Saturday, July 25, 2015

Why the computer-generated images (CGI) of Baahubali make for such ridiculous spectacle

It is the first Indian film, perhaps, which has made such extensive use of special effects to narrate a folk fantasy which is what "Baahubali' is. Folk fantasy tales are wonderful. In our childhood we read them in the Telugu children's magazine, Chandamama. There used to be a great serial called "Raakaasiloya", with the hero Kesavulu and the forest boy Jayamallu. It was a tale of magical realism before the word was invented and which was used as a pathetic description of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels and that of his infantile imitator Salman Rushdie. So, the problem with 'Baahubali' is not the fantasy tale. Such tales are absorbing, and the willing
suspension of disbelief is the natural state while reading these stories or viewing them on the big or small screen. The problem with 'Baahubali'is not the story. It is the unimaginative use of special effects which do not in any way help in narrating the story. That is why, director Rajamouli and his team cut a sorry figure. It can be argued that this writer is cutting a sorry figure in criticising a film which has earned more than Rs 300 crore and it is poised to earn more. But it would be unfair not to judge the film for its true worth, which is that it has no worth.
The characters in the story which are supposed to be larger than life appear to be cardboard figures, with paper-thin or wafer-thin emotions. Tamanna with her waif-like figure looks like a special effect rather than a real person. Prabhas is perhaps capable of good acting but he does not get an opportunity to act in this film. Ramya Krishnan and Anushka Shetty seem capable of delivering better performances but the story does not give them an opportunity.
The CGI battle scenes are as crude and ridiculous as George Lucas' Star Wars Prequel. But Lucas maintains a certain sense of comical self-awareness when he shows the fight scenes in the film. In 'Baahubali' all that you can see is that the film's special effects team is borrowing scenes from many of the meaningless old Hollywood extravaganzas like The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra. It was Spartacus, which Stanley Kubrick directed and left unfinished because of differences with producer and lead star in the film, Kirk Douglas which had a touch of authenticity.
In 'Baahubali' the story is nothing and the special effects are everything. That is why, it becomes such a ridiculous film.
Those viewers who are bowled over by 'Baahubali' must see the Chinese film 'Hero' directed Zhang Yimou. It is again a film where the special effects are used extensively but it is used to tell a powerful story and portray heart-breaking emotions. Zhang Ziyi, the heroine, and Jet Li, who plays the emperor, give off powerful performances because the story is the mainstay of the film, and not the special effects.

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