Is ‘Baahubali’ franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that ‘Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion’ is guffawing away any other record made by any other film previously, in India. Whether or not you are enthusiastic about epic sagas, you got to admit that there’s something uncannily august about this impressive narration. Probably the grandeur? Probably the untasted royalism? Or probably a scale of visual treatment we rarely witness in Indian films.

The intention, however, is not to write a chronicle of its box office success. Rather, it is about time Bollywood discerned the success of ‘Baahubali’ franchise.

Over the past years, Bollywood has been undergoing perceptible evolutions; in terms of content of cinema, treatment of stories, experimental technical aspects and what not? But at the end, the perspectives still seem to be trapped in a labyrinth, as we meekly buy the easy success formulas of a film and try to justify why a film did or did not work out. ‘Baahubali’ franchise, however, is shaking the conventional rationale behind a film’s success or failure.

The ‘superstar value’ is simply not applicable for either ‘Baahubali’ or ‘Baahubali 2’; at least when it releases in four languages. True, it features Prabhas who has been in Telugu film industry for over a decade. Further true, it has Rana Daggubati playing the antagonist; someone who in seven years of his career had created a demonstrated filmography for himself. None, however, are known as conventional crowd-pullers. How sad! Bollywood, on the other hand, keeps looking for a Khan or a Kumar or at least an A-lister to carry a film on their shoulders. This immoderate dependence on star value in Bollywood does more than one harm to our cinema. First, any film lacking an A-lister has the chance not to work out. Because, we, the Indian audience, are usually way too adamant to take risks, go the theatre, spend money and give a shot to lesser known actors. Second, as and when a big film does not work out, you comfortably manifest it as the concerned star’s failure. Not justified!

As a professional who is required to closely observe the developments in showbiz, I am often both surprised and shocked at how makers fight over important holidays. Sitting into early 2017, you know who is this year’s Diwali release going to belong to. More than often, there are ugly clashes between two or more leagues, trying to capture one date. With time, those conflicts only turn uglier, and many of Bollywood’s big banners are often a part of it. You might argue that an investor would naturally seek best ways to recover his money and a filmmaker would try to draw as much footfall as possible. We vehemently agree. Where are we missing the point then?

‘Baahubali 2’ is the freshest example of what a film’s success could look like. It’s not just about the X-crore club you manage to slip into, but also the scale of frenzy you put your viewers into. With no ‘superstar’ and no assistance of a festive season, this film puts on display that the accurate content can have a weekday 8 a.m. show all houseful.

Ever wondered why, even at the age of most experimental films, web series and short films, ‘Mahabharata’ still runs on Television? We, in general, are in love with anything and everything that reminds us of our glorious past. We hog on to anything that brings us the smell of glorious wars fought centuries back, the royal lives we’ve only read about and an illustrious history that has formed much of our present. The values that mankind has been nurturing for many centuries, all incepted from various events. Nothing pleases us more when we are taken back to the nascent stage of civilisation. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, those characters never fail to develop a sense of familiarity. Almost all our rituals celebrate the win of good over evil. Pay close attention to any epic, and you’d find the same happening. Epics are an intense attempt to take us many centuries back and place us amid a story that looks different but feels ever-relevant. SS Rajamouli, when he began working on the first part of the franchise, probably underwent piles of research, But over all, he believed this content was going to work. No, Bollywood does not have to walk the same way every time. But, it sure has to be more diverse. If an epic saga can work out, so can a sci-fi or a superhero film. But when will Bollywood move over its usuals?

Keep content aside. Indian filmmakers seem way too reluctant in investing in sky-high technicalities. Indian cinema caters to and covers a large section to society and their stories, but all amid a poor technical treatment. Talent is not what we lack, elements are not what we lack. What we lack are greater visions and bigger investments at right places. Given a population of 130 crore, India has the potential to become the world’s largest film-market. The position is instead acquired by US. Technical and financial privileges are not the reasons why US conquered it. The precise reason is, they dared to experiment. China, on the other hand, grows on to become world’s second largest market for films. Will we still bank our money on nothing else but big names, done-and-dusted ways of storytelling, stuck in many uncertainties?

It’s time for an introspection!

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Image Source - YouTube

Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.

Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.

Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
Image Source - Pinterest

“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?
Image Source - India Forums

The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?
Image Source - Pinterest

The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.

Is 'Baahubali' franchise the portion of inspiration that Bollywood needs right now?
Image Source - giphy.com

And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.

While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..

Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.