The Baahubali effect: Before Rajamouli's film Indians were starved of genuine blockbusters
"If you are fightin', stop fightin'. If you are marchin', stop marchin'. Come back to me. Come back to me is my request."
Not since Ada Monroe beckoned Inman to Cold Mountain has there been a more compelling call to just stop, forget everything and come back to the only thing that currently seems to matter in life: The fate of Amarendra Baahubali and the Katappa question.
And so it is. The clocks are all set to a Friday morning alarm. The mind, like Javed Miandad's before he made that unfortunate Chetan Sharma ball disappear for a painful six, is focussed on just one aim.
The dog is sacrificing his bone. The kids are skipping school. The mother is ready to make Lord Shiva wait for the morning chants for her love of Shivudu. In the background, the father is brushing up his memory by watching Bahubali: The Beginning for the nth time on Youtube.
Nails are disappearing at a rapid clip because of nervous excitement. A box of Valium-5 sits on the side table for the insomnia the night before.
No, not tonight, darling, I have Devsana on my mind!
Ten million tickets, we are told, disappeared within 24 hours after the counters opened.
Five of them, I can proudly declare, lie safely in a drawer at home, under round-the-clock vigilance to ward off any cataclysmic event that may delay the much awaited tryst with cinematic destiny.
Films are meant to be seen, enjoyed and forgotten. But, ever since SS Rajamouli ended the first part of his magnum opus abruptly, leaving more questions than answers, Bahubali has been like a fever burning inside with relentless intensity. It just can't be forgotten.
Why? The answer is simple: Bahubali is nothing like you have seen on the Indian screen. It is that rare mix of unforgettable characters, a taut, crisp script, unimaginable action sequences, picture-postcard cinematography and finally a mouth-watering tadka of mystery.
It is mix of every great Indian film you can relate with — Sholay for its script and characters, Mughal-e-Azam for the sheer scale and magnitude and the audacity of the director.
There are films that make you want to suspend disbelief and then revel in the free fall into fantasy land. Baahubali is one such rare film where the audience buys the director's imagination, flights of fancy, relishing the complete surrender of their critical thinking. No questions asked, only gratitude to offer.
Frankly, before Bahubali, Indian audiences were starved of genuine blockbusters. Most of the films that did well were primarily centred around the few stars that rule Indian cinema. Many of these films showcased the stars, appealed to their loyal fans and thrived on more hype than substance.
But Rajamouli created a genuine blockbuster with little-known actors, at least for audience in the north. He gave us a film that had audiences — from the front-benchers to those reclining in sofas — something to watch with their eyes wide open and mouth agape. He created a work of entertainment that made us clap at the thundering dialogue, whistle and throw coins at the entry of the hero and watch with awe at the choreographed action.
His film passed every cinematic test — praise from critics, adulation from audience, record-breaking earnings at the box-office — and took movie-making to a different stratosphere, triggering comparisons with Hollywood.
Now that he is returning with the sequel, it is impossible to think that Rajamouli would not have tried to outdo himself.
His history reveals that Rajamouli ventures into new territory every time he goes behind the camera, extends the boundaries of creativity, redefines art and creates moments that defy imagination. Baahubali 2 promises to be a gigantic leap forward for individual brilliance and Indian cinema. It must be witnessed.
So, to rephrase WH Auden's famous poem: 'Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, silence the pianos and with muffled drum... The stars are not wanted now; put out every one. Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood'.
Over to Bahubali 2.