So the curtain was lifted and we had our first look at the most awaited magnum opus of not just Telugu but Indian cinema, as it turned out, since the popularity of Baahubali: The Beginning and its accompanying madness touched a fever pitch not just in the five southern states but as far up north as Delhi and beyond.
The first weekend after the big Friday release was as historic as the film itself, in some ways. After all, when did we last have "mass bunking" in colleges and two-kilometre-long lines outside box office enclosures of possibly every theatre in the city, with the excitement of the crowd bursting off the seams? When was it last that at least one policeman had to be stationed outside every theatre to maintain a semblance of order and contain the frenzy of disappointed, duped or desolate fans at not having been able to obtain a ticket for any one of the dozen shows playing at every multiplex? Did you hear about the man who jumped off a floor at a theatre since he couldn't get a ticket and agreed to have his bruises attended to only on the promise that he will be shown the film soon after?
What is it about this film that had a whole (well, almost) nation go crazy or at least wonder what the fuss was all about? Perhaps it was as much because of the special effects created by the stunt team as the tech team, the well laid out visual extravaganza, immensely engaging battle scenes with the "black" bad enough for us to want dead (with oddly futuristic weapon systems like a chariot with seemingly motorised body cutters fixed to its front) and the "white" good enough for us to root secretly for and a few shades of grey thrown in with formulaic precision.
The smaller glories like the world's largest film poster earning Baahubali a rare permanence in the form of a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and being mentioned in the prestigious BBC documentary on the 100 years of Indian cinema, came alongside the overwhelming box office collections from overseas and home markets alike.
A week later, has the fever subsided somewhat? At least the curiosity is mostly over. We are quite settled emotionally, enough to sit back and enjoy another viewing, knowing that we will be perfectly entertained even when we know what's coming next. But to truly answer that question, we may have to raise some more like, "Has our craze for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge died down even after a couple of decades?" or "Is Sholay any less of a sensation than it was in the year of its release?", or "Are Mughal-e-Azam, Mayabazaar, Avatar and Titanic not as special anymore?" From the looks of it, Baahubali might just go down a similar path as these once in half-a-decade classics. Only time will tell, but judging by the world attention and rave reviews it has received from the likes of The Guardian ("A near perfect balance of physicality and poetics") and Hollywood Reporter ("Epic entertainment for those with a taste for swords, sandals and saris"), to quote a few, we could safely wonder.
There have been a good number of critics and viewers who have genuinely not liked the film and certainly don't think it deserves to stand on the pedestal that the makers and the media have placed it on. An expensive debacle and nothing more. Less than perfect performances, a complete lack of logic at places, a completely clichéd story of revenge and spells of boredom dragging on have been the top grouses so far. But for every such naysayer, there seem to be at least ten others who show us how Baahubali is not just a film, not just a brand, but a phenomenon. We wonder, then, if SS Rajamouli and team are as smart creators of mass hysteria as they are of successful films; large-scale and entertaining, or bold and unconventional.
Come over soon, 2016. We have a second helping of Baahubali to go manic over.