “Mukunda” and “Hamsa Nava” – could have been removed entirely without affecting the story. In the first movie, except the tattoo song, every other song contributed in some part to the overall narrative. (Even the obligatory “item song” tried to justify itself by showing Bhallaladeva’s search for the traitor!) That said, I did like “Dandaalayya” and it seems to be everyone’s favourite as well.

The Movie

Despite a few flaws, the movie certainly delivers a powerful package. Even if you’re disappointed at the movie not meeting your expectations, I’m willing to bet that you were entertained at the numerous sparks of creativity that were displayed throughout the movie. Be it the flaming bulls, the coconut tree catapults or my personal favourite, the bow-and-triple-arrow fight/dance; the team has put together a fascinating movie that deserves to be watched again and preserved as a cultural treasure.

And this is how it all began.

Thank you, Rajamouli & team for the delightful treat that was Baahubali. Like everyone else, I’m eager to watch what comes next from this talented crew, but I’m happy their immediate movie is to take a much deserved break. Meanwhile, I’m happy that I already have two more confirmed visits back to Maahishmati in the next few days!