By all accounts, the new Telugu-language epic RRR, now in theaters, is an absolute delight. Director S.S. Rajamouli’s latest fantasy epic is an “outsized crowd pleaser,” delivering roaring set pieces, heartfelt emotions, and the kind of wonderful excess you’d expect from a Rajamouli movie. Per our glowing review:
RRR is a busy movie, full of kinetic camerawork, bustling crowd scenes, elaborate set design, expensive-looking CGI, and loud sound effects. Rajamouli is skilled at balancing the film’s many elements, so “overstimulated” isn’t quite the word for how walking out of RRR feels. It’s more like the pleasant exhaustion after a good workout.
If you’re like me and haven’t been able to see RRR in theaters, but want to share in the joy people are feeling worldwide about it, there’s a solution: watch (or rewatch) Rajamouli’s excellent Baahubali movies, which are both available on Netflix in the U.S.. The two fantasy epics relish in excess and color in their combined run time of just shy of six hours.
Based on a story told to Rajamouli by his father (who gets a “Story by” credit), Baahubali: The Beginning is an epic fantasy adventure filled with romance, adventure, and audacious musical and action set pieces. The most expensive Indian movie ever made thanks to jaw-dropping locations, gorgeous lead actors, and an affinity for excess, the film quickly broke all sorts of box office records in India (which were later broken by the sequel, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion). It was also the first Telugu movie to win India’s National Film Award for Best Feature FIlm, and was the first Indian movie nominated for Saturn Awards.
A quick plot synopsis for part 1: When a young mother chased by soldiers prays for the safety of her baby, the child is saved by a local tribe who find him floating in a river. The child grows up into Sivudu, a daring young man (played by Prabhas, who also plays Sivudu’s father in flashback scenes) with superhuman strength who dreams only of climbing the mountain he doesn’t know he came from. When he does eventually climb the mountain, he encounters and falls for Avantika, a beautiful woman who is part of the local resistance group, who Shivudu witnesses kill a group of soldiers. As Sivudu discovers his true origins, he joins forces with Avantika to rescue a former queen, Devasena, being held prisoner by the tyrant Bhallaladeva.
The Baahubali movies excel at the things movies of this scope are supposed to do. The attention to detail in production design is exquisite, from the reportedly 10,000 different weapons made for the first movie to a 100-foot statue that was 3D printed for the royal court. Rajamouli matches beautiful, massive sets with striking costume work and action that lets the colors swirl.
In addition to gravity-defying individual stunts — including heroic leaps across waterfalls and a physical encounter with a very stubborn elephant — both Baahubali movies feature some of the biggest battle scenes you can find this side of a Lord of the Rings movie, but they don’t drown out the quieter, individual moments between characters. Rajamouli is able to deftly manage the many different genres at play here, swinging between epic fantasy action and screwball romantic comedy while finding room for hints of royal court dramas, war movies and musicals, and other genre influences.
At all possible times, Rajamouli’s Baahubali movies are having fun with the abundant resources at their disposal. Take a scene from Baahubali 2: The Conclusion: While wooing a local royal in a lush palace, an army attacks, and our hero springs into action, taking on dozens of soldiers with his martial prowess. But in order to win the battle, he needs to wrangle a stampede of bulls with their horns literally on fire by jumping up to the top of a tree and position himself between two of the beasts. He runs on top of the flaming bulls into battle, culminating with a frontflip to safety for style points, and the breaking of a dam to flood the enemy army. I can’t say it enough: Every single frame in both Baahubali movies is imbued with energy, color, and life, and every single action sequence will either drop your jaw or break your mind.
One last note: The movies were filmed in two languages (Telugu and Tamil) simultaneously, and were released in two additional dubbed languages (Hindi and Malayalam) in India. Netflix has each version as a unique title on its platform, rather than the usual language options for each title on the platform, so make sure to check that you’re watching the version you want to watch before you settle in.
Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion are available to watch on Netflix.