Deconstruction of Baahubali 2’s movie review by Anna MM Vetticad

Anna MM Vetticad launching into her diatribes a.k.a reviews against movies that dare to have sequences autonomous to her value systems has been a regular Friday matinee feature for a while now. If an actor is much elder to an actress or even worse, if an actress’s character arc shapes up on screen in a certain way distant from what Anna had in mind, she would jump in to the rescue of woman fraternity at large. Cry out foul. Condescend the director’s audacity and even question the collective intent of men to wolf whistle for such violation. One might then ask as to what happened at all to the original purpose of reviewing the movie with objectivity. Answer is, it becomes incidental. A Trojan horse to ethical police; to euphemise predispositions which would’ve been plain rants of a woman with misplaced self righteousness without the scaffolding of cinema. So if the anti romeo squads have taken over UP to take the country to a dark age, people like Anna have taken over social media to precipitate prejudice with giant magnifying glasses in their hands to pin point fault lines in mainstream narratives, that are made largely without malice, to play to the gallery.

If a lead man does a shirtless sequence- a song or a stunt -she’ll go on about it in painful detail like an European traveller about Taj Mahal. Poor woman’s just articulating her attraction to a desirable man, right. But if the same movie has an actress performing a sexy song, all hell will break loose. She’ll pounce on it, call it downright sexist and distasteful from the vantage of her high horse of feminism. Anyone calling out the obvious double standards would be rounded off as a troll or its closest interchangeable form now, a bhakt. And just like that, from being a deconstruction of the movie alone, it would become about the intention of the director, whether he is a safe person for a girl to go on a date in the evening and which party might be vote for, given his affiliation.

The idea of women promiscuity is a thing of a progressive-feminist world, agreed. But then why name call the male promiscuity, that too in its most passive vicarious manifestation of ogling at actresses in well choreographed hot songs? If someone ogled at Vidya Balan in Kahaani, then it’s an issue. But if they didn’t in a Dirty Picture, then it’s unnatural. It all comes down to presentation. Different films present different characters, differently, as simple as that.

You can’t go into a Sultan or a Bahubali with the expectation found after a bout of Angry Indian Goddesses, the previous day. The former movies have a different agenda, a different story to tell, a different ecosystem and an entirely different(rather huge) demography to cater to. They can’t have women empowerment in the top of their manifesto as you would’ve liked and they shouldn’t, to be honest.

So after Baahubali-The Beginning you made a huge fuss about the sequence involving Avantika and Shivudu, so much that you went on even call it ” The rape of Avantika” in an award winning piece.
Let me ask you this, in a movie based in a time, thousands of years from now in Ancient India how did you expect a guy to approach a woman he liked? How is a tribal guy who climbs mountains in spare time supposed to display chivalry: Quote Shelley? Open doors for her or foot bills? Flaunt knowledge during quantum physics class in college or power dress to work? Ask her out on a date and then wait for her to make her move?
Let me tell you this, leave thousand years back. This finesse to approaching a woman wasn’t there a few generations back in India when courtship was a mockery before the “first night” of wedding. Taking all of this into account, the era the movie is set in and the primary designations of the protagonists, that sequences involving Shivudu and Avantika are not just tastefully written, but imaginatively conceived as well. First he risks his life and climbs a mountain in search of her. Next, he deftly paints on her arm  from under water while she’s asleep and continues to paint the same art on her shoulder from above a tree .And lastly when she finds out and comes charging at him, he waltzes around every sword wield to deflect her aggression to only confront her with the beauty she was denying to be, with every iteration of escape. She glances at her new self, falls in love with it and the man before, after coming to know the distance he had gone to find her. They break into a song, which ends with their consummation. Love is made. And he goes on take up her life’s purpose to be his. Their relation is so much more passionate, organic and romantic than the courtships that come out of matrimonial sites or Bollywood. Why this had to be equated to an act of rape is beyond me.

Irony died twice when I read these nuggets of insight from your recent review which was yet another chest thumping piece of feminism and radicalism, where you had written and I quote-

“As is always the case, each viewer’s response to the film depends on her/his priorities. My priority, I admit, is not #WKKB but #DRTOHS: does Rana take off his shirt (in the film, as he has for the posters)? Answer: yes he does. For good measure, so does Prabhas.
In the way it is told, #WKKB is not as dramatic a revelation as expected. #DRTOHS, on the other hand, is absolute paisa vasool.”

