Bahubali : A spiritual perpective
The movie Bahubali, first and second part, has become an amazing block-buster. They have created a genre of depiction of fictional history based on Indian, dharmik, themes and imagery. The human mind has an active faculty for imagination and it needs to be fulfilled. Since long long times people have spun stories to entertain each other, and the more dramatic the stories the more it creates an influence in the lives of the people. The depiction of Indian dharmic themes started with Ramayana and Mahabharat in the 80’s and 90’s and they were a huge success. When Lord Ram would appear in the screens people would get up from their seats and offer obeisance to Him. And after these also there were many TV shows that depicted these stories. But most of them were technologically rudimentary and visually not very appealing. Whereas in the western world they have depicted many fictional stories with very appealing visuals like Lord of the Ring and Ben Hur. Bahubali is the first movie that got praise and acclaim for its revetting visual effects on a global level. Although Bahubali does not have a devotional theme, it has dharmic images and characters that are sacred to the Indian tradition. Also striking is that the movie was first made in a vernacular language and then dubbed into other languages.
Our views are shaped by what we see. Many Indian parents in America say that the only way they can introduce their children to the Indian culture is through Bollywood movies. But such movies are not always the true depiction of reality rather a very romanticised and often violent depiction. In the west also many of the ancient stories have survived because drama was written on them and later movies were made on them. One example is the story of Julius Caesar. And because Indians are mostly watching the western movies, they know more about the famous five rather than the Pandavas. They know more about western fictional characters rather than Indian historical characters. Unless the Indian historical and sacred characters like Lord Ram and Lord Krishna are depicted through the medium of appealing visual effects the younger generation will not be able to connect to it and it will not be able to become a part of the living culture. Bahubali in that sense has set the precedent that movies based on dharmic themes have a huge commercial market. It can invoke nationalistic pride as well as spiritual awakening. One prominent western thinker C.S. Lewis has written the Narnia tales which are replete with depiction Christian motifs. The central character of the Lion that sacrifices itself to protect others is reminiscent of Jesus who sacrificed his life for others. Many who read Narnia may miss this connection but many with get it, and others when they read Bible they will be able to see a connection. This kind of pious fiction can elevate the consciousness of people towards higher spiritual values and at the same time providing wholesome entertainment.
Along with this there is always a danger with creating pious fiction; the fictional characters can replace the original characters. For example the concept of Santa Claus is a pious fiction, but it has become so popular among the children that they sometime forget about Jesus during Christmas. Bahubali has many themes that are similar to Mahabharat: a disabled king, battle for kingship among cousins and so on. But the problem can be that Bahubali appeals the imagination of the people and actual historical characters like Lord Krishna and the Pandavas are forgotten. At the very least Bahbubali shows that there is huge market for depictions centered on dharmic ideals and imagery. If this inspires directors and producers to create equally attractive and hi-tech depiction of the Ramayana and Mahabharat then it will spark a revitalisation of dharmic imagination and a spiritual revitalization of the Indian heart and Indian soul.