Film Corner: Baahubali Part 1

Baahubali: The Beginning

I've really been wanting to get into some of the Indian Bollywood movies on Netflix because some of them look amazing, so today I want to try watching Baahubali: The Beginning. I'm white and I don't know anything about the epic this is based on, just so I'm clear! The movie opens with a nice disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the shooting of this film and that the ones you see being harmed are completely computer-generated. I like that. I wish more films did that at the beginning, not just at the end.

We open with a woman carrying a baby past a waterfall. She has an arrow in her back, so she's not doing too well. She walks backwards in her own footsteps at the river-- ah! Two soldiers are tracking her. OH MY GOD, she stabbed Soldier #1 with the arrow from her back, grabbed his sword as he dropped it, and stabbed Soldier #2, all without jostling the baby. Dibs on her as my new mom. All babies should be so lucky.

She tries to cross the river, but it's not going well. She calls on Shiva to save the baby boy--he's destined for a throne and some kind of unclear revenge narrative--at the expense of her own life. The water rises over her head and she dies but still holds the baby aloft over the water. A wandering group of people notice the baby being held above the water. A man swims out to get the baby; the woman points at the waterfall and floats away, deceased. Baby is handed over to a pretty woman.

The people are confused by the discovery of a cave they didn't know about. One suggests that maybe the dead woman wanted the baby taken into the cave and up to the waterfall. New Mom tells them that is a very foolish idea and that the baby needs warms and milks. "This is my baby now. I have no children, but this one given to me by the River Goddess. If anyone of you object, I'll trample upon your necks." I LOVE HER? 2 out of 2 women so far are badass amazing.

Correction to my top thread!

@chiffonades. tbh technically not bollywood since this is originally a south indian production! probably considered a joint Kollywood (Tamil) and Tollywood (Telugu) production. Also don't think it's an actual epic story iirc.

New Mom tells them to seal the cave, because they've figured out that's where the soldiers came from. Smash cut to the baby as a little boy asking mom what's up the waterfall. He wants to go up there. A wonderful growth montage of him trying to climb up the waterfall cliffs as he grows steadily older. By the top of the cliff, he is grown up and gorgeous and capable of slow motion wet-hair tossing. This movie is really beautiful.

Shiva, for that is our protagonist's name, falls off the cliff while the villagers take bets on whether he'll hit his head again. He runs into town to check on Mom, who is vexed by all this cliff-climbing business. Mom has been carrying water to a lingam of Lord Shiva (the god) in the hopes that Shiva (her son) will stop climbing the waterfall. Shiva worries that all this water-carrying will harm his mother so decides to BREAK the lingam. The music is AMAZING.

Shiva lifts the heavy lingam all on his own and carries it to the waterfall so that Lord Shiva can be continuously watered for his Mom. Then he DANCES and it's joyful and good. A wooden mask falls down the waterfall to his feet. The mask leads him back to the waterfall where a beautiful woman covered in butterflies beckons him. He leaps and makes it higher than ever before! He is, like, Tarzan-ing up this mountain. Swinging on vines and water skating. It's amazing.

We're at last at the top of the waterfall! Everything here is snowy. A beautiful young woman runs from an army. I'm scared for her, but she's actually an Action Girl and she was leading them into a trap! I love her too! We learn that Princess Devasena (I'm guessing this is Shiva's bio-mom!) has been imprisoned in a town, and these are rebels determined to rescue her. They are fire and thunder and courage.

Here's the butterfly-girl song, by the way!

Night falls and Action Girl rests by a lake. Shiva swims up to her and... I think he's painting "Do you like me, check yes/no" on her hand? It's something, ok. She startles and goes back to the Rebel Cave without seeing him. Action Girl has a name! Avanthika. There's a celebration in the city and she is selected for the mission to rescue the Princess. But oh no! The chief sees the pretty drawing on her hand that Shiva made and disqualifies her for "focusing on your beauty over your oath".

