The Film Bahubali Amidst An Ethos of Hinduism



Considering its huge budget, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been so much orchestrated praise in the media for the film Bahubali 2 with its record box office collections. It is disturbing enough but more questionable is the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya championing the film as an ideal expression of Hindu values .

One can give any spin to the film but it is essentially extremely crude, full of glorification of violence , war, brute strength and revenge. Even the women are so vile, scheming and violent. Lady Macbeth seems kind in comparison. She ridiculed the milk of human kindles but she at least suffers from a guilt complex and it is the deep psychological insights that make the Shakespeare play great.

Great tragedies have elements of war and murder but these are not their all pervading feature. They are essentially reflective in nature. Any such reflection is utterly absent in this film. It is endless in its action, revenge, war, crude stunts .Given its ethos, perhaps it would be pointless to expect any seriousness.

This is in keeping with the long American tradition of big budget films with superheroes full of violence, revenge, glorification of the military and masculinity,male chauvinism.Between 2002 and 2012 alone 50 such films were made in the U.S . with superheroes and global box revenues, research shows.

This film may be setting a new trend in India with big budgets eying even bigger markets and one can imagine the content the new films will have. A section of the Hindu Right is closely identifying itself with this film.

What a precipitous fall this film represents. One of the central characters here is the mother Sivagami who has nothing but vileness in her character, though the film makers want to project her as a firm and just ruler. What a contrast to the noble Bharat Mata-like figure of Nargis in Mother India. That too was a great international hit film but how serious and sensitive it was and it was the first Indian film to win an Oscar nomination. And that was in 1957, exactly 60 years ago.
Mother India is all about common people and their plight, their hard work and resistance. Bahubali has little space for common people, they are seen merely in big scenes meek and submissive as a fascist state would like them to be.

The abiding image of Mother India is of Nargis carrying the plough on her shoulder. The plough is of great significance not only as an implement of peasants but also as a symbol of peace. The Old Testament talks of beating swords into plowshares and nations giving up wars for peace.

It is remarkable that the film was made by Mehboob Khan with characters with names rooted in Indian mythology. Nargis is Radha while her husand is Shyam and her one son is Ram and another Birju, another name for Krishna. The music was given by the legendary Naushad and dialogues were by Shakil Badayuni. The logo of Mehboob Studio was the hammer and sickle, a symbol of Communists, but it was juxtaposed with another line that things happen because of the will of Khuda. This film represented the optimism of a newly born India with its dams and farming. The final scene shows water flowing through the newly built irrigation canal. Bahubali , in contrast, represents a completely morbid, aggressive world view though its supporters could always argue otherwise. Films like Bahubali also help legitimize a culture of cruelty which a section of society wants to inflict on another and suggest that it is something natural.

Amidst the wild publicity for the film, it was difficult to come across dissenting views. I noticed two, a review by Shubhra Gupta in Indian Express and the most telling piece in the Hindu by scholar Sundar Sarukkai which said the film was perhaps the worst thing to have happened to Indian films at a time when we were watching a small renaissance. Sarukkai is a professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore.

Formerly, there used to be film critics in journalism who had read about serious cinema, seen, studied good films at the international level. Now, it is not just the influence of big money, Most reviewers appear to have no background of serious cinema. So they are easily fooled and impressed by cheap stunts and special effects passing off as wonderful cinema. Am surprised that even the Guardian had a word of praise for Bahubali part 1, though I could not find its review of the new one. Some of the Indian television coverage of films even on prominent channels is so cheap. And all Hindi heroes insist on talking in English on TV to show off their knowledge of the language, as novelist Amit Chaudhuri, said in a programme in Mumbai earlier this month.

The Kshatriya ethos is frequently extolled in Bahubali. In that case what do the Hindutva forces do with Parshuram who vowed to rid the earth of Kshatriyas 21 times if need be ? And Parshuram is a favourite icon of a section of Brahmins. Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister, compared himself with Parshuram some years ago.

Also alarming is the proposal of the Andhra chief minister to model the new capital of Amravati in the image of the filmy set of Bahubali disregarding all studies and advice of town planners and architects.

Enlightened sections are fed up of monstrous skyscrapers and faceless architecture. But the answer to that is not revivalism of outmoded, old style. What we need is a humane ethos in architecture and other spheres of life.

Mr Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News