Alert: This is not a movie review. This talks about something else.
Not long back, a trailer of “Baahubali – The Beginning” started to appear in my Facebook timeline. Scores of people shared the link. Opinions started to pour in. Some relentlessly shared daily updates about the movie. Rather irritated, I blocked a few of the so called hardcore fans. I never promoted a single link related to the movie. The trailer did nothing to catch my attention either. I argued against the hype, against the fanaticism. I strongly believed movies should not be a medium to splurge money. I argued – wise intelligent movie making will be be lost with such gigantic movies getting made in India. It would mean the grave for sensible directors holding a good script, and a small budget requirement. The very essence of good movies seemed to be at stake. I wished the money spent on this movie be spent on the poor homeless, hungry people of India.
On 10th July 2015, amid huge fanfare like never seen before, Baahubali began his journey.
With a massive world-wide release, there seemed no stopping Baahubali. In none of the reviews, anyone dared to give a negative rating. Even a massacring critic like Raja sen chose to remain silent. None of my pseudo intellectual friends shared a negative feedback about the movie. I wondered what has happened to all the people in this country. Something was seriously wrong. How can a big budget movie made in India, by a Telugu director, based on a tried and tested boring war theme be so right!? I decided to find out.
After two days of struggle, my wife succeeded in booking tickets for a Sunday evening show. I was unhappy that we were watching the movie in an old mall, where everything else except PVR was closed. The mall, which is close to our house wore a dull deserted look, reeling in some past pride.
On Sunday, as we neared the mall, there were wide decors, excited people and hawkers surrounding us. I thought probably, the shops have re-opened in the mall. I was wrong. At the parking area, the once sleepy staff seemed to be on their toes. For the first time, I was guided to the second level parking where, no vehicle would have probably entered in a year. The parking guy had his bag full. The excitement was evident on his face. As I joked with him over the parking space he said, “Since Baahubali has been released, all shows are full. I haven’t collected so much money in the last 6 months put together.”
We followed an obedient queue to enter the cinema hall. Such obedience that one gets to see only at beverage outlets in Kerala. The movie began. Typical – Indian macho-heroism and romantic thrills, poured in. An Indian version of Tarzan captured heartbeats of a majority of people in the hall including ours. The time tested mix of love, humor and heroism did not get us yawning even for a second. Lights came on indicating interval, faster than we expected. After a few lazy minutes at the seat, I went out to get some popcorn. To my surprise, everything in the shops were sold out. I asked them and they said “Since Baahubali has been released, all shows are full. How much ever we order stock, it gets sold out. Such huge business has not happened in the near past”.
The second half was when the movie moved to another level. As the war came alive, the movie continued to grow. It grew so massively that it became something never seen or attempted in Indian cinema. It matched or surpassed the Hollywood war movies like Troy, Gladiator, Braveheart and 300 in its making. Even with nothing new in its story line, I must confess, no war movie has thrilled and excited me like this ever before (Maybe, I got hooked to the fact that something of this extend was made in India and all the weak links vanished). A 30 minute war scene leaves us wanting for more. Just when we have fallen for the movie, its characters and the plot, the movie draws to a close with a revelation, that would for sure, drive us back to the theaters for the conclusion in 2016.
We came out happily drooling and discussing many a scene in the movie. Rather hungry, we checked for the nearby chaat and momos vendors. As expected, they too were sold out for the day.
We went home and made a meal for ourselves. While cooking, my wife pointed out how Titanic created an impact on her. Titanic was a movie that introduced her to Hollywood. She realized that there is a big industry out there. From there on she started collecting as much English movies as possible irrespective of whether its a big budget or an indie production. Hollywood thus made inroads into her.
Today morning, I woke up to the news of Baahubali becoming the most watched movie in US, not limiting to just the Indian crowd. I realized Baahubali is not just another Indian movie. Its an Indian ticket to the world movie scene.
Like how my wife got hooked to Hollywood, thanks to Titanic, there would be French, American, Korean, Spanish and Russian folks who would get hooked to Indian films, thanks to Baahubali. Slowly, like how Hollywood films have a big market in India, Indian films will start having bigger markets abroad. Then, not just our big budget films, but experimental, low budget and good films will start minting the money it deserves. The industry will grow. More money will be spent to cater to the larger audience. We will finally start thinking beyond 2000 Indian screens with a potential of 100-200 CR revenue and start aiming the 1000 and 3000 crores market like the Jurassic Park 2. The light boys, drivers, cooks, spot boys, cameraman, editors, musicians, artists, all will get a share of the pie. The parking guy, popcorn vendor, chaat wala and momo seller, will get their food sold out more regularly. Industry will grow, and in its stride, will take along with it a whole lot of people whose lives revolve around this industry.
All thanks to a humble, soft spoken man, with a lion’s gut – S S Rajamouli. His team’s hard-work, attention to detail and quest for perfection has been rewarded. He has shown Indian filmmakers what “Thinking Big” actually means. He has sent a strong message to the world that “Indian Cinema has finally arrived”.
NB: I may still not unblock the fanatics in Facebook. But yes, I did my part in promoting this “Indian film”.