Avanthika cries a single tear and tells him her blood is boiling and to let her go on this mission. The chief does, and it's nice to see tears in a situation that doesn't label them as a sign of weakness. We pan over the city of Mahishmati and (a) the music is amazing, I want the soundtrack, and (b) the CGI is really good. The city looks like a real city, and not like Star Wars rubber, No offense to Disney or whatever, this just looks way better and I love it??

Mahishmati seems like it was a pretty great place before the villain took over and starting whipping people in the streets and wrestling wild bulls for pleasure. Ah! When the bull is being wrestled, there's a clear but unobtrusive "CGI" notice in the corner so everyone is clear that a real bull is not being harmed. I *really* like that.

Princess Devasena is cruelly shackled to a pillar in the center of the city, where sun burns her and she sleeps on stone. She maintains that her son will come and one day set her free. HOLY SHIT SHE IS AWESOME. I don't know how to summarize her "I will have vengeance" speech, but it was amazing.

Avanthika stakes out the lake (seeking the tattoo-ing stranger who marked her hand) but Shiva is playing trickster-god and uses an adorable green snake to distract her while he colors her shoulder. Shiva and Avanthika have a fight sequence in which he strips away her armor and weapons of war, again as a Trickster God, and dresses them both as if for a wedding. Aww! She smiles for the first time!

After a beautiful sequence of love, a sorrowful Avanthika slips away back to her duty--and is immediately captured. But it's okay because Shiva isn't *just* a playful god! A horse is used to harm soldiers, and the "CGI" notice again. I love that so much. The last soldier widens his eyes and murmurs "Baahubali" and begs him to "forgive me, my lord!" I'm guessing Shiva looks like his dad.


Avanthika is too injured to go on her mission, but Shiva shares her obligations and swears to rescue Devasena. (CGI note: the horse is not actually running through fire, the horse is fine.) Devasena senses his coming and announces that her son has returned, and Shiva's robes burn away into armor. Unsure if that's real or symbolic, we'll see.

The city is a bit busy with the erection of a 100-foot tall golden statue of the Villain. The statue nearly drops but Shiva catches the rope and holds it while the workers gather their strength. The elder worker catches a glimpse of Shiva's face and whispers "Baahubali". The others take up the word -- even others too young to remember the old king, which tells us the elders have passed down the stories. The music is STILL AWESOME. BACK BELOW THE WATERFALL, Adoptive Mom has the villagers open the sealed cave because she's worried for her missing Shiva.

Sorry, we had to pause for a moment, for reasons. Can I just say, I really love this movie? A lot? I love how the women are strong and beautiful and real? They have scars and, like, the beautiful princess who lives in the sun has rough skin. They're REAL. And when Shiva stops the golden statue from falling, I thought he was going to single-handedly finish raising the statue himself. He doesn't. He just holds the rope and waits for the workers to get back up, like...a helping hand, but not a show-off? I love him. AND the whole sequence with the city dancing to Baahabuli's name is so GREAT because earlier the Villain gloated to the Princess that no one remembers the old king's name. Here is proof positive that the populace very much does.

ANYWAY. The Villain calls all his guards in and Shiva is accidentally counted among the guards. He wants to know who said Baahubali's name first. Shiva knocks over a brazier and sets the palace curtains on fire. Bless him. Shiva runs for it (he's creating a distraction so he can get to the Princess-Mom) and the CGI at last betrays us because there's a great jumping sequence that looks exactly like the first Prince of Persia game, but it's FUN. Not every movie needs to be GRIMDARK.

OH! Princess Devasena is seeing him for the first time!! I love how the movie is willing to PAUSE chase sequences to have emotional moments. This is how an epic SHOULD be filmed. Realism is overrated. Oh my god, there are- there's a city fortification that is fire and bales of straw and it's brilliant? Taking notes for my D&D setting. (Kissmate: "His wheels are now on fire! You have just made his exist cooler!")

