Entertainment Tollywood 08 May 2017 It’s a bird, i ...
The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Baahubali!

Published May 8, 2017, 6:18 am IST
Updated May 8, 2017, 6:18 am IST
Still from the movie Baahubali
 Still from the movie Baahubali

In a sequence from the highly popular Tamil film hit of the '60s, 'Kadhalikka Neramillai' (No time for love) , the late, lamented comedian Nagesh, cast as a wannabe film director, mockingly mimics a couple of aspiring heroines in English with a strong Tamil accent, “We don't see Tamil pictures, we only see English pictures”. While one will have to watch the film again to glean the precise, ironic context in which that line was delivered, I can get the broad sense of what the great Nagesh was driving at. I can even identify with his caustic sentiment.

The thing is I myself took great inverted pride, for long periods of time in having watched only English films and a handful of Tamil films, mostly Sivaji / Padmini / Gemini / Savitri starrers. Comedians like Thangavelu, Baliah and Nagesh provided the comedic icing on the cake. For the most part, the dominance of the Rajni - Kamal era passed me by, to say nothing of the present lot of Tamil stars whom I will struggle to barely identify. As for Hindi films, barring one mad phase of Rajesh Khanna / Amitabh Bachchan hits during the ‘70s, the genre is a blank page.

You can, therefore, hardly fault me if the current Baahubali 2 craze is leaving me completely cold. I am ashamed to admit that I was not even aware of the existence of a Baahubali 1. Clearly, I have been kept in the dark. For quite a few days, I didn’t even know what this Baahubali was - the adverts kept flitting in and out of our television screens, and the name was slowly but surely embedding itself into the recesses of my brain, like some insidious, creeping disease.

I usually switch channels when the commercial breaks begin (as do most of you), but bits of the audio and visuals do get retained - subliminally, as the advertising gurus rather neatly put it. It took till a couple of days ago when realisation finally dawned. Baahuabali 2 was not a new, improved brand of hormone booster, nor a snazzy new chain of physical fitness centres, and definitely not an acne and dark spot removing cream. When commercials play with maddening frequency over each other, one cannot be blamed for mixing up the product categories.

Thus it was that when my driver asked me, casually, if I plan to go and watch Baahubali 2 in the near future, I was brought up short. Couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. I asked him exactly what he meant by ‘watch Baahubali 2’.
Naturally, the fellow was incredulous, and wondered if I was quite myself that morning. Only when he went on to explain that the Baahuabali franchise was amongst the most lavish and expensive films ever made in the history if Indian cinema, and that it was already raking in the shekels (not my driver's words) within a day of its release, did I emerge from my stupor, and realisation dawned.

All of a sudden, all the billboards in the city seem to be plastered with Baahubali 2 images, and the TV anchors were going ape over all the minute background details of how this mega blockbuster was produced, in how many languages has it been released, the battalion of foreigners involved in the post production graphics, what the main actors had for lunch during shoots, and a host of other obscure details I could have well done without.

I don't even know who the principal stars are. Their names don't immediately ring any bells. I could recognise a Tamil screen actor on TV who was reading out a letter of apology for insulting somebody or the other nine years ago, over the Cauvery water dispute, and that he seeks forgiveness and begs that the film be released without let or hindrance. All very mysterious. Apparently he himself is one of the actors in Baahubali 2. That figures!

Incidentally, it's all very well for my driver to blithely ask me if I plan to go and watch this heady Indian admixture of The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur and Star Wars in the near future. He doesn't seem to know the half. My daily newspaper informs me that tickets are unavailable for the next couple of months for love or money. Which is hardly surprising when I also saw on TV hordes of youngsters coming out of a cinema theatre after a screening of Baahubali 2, and promptly lining up again to watch the next screening. The spotty young spokesperson, speaking on behalf of this rabble, said that an entire class from their school have 'cut classes' and bought Baahubali tickets for all the three shows on the day!

The same thing is being repeated across cinema halls all over the country. What chance do I have? I tried booking online, and was met with a firm 'All tickets for Baahubali 2 sold out. Try after June 1'. I consoled myself that I had had a lucky escape. In home comfort, I watched Lawrence of Arabia on Netflix for the 27th time! Who wants Baahubali when I can get Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn in the same film, with plenty of sand and camels. And with David Lean directing. All for Rs 650/- a year! Don't think you can top that. I was clearly that much ahead of the game.

In the fullness of time, I will hire the DVDs of Baahubali 1 & 2,  and watch them in the comfort of my home with a chilled beer and a packet of crisps. What is more, I can fast forward all the songs and the three hour epic will be magically reduced to 2 hours. And when Baahubali 3 is announced for release, hopefully in the distant future, I will be good and ready.

(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket and good humour)

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