Everyone has their own yardsticks by which they measure things. Here's mine for deciding Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is bigger than anything Bollywood has managed so far — I'm STILL getting abuses for writing this review. There are also those who have decided to keep me up to date with its box office collections, which I'm appreciative of because hey, a little general knowledge never hurt anyone.
However, my biggest thanks goes to the truly hardcore fans who gave me a list of Telugu films to watch so that I could educate myself before writing reviews. Having watched about eight of them — two without subtitles. So that was fun — I am now a wholehearted fan of Anushka Shetty and consequently even more furious that she didn't have more of an active contribution as the older, freed Devasena. Because dammit, Baahubali 2 is the story of HER revenge. Her son has only heard the story and did his He-Man thing because he was chasing a romantic, lust-fuelled fantasy (who also has nothing to do in Baahubali 2 despite being a warrior herself). Devasena has lived the story, survived only because of her need to avenge her husband, and planned Bhallaldeva's death for 25 years. Yet all she gets to do is walk on the periphery of the actual action. Literally. GAH.
Anyway, watching these films has made me appreciate the scope of Telugu popular cinema's ambitions in the past decade. Sure, there are numerous cringe-inducing moments, the plots reek of misogyny and the aesthetics are frequently dubious (particularly in the choreography that accompanies the frequently-awful songs). But a lot of interesting stuff in there and clearly, Tollywood's been rather obsessed with recreating a classical, quasi-mythological era. Baahubali belongs to a continuum of epic storytelling and VFX dreams in Tollywood. It's a massive leap from the attempts that were made previously, but it didn't come out of the blue the way it did for Bollywood, which seems rather tame and lame in comparison, despite bigger budgets.
Anyway, the point is, I am now able to toss out names and plots of Telugu films with a certain authoritative panache, which is never a bad thing. That said, I might need to tone down said panache a few notches after what happened last week.
So there's an acquaintance with whom I've been chatting on email about the Baahubali series. Let's call her Person. She's been working at convincing me of the second part's awesomeness. From the south-of-the-Vindhyas feel of her name and the intensity of her devotion to SS Rajamouli and Prabhas, I sort of deduced she understands Telugu. Somewhere along the way, the conversation degenerated to sending links that feed our feminine, erm, curiosity (read: lust). Then this happened.
Person: Got the video. Thank you. By the way, what does 'garu' mean?
Person: Are you sure? No other meaning?
Me: Definitely cow. Unless it's "garur", which is how Garuda, Vishnu's ride, is pronounced.
Person: Hm. No, definitely garu.
Me: Then it's cow.
Person: Why would they keep calling Rajamouli a cow?
Me: You really need to cut down on the time you spend with gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes).
Person: I'm serious. They keep saying saying Rajamouli and "garu".
Me: Maybe it's the breed of cows that had their horns set on fire. Either that or you've found a Bengali film critic who's harsher than I am on Rajamouli.
Person: You Bengalis are so self-obsessed! Who said anything about Bengalis? We're talking about Rajamouli! And Baahubali!
Me: Don't yell at me. You asked me what garu means.
Person: IN TELUGU. NOT BENGALI.
Me: How would I know?
Person: What? Why did you tell me garu means cow then?
Me: It DOES mean cow. In Bengali.
Person: I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT BENGALI. What is garu in Telugu?
Me: Have not the faintest. You're the one who understands Telugu.
Person: Don't speak a word of any South Indian language.
Person: I thought you knew Telugu.
Me: Ummm. Why?
Person: YOU WATCHED MIRCHI WITHOUT SUBTITLES. WHO DOES THAT IF THEY DON'T KNOW TELUGU?
Me: Oy. It's mostly action. Also I was mostly focused on how lovely Anuskha is — you really don't need subtitles for her — and how nice Prabhas looked when he wasn't beefy a la Baahubali. Anyway, you watched Rebel without subtitles. WHO DOES THAT IF THEY DON'T KNOW TELUGU?
Person: A true fan.
Me: I'll check with Telugu friend about meaning of garu.
Person: In your own words, Ms Pal, you're a cow.
PS: Garu in Telugu is an honorific, like "ji" in Hindi.