It's been a while since Bahubali was released but considering the sequel is just a few months away, here's a piece I wrote just after watching it in 2015. I loved Bahubali – loved the visuals, the grandeur, the old-world story. I came away thoroughly entertained and even took a little pride in how “Indian” animation has come of age on-screen, holding up decently against international comparisons. Also, I loved the powerful women – the Queen Mother’s commanding presence and wisdom, the imprisoned queen’s resoluteness and conviction, the tribal mother’s fierce protection of her son, the young warrior’s fiery encounters and rebel spirit. I did wish during the song sequences that the director felt confident enough in his own material, rather than choose to spread his bets on assorted zoomed-in parts of the female anatomy to ensure ticket sales, but you know, one is looking forward to the real meat (pun unintended) of the story and one wants to overlook the assorted mid-riffs and bosoms and hips presented as individual objects of attraction.
However, the one sequence I could not quite ignore, that I squirmed in my seat watching and that struck a huge dissonant note, nagging me long after I came home from the theatre, was that single sequence dubbed as the ‘rape of Avantika’ by Anna Vetticad for not understanding consent and drubbed as ‘masculinity porn’ by Vivekananda Nemana for disempowering the female warrior.
Well, I don’t think it quite deserves the rape tag. The sequence is a botched imagining of how a fierce warrior might get in touch with her feminine side. She is prime for it – young, dedicated to a cause, occasionally confused by unexplored yearning, seeking her answers in nature and solitude. You can see her ly