Read the full article here- http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/bahubali-2-hindi-movie-review-baahubali-2-rating-cocktail-of-visuals-terrible-acting-closeted-conservatism-3411488.html

While you cried out foul on the objectification of women in the first part, you’ve done nothing but that in your review of the second part. At least that movie was not made with this as the single point agenda, unlike your review. But who cares, as far as a crusader of feminism is at the helm and the target is a bunch of men, right?

Film critic that you claim to be, try telling yourself this, every time you walk into a theatre –

“I see my god in the temple if I’m a believer or in the mirror(or nowhere at all) if I’m an atheist. Where I don’t definitely expect to see him is in the movies. When I don’t expect English movies to be a microcosm of my belief system, it makes little sense for me to expect representation in movies made in my backyard. The characters in the movies can behave in a way I would never in a similar situation, but that would not weigh on my movie watching objectivity. I would compare movies with movies in similar genre and not with parallel thoughts in my head or a news making national headline. Last of all I would try and be the Utopian version of myself with all the virtues I expect the world to possess, not try and inculcate the same into the vision of a creator who’s put his heart and soul into it or a hapless movie buff who might read my review.”

9 comments

  1. MK · May 4, 2017

    “Last of all I would try and be the Utopian version of myself with all the virtues I expect the world to possess, not try and inculcate the same into the vision of a creator who’s put his heart and soul into it or a hapless movie buff who might read my review” – Resonates!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jasmine Samuel · May 9, 2017

    Great article..shud culminate such reviewers who r calling themselves a critique@annammvetticad

    Like

  3. Jai · May 16, 2017

    Extremely well articulated. Kudos for this superb writeup.

    I was also completely baffled by Anna Vetticad’s critique of Baahubali–The Conclusion. I used to admire her take on films a lot some time back, but of late she seems to view every single film through a socio–political prism which, while relevant to contemporary sensibilities and mores, may be completely out of place to the ethos and historical time frame the film is set in.

    For instance, for Baahubali, she kept critiquing how the film was full of “closeted conservatism” and portrayed “the undisputed right of the kshatriya to rule”. She just ignored the fact that the movie was set around the 7th–8th centuries C.E, and that monarchy and warrior clans were the norm then. What would have been unrealistic to that period, would have been to show democracy and a completely egalitarian society on a nation wide scale.

    For that matter, the movie shows Amarendra organizing a kind of limited local self government while in exile……which was, predictably, ignored by Anna while condemning the movie for engendering “social status quoism”!! Ermmm…..

    The movie in fact talks about the importance of choice and actions as opposed to privileges of birth….Amarendra speaks to Kumara Varma about the *duties* of a kshatriya….to show valor, standing up for others, putting others’ safety and well being before one’s own self. I fail to see how this engenders or supports the malaise of the caste system. The focus is not on the accident of birth or on claiming that certain strata have certain abilities over others. It consistently shows that it is the *choices* that the characters make, which turn them into admirable protagonists or Machiavellian, vile antagonists.

    And the part of her review where Anna flippantly remarked on Amarendra having an oedipus complex, was so baseless and unnecessary. She seemed to have completely missed the scene where Amarendra stood up in unambiguous terms to Sivagami, telling his mother that she was wrong (in forcing Devasena to marry Bhalla). Normally, it portrayals of the ‘good son’ in our movies, one would have expected to see him ‘obediently’ going all self sacrificial, and ‘giving up’ his love, to ensure family harmony. But Amarendra did two things—he never tried to impose on on reduce Devasena’s sense of self, her agency and right to make decisions for herself; nor did he ever unjustly rally to his mother’s side against his wife. Wherefrom the allegation of his supposed ‘Oedipus complex’?

    In this film, Amarendra obviously adores his adoptive mother—she is the only parental figure he has ever known, and the only one in his immediate family who genuinely cares for him. Is it not understandable that he should show immense filial love for her? I never got the feeling that any Oedipal complex was involved here.

    And I found it incredibly disquieting and reductive how Anna tagged her film review with the catchphrase “terrible acting”. Really? Anushka, Rana, Prabhas, Ramya Krishna, Sathyaraj, Nasser…….a line-up of superb talent giving their life and soul to the film; did they deserve their admirable craft to be described thus?

    Somehow, I got the impression that Anna had never once immersed herself into the sheer depth and grandeur of Rajamouli’s magnificent imagination. But merely sat through it, intently jotting down points to object to and critique.

    Hats off to that wonderful para on thoughts for a reviewer, which you posted in your deconstruction. Wish Anna would actually read it and introspect a wee bit. 🙂 There’s also this superb quote on critics from the animated movie “Ratatouille “—you must have heard of that too? Very apt in this case!!

    “” In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.””

