Baahubali: The Beginning comes from director S.S. Rajamouli, perhaps best known for his 2022 standout action film, RRR. Set in the kingdom of Mahishmati in the 9th century, the film chronicles Baahubali’s life from his humble origins in a small village to his ascension to near godhood. Massive scale battle sequences, stunning cinematography, and vibrant music blend throughout to craft this mythic hero’s journey. Consider this film a great starting point for those eager for more Indian cinema after the glory of RRR.
The first half focuses solely on the title character and setting up his near superhero origin story. After his mother (Anushka Shetty) saves his life as an infant, Baahubali (Prabhas) grows up in a small village beneath a gigantic waterfall. He dreams of a life above the clouds, so he scales the waterfall each day in hopes of finding his purpose and the greatness that follows it. After receiving a blessing from the goddess Shiva, Baahubali comes face-to-face with his grand destiny.
Said destiny comes in the form of falling in love with the beautiful warrior Avanthika (Tamannaah Bhatia). Baahubali’s love extends to carrying out her mission to rescue Maahishmati’s rightful Queen Devasena from the oppressive King Bhallaldeva (Rana Daggubati). While attempting to free the queen, Baahubali must face his unknown past and his duty to the people of Maahishmati. These revelations come through a story told by the legendary warrior Kattappa (Sathyaraj).
“…Baahubali must face his unknown past and his duty to the people of Maahishmati.”
Baahubali: The Beginning is overflowing with beautiful cinematic elements, each artfully contributing to the spectacle and substance of this genre-spanning narrative. The film has colossal battle sequences, steamy romance, a mysterious origin story, and even a full music video-esque dance number. However, the filmmaker’s ability to marry each element seamlessly sets this apart from other films that try to accomplish so much. RRR fans will recognize the unique shifts from macho action sequences and superhuman feats to tender emotive scenes focused on developing the characters. Rajamouli takes influences from Braveheart, The House of Flying Daggers, and India-based comic books to create a marvelous example of Tollywood cinema.
The performances by Prabhas and Daggubati are remarkable. Prabhas plays a dual role as both Baahubali and Baahubali’s father. Daggubati also portrays an older sinister King Bhallaldeva and a young, ambitious Bhallaldeva in the second half. Both actors bring nuance to their characters and elevate the larger story of Baahubali’s rise to greatness. Shetty (without diving into major spoilers) brings out fiery hatred throughout her performance as Baahubali’s mother. Paired with Sathyarj’s performance as the aged solider relating the legend, they give the film a deep history and build the foundation for larger resolutions in the sequel Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.
After the success of Baahubali: The Beginning, it has expanded into a sequel, novel, and even a web series. While this film on its own is not a complete narrative, the story still grips the audience from the opening credits and will not relinquish until the screen fades to black at the close. Rajamouli packs his epic tale with surprising twists, a compelling sense of adventure, and, without a doubt, some of the best action you will ever witness on screen. The film is everything you should expect from the filmmaker and everything a blockbuster should be.
"…everything a blockbuster should be."