Bahubali: Lessons from reading the cover

Some confessions first. I haven’t seen the movie Bahubali yet. I am more than eager to judge the book by its cover without giving it it’s due and not feeling guilty of doing so. I am biased with indignation here.

Recently the Tamil film fraternity requested people who critique movies to defer their opinions by three days post the release. And this they hope would ensure them recover the ‘making costs’ and make them immune to the critic’s wisecracks and any adverse impact consequently.

Now that SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus has earned more than 1000 crore across the country, one feels morally less burdened to be candid. My in-laws who haven’t stepped in to a movie hall over a decade watched this movie and happily reported that it was like yesteryear mythological movies and found it enjoyable. That news made me more comfortable as it ensured that my potential to inflict any financial damage to the movie was none.

More than the movie, the celebration of the movie maker’s efforts even before it’s theatrical release got me wondering. That Bahubali would be a commercial success across India was a foregone conclusion even before the movie was released. Only Salman khan and Rajinikanth could have pulled this off. And their films ride hugely on their individual charisma with the quality of film making often redundant.

This is perhaps the first time a period drama, that too from south with actors hitherto unknown to the rest of the country, managed to evoke this kind of excitement. One of the columnists in a popular south daily lamented how this movie threatens the renaissance that started happening in Tamil movies, with stories getting precedence over stardom.

A casual look at the movie reviews clearly indicate that the movie is a winner for all the wrong reasons. Despite typecast characters and a storyline utterly lacking novelty the film glorifies feudal hierarchy and celebrates pseudo machismo – that has no relevance today.  We as a nation are better off without that. I wouldn’t even go to the extent of comparing the visual effects with Lord of the rings or Mahabharata for inspiration. With an insipid storyline and characterisation, the graphics only reminds you of the popular children’s game ‘Temple run’ and certainly not Lord of the Rings.

This movie has become such a phenomenon it has become impossible to criticize and argue on its demerits. Like many things currently in our country there has been a groundswell support for this movie and any lone voice that was critical went unheard. A spectacular canvass is proving to be good enough to stifle critical thinking that it may encounter. One could sense it from the support it received from all quarters, especially the big stars who often have millions riding on them. It is great endorsement for their stardom which gives them the license to demand obscene fees.

Unless you are overcome with nationalistic zeal of supporting an Indian movie maker attempting special effects of international standard, there isn’t a good reason for you to watch the movie. But then we live in different times. Refusal to play a part in such acts invites the collective wrath of the society or makes you a cynic who can’t see goodness in everyday goodness.

But then the overriding message is clear. We all fall for the primacy effect. We fell for the cover as nothing inside the book mattered. A glossy expensive cover than can earn you more than 1000 crores even if it had nothing in-between worth talking about. Markandeya katju’s in his moment of epiphany was right about us.

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