    Very surprising….and deeply disappointing….that a well regarded critic like Anna Vetticad should have so cavalierly and unjustly run down one of the truly path breaking movies of our time.

    Like

    • paupakiwis · May 18, 2017

      Thanks a lot man. Seems like you’ve observed so much about the movie.

      Like

  4. Jai · May 19, 2017

    ^^^ I couldn’t help it, I liked the movie so very much. 🙂 You’ve analysed it marvelously, both in this post as well as your other one on Baahubali.

    Like

  5. Rishabh · April 17

    Hi @ Paupakiwis

    You have given very cogent and apt critique of the way Anna Vetticad is giving her reviews for the past few years. Kudos to you for your clarity of analysis and your sharp wit which always remains within bounds, even if aptly ironic/sarcastic.

    Unfortunately, Anna is letting her political views (very strongly held ones at that), bias and color her evaluations of films which are, most times, set in periods which have nothing to do with contemporary happenings or realities.
    Her review for Baahubali was laughably immature and completely devoid of analysis or nuance. And she has gone on to do more in the same vein. Her review of Padmaavat, for instance, castigated it for supposed “Islamophobia” and excoriated the film for apparently having “brazenly edited historical truth to cash in on the anti-Muslim sentiment currently pervading India”. I mean, I just don’t get it. This was a film based on a ballad penned by a Muslim poet, Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Yes, there were some departures from the epic poem while translating it to screen, but I don’t really feel the modifications were “Islamophobic” in tone. Per Anna Vetticad’s rationale, to make it palatable to “current realities”, she would probably have expected Sanjay Leela Bhansali to turn the story on its head, and have Rawal Ratan Singh invading Alaudin Khilji’s Kingdom and coveting his wife instead!!

    And as once can guess, consistency or a principled approach as regards these grounds of criticism- that is, historical accuracy– never play a part in this critic’s other film evaluations. Consider her very favorable review given for the Malayalam film, Kayamkulam Kochunni. She heaped praise on the film, even stating that it was a far better film than the Baahubali series! As several readers and cinephiles then pointed out, this comparison was silly, as the films weren’t even in the same genre. Baahubali 1 & 2 were an epic, a mytho-fictional-historical tale which could possibly be guessed as dating to the 7th to 9th Centuries C.E. Whereas Kayamkulam Kochunni was based on an *actual historical figure*, a bandit (though somewhat of a ‘Robin Hood’ type of dacoit), who lived in Kerala in the early 1800s. This comparison was therefore ipso facto silly, and only showed her lingering obsession to somehow have the last word on the Baahubali film series, which she clearly was one of the very few to have negative views about.

    This is what she had to say on Kayamkulam Kochunni: “”….biopic is particularly relevant though in India of 2018, where Muslims are being marginalised, degraded and lynched by right-wing Hindutva forces while the Dalit community is on the boil.”” So yet again, retro fitting current narratives on a historical past, is what drives her evaluation of a film. The issue here is, there is no value given to actual details/ nuance, everything is air brushed by the “critic” to prove a socio-political point! Anything and everything cannot be used as a pretext for sermonizing, which unfortunately is what Anna Vetticad descends to in her reviews, all too often.

    The funniest part was, she never had issues with the film taking massive liberties with actual historical records of Kayamkulam Kochunni. Yes, he did rob mostly from the rich (though not exclusively). Yes, he did give a certain amount of his loot to the poor and oppressed (though by no means all of of it, he enjoyed the fruits of his banditry well enough). These nuances were, of course, never shown clearly in the film. Also, the point the movie completely ignored was the fact that he was also a murderer and a compulsive womanizer. He was notorious for his serial infidelities, and when his mother-in-law confronted him on behalf of his long-suffering-wife, he bashed her on the head and killed her. Not to mention, that he was once “honey trapped” by the police when he visited his paramour – one of his several dalliances. Apparently she was bribed to mix sleeping pills in the warm milk he consumed before — yeah well, you can guess before what activity. 😀

    One would think Anna Vetticad, champion of feminism, fighter for women’s rights and castigator of male excess and licentiousness– would have some bitter words to say about the movie air brushing all these truths away and putting a halo around Kochunni’s head, no? Alas, all these considerations of historical truth and women’s empowerment are but a lip service for her. For, as she dramatically says (with generous dollops of hyperbole!), “Kayamkulam Kochunni is a celebration of non-conformism and social rebellion….. the lasting memory from it is of a poor Muslim man who soldiered past his hellish beginnings to become a messiah for the most downtrodden of India’s people….””