SHIVA JUST SLAPPED A SWORD IN HALF. AND THAT'S A HOME RUN WITH THAT VILLAIN HEAD. Rain pours, Devasena grins, and everyone converges on the spot, including Basement Foster Parents. The rain washes the mud away and everyone present recognizes him as the true king, and kneels, and Devasena is so happy and proud, and we're crying. My god. I like how he's a good age for being a king? He's a stocky 25 and not, like, 15?

Shiva needs to be brought up to speed on his history, and so do we because we know about as much as he does. The most AMAZING flashback occurs in which his...hang on...grandfather's brother's wife quells a rebellion by stabbing a traitor like a BOSS. Every woman in this movie is amazing, I love them all. She rules that "both her sons" (her bio-son and the dead queen's newborn son) will have an equal right to the throne, to be determined by wisdom. And breastfeeds them right there on the throne.

The two boys--this is Shiva's father and Shiva's uncle--grow up together in constant cooperation and competition. They're equal in skills, so their mom sends them on a mission to find a traitor who stole, like, all the bank account statements for the palace. The most BEAUTIFUL sensual dance number just happened and you missed it if you're not watching this on Netflix with me. I'm so sorry for you.

Father and Uncle catch the thief. Uncle nearly gets a chance to stab Father / his brother in the back and be king, but witnesses show up and ruin his chance. Oh! The thief is inciting a foreign power to invade. There is a war strategy meeting with an amazing D&D table full of detailed minis, and they actually make sure the audience understands the battle plan. As a note, I do appreciate that...while we have a disabled villain in the flashback--Grandfather's Brother--he's explicitly bad for being a scheming jerk and not for being disabled. Like, they're very clear about that.

ANYWAY, Father and Uncle have to race to kill the enemy commander and whoever kills him first might get to be king. Problem? Uncle's bio-father has stacked the deck in his favor and given Father shitty equipment. (Which seems bad for the kingdom!) The opposing army appears to be African and uh. This is the part where I am way too white to comment, but they feel very Othered. So uh. Trigger warning for anti-Black racism. Lots of it. Holy crap.

On the battlefield, Shiva's Father has taken his shitty equipment and combined fire + tents + cannonballs to make FLAMING versions of those parachutes we play with in elementary school. OH MY GOD. THERE IS A CHARIOT WITH A GIANT LAWNMOWER BLADE. The enemy has hostages! Evil Uncle mows them down, but Good Father is clever enough to find a way to save his people AND keep fighting.

I like this CGI. It's not realistic, but it's shamelessly fun in a good way. Like, they put thought into how to make it Silly-Fun rather than just rubbery Star Wars fakery that doesn't have any soul to it.

Oh. The *sound* Kissmate just made at this tweet.

@McNutcase. Fair warning, this recap takes up basically the rest of the movie and ends in a cliffhanger. But at least we get to go right to the next movie, in the theatrical release it was a two year wait.

There is a HUGE battle. The short version is that Good Father: inspires his men, saves his people, and follows his mother's orders to capture the enemy leader. Bad Uncle: kills his people and steal-kills the enemy leader.

Bad Uncle's Dad (Shiva's Grandfather's Brother -- I know it's complex, I'm sorry, it's a lot easier with faces) tries to proclaim Bad Uncle king for steal-killing the leader, but the Queen shuts that shit down and makes Good Father the king. "If you kill a hundred men, you will be called a great leader. If you save one life, you will be called a God." Justifying her decision to crown the merciful and clever son, we smash back from the flashback.

Foster Mother is so proud of her son's father and wants to meet him and of course he's dead -- but we don't know why. "How did such a great warrior die?" He's told that a stab in the back is worse than a sword or spear. YOU WEREN'T KIDDING ABOUT A CLIFFHANGER, WTF. That was amazing. Obviously we'll watch the sequel, though I'm not sure when. Thank you all for coming with us. Sending you all love on this difficult day.


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