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Friday, September 18, 2015

S.S. Rajamouli brings Baahubali: The Beginning to Hollywood

Film Flam Flummox

After taking the global box office--including the United States--this past summer with what is, for my money, easily the year's best blockbuster action entertainer, the Telugu-language Baahubali: The Beginning, acclaimed Indian filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli brought the first installment of his two-part period epic adventure to mainstream Hollywood in person at a special screening and Q&A hosted by technology company AMD. The Baahubali shown at the event at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood was not the same version that took the world by storm this past July the tune of $91 million (and counting) worldwide, but a newly revised cut prepared for the markets it has yet to hit, including more mainstream American cinemas. Initial reports a couple of months ago of a "westernized" version in the works instilled in me great dread (after all, I still have nightmares of the disastrous Brett Ratner-led "remix" version of 2010's Kites), but I am happy to report that with one notable exception (a superfluous sexy item dance that stops the film dead in its tracks in the late-going), all of the film's terrific songs remain (though some are slightly, but smartly, abbreviated), and the editing (done by Rajamouli in conjunction with editor Vincent Tabaillon) is one of carefully considered nips and tucks that tighten the narrative without sacrificing any of the rich local filmmaking flavor nor the thoughtfully developed characters and universe that make all of the action razzle dazzle resonate beyond mere spectacle. No word just yet on a general North American release for this new edition, and while I certainly prefer the original 159-minute version, this cut is well worth seeking out by film fans of all stripes when it does hit multiplexes.

Rajamouli was joined by the film's lead visual effects artist, Pete Draper of Makuta VFX; and Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD, for a very insightful post-screening discussion of the film that was live streamed across the globe by AMD, and which I captured myself, as you can watch below.

(Special thanks to AMD, Naveen Varadarajan, and S.S. Rajamouli)

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