    Sigh. Ah well. Apparently this “critic” only demands historical accuracy when it suits her own agenda, that of retro fitting her current socio-political leanings on any movie, even if set in the historical or even mythological space!

    Thanks again for your clarity of thought in debunking the truly toxic and biased way she had evaluated the Baahubali series.

    Like

  6. Rishabh · April 17

    Hi @ Paupakiwis

    You have given very cogent and apt critique of the way Anna Vetticad is giving her reviews for the past few years. Kudos to you for your clarity of analysis and your sharp wit which always remains within bounds, even if aptly ironic/sarcastic.

    Unfortunately, Anna is letting her political views (very strongly held ones at that), bias and color her evaluations of films which are, most times, set in periods which have nothing to do with contemporary happenings or realities.
    Her review for Baahubali was laughably immature and completely devoid of analysis or nuance. And she has gone on to do more in the same vein. Her review of Padmaavat, for instance, castigated it for supposed “Islamophobia” and excoriated the film for apparently having “brazenly edited historical truth to cash in on the anti-Muslim sentiment currently pervading India”. I mean, I just don’t get it. This was a film based on a ballad penned by a Muslim poet, Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Yes, there were some departures from the epic poem while translating it to screen, but I don’t really feel the modifications were “Islamophobic” in tone. Per Anna Vetticad’s rationale, to make it palatable to “current realities”, she would probably have expected Sanjay Leela Bhansali to turn the story on its head, and have Rawal Ratan Singh invading Alaudin Khilji’s Kingdom and coveting his wife instead!!

    And as once can guess, consistency or a principled approach as regards these grounds of criticism- that is, historical accuracy– never play a part in this critic’s other film evaluations. Consider her very favorable review given for the Malayalam film, Kayamkulam Kochunni. She heaped praise on the film, even stating that it was a far better film than the Baahubali series! As several readers and cinephiles then pointed out, this comparison was silly, as the films weren’t even in the same genre. Baahubali 1 & 2 were an epic, a mytho-fictional-historical tale which could possibly be guessed as dating to the 7th to 9th Centuries C.E. Whereas Kayamkulam Kochunni was based on an *actual historical figure*, a bandit (though somewhat of a ‘Robin Hood’ type of dacoit), who lived in Kerala in the early 1800s. This comparison was therefore ipso facto silly, and only showed her lingering obsession to somehow have the last word on the Baahubali film series, which she clearly was one of the very few to have negative views about.

    This is what she had to say on Kayamkulam Kochunni: “”….biopic is particularly relevant though in India of 2018, where Muslims are being marginalised, degraded and lynched by right-wing Hindutva forces while the Dalit community is on the boil.”” So yet again, retro fitting current narratives on a historical past, is what drives her evaluation of a film. The issue here is, there is no value given to actual details/ nuance, everything is air brushed by the “critic” to prove a socio-political point! Anything and everything cannot be used as a pretext for sermonizing, which unfortunately is what Anna Vetticad descends to in her reviews, all too often.

    The funniest part was, she never had issues with the film taking massive liberties with actual historical records of Kayamkulam Kochunni. Yes, he did rob mostly from the rich (though not exclusively). Yes, he did give a certain amount of his loot to the poor and oppressed (though by no means all of of it, he enjoyed the fruits of his banditry well enough). These nuances were, of course, never shown clearly in the film. Also, the point the movie completely ignored was the fact that he was also a murderer and a compulsive womanizer. He was notorious for his serial infidelities, and when his mother-in-law confronted him on behalf of his long-suffering-wife, he bashed her on the head and killed her. Not to mention, that he was once “honey trapped” by the police when he visited his paramour – one of his several dalliances. Apparently she was bribed to mix sleeping pills in the warm milk he consumed before — yeah well, you can guess before what activity. 😀

    One would think Anna Vetticad, champion of feminism, fighter for women’s rights and castigator of male excess and licentiousness– would have some bitter words to say about the movie air brushing all these truths away and putting a halo around Kochunni’s head, no? Alas, all these considerations of historical truth and women’s empowerment are but a lip service for her. For, as she dramatically says (with generous dollops of hyperbole!), “Kayamkulam Kochunni is a celebration of non-conformism and social rebellion….. the lasting memory from it is of a poor Muslim man who soldiered past his hellish beginnings to become a messiah for the most downtrodden of India’s people….””

    Sigh. Ah well. Apparently this “critic” only demands historical accuracy when it suits her own agenda, that of retro fitting her current socio-political leanings on any movie, even if set in the historical or even mythological space!

    Thanks again for your clarity of thought in debunking the truly toxic and biased way Anna Vetticad had evaluated the Baahubali series.

    Like

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