Baahubali 2 has changed Indian filmmaking forever
With the Baahubali franchise, it seems we have entered a phase where technology will increasingly be used in enriching the visual medium
The box office collection of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion must have come as a pleasant surprise to its makers, especially for the director, S. S. Rajamouli, who recently said that he didn’t want the world of Baahubali to end. The film has earned about ₹1,500 crore.
With the film, it seems the technology of special effects in film-making has come of age. Usually, Hindi films are seen as weak on the technological front. So much so, that in the 1970s, one could hear a person crying out dhishoom during a fight sequence.
Then, there were Ramsay brothers’ horror movies, which had those cheap special effects that bordered more on the comical than spook their audiences. Combined with bad editing, these films provided lessons in how not to use sounds in horror movies.
Thankfully for Indian cinema, we have travelled a long way since those days. Inspired by the use of technology and special effects in Hollywood, Indians started picking up tricks of the trade as we began to put together some slick productions.
Innovative use of electronic sounds and beats in film music were made popular by Ilayaraja, the Tamil film composer, in the 1990s. Even then, our films still lacked the slickness and subtlety when it came to special visual effects, graphics and animation.
When director Mani Ratnam zoomed in on a water drop on Madhu’s bare shoulder in 1992 hit Roja, the efforts being put in by Indian filmmakers to catch up with their Western counterparts started to become evident.
In the last 25 years, the world cinema has witnessed a, sort of, revolution in visual effects. In India, where film financing wasn’t big back earlier, the impact of this revolution was a little slow to became visible. Only during the last decade or so, the use of Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) really started to show in Indian movies.
This journey seems to have started with the Rajinikanth-starrer Robot (Enthiran) in 2010. Shot in Tamil originally before being dubbed in other languages, the film was made with a huge budget of ₹200 million. The sci-fi flick was a mega hit in all the languages in which it was dubbed. The use of CGI was praiseworthy and the film, though inspired by Marry Shelley’s well known novel Frankenstein and influenced by the 1984 Hollywood film The Terminator, was a milestone in Indian cinema. In Hindi, our very own Rohit Shetty graduated to special effects as he blew up various exotic cars in Golmaal 3 in 2010.
Then came Ra.One in 2011. An ambitious project by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainments, and directed by Anubhav Sinha, the film was a comment on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it could spin out of control. With a budget of ₹150 crore, Ra.One was one of the most expensive Indian films at the time of its release. Though the film did not fare as well as Robot, its CGI technique employed in it was more advanced, making the movie a visual delight.
The next year after the release of Ra.One, Eega (The fly) was made. Directed by none other than SS Rajamouli, the fantasy film was a revenge drama. J Hurtado of Canadian movie review website, Twitch Film, hailed Eega as the “best, most insane, most inventive film of the year.” It was made on a very bizarre idea of a man reborn as a fly to take revenge. But only after watching the movie does one realise the true greatness of the project. Shah Rukh Khan himself was all praise for the film. The movie was billed as an excellent example of how human emotions combined with CGI making could make a story come alive.
In 2015, Rajamouli returned with a bang with Baahubali: The Beginning. This time, the film had no message on AI or Man vs Machine debate. On the contrary, Rajamouli used technology to portray a mythological saga of loyalty, royalty and gallantry. The magnificent set and stunts, the larger-than-life characters and their godly bravery and, age-old emotions of love, loss, loyalty and enmity–all fitted in well to turn the movie into a commercial and critical success.
With the Baahubali franchise, it seems we have entered a phase where technology will increasingly be used in enriching the visual medium. But there is a thin line between using CGI skillfully to add to the story and just employing the technology for the sake of it. If Baahubali reflects the coming-of-age of technology in Indian cinema, it also shows a simple fact, that a story told interestingly based on simple human values always strikes a chord with the audience.