Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Raising the Dead - An Interview with Shamya Dasgupta

I may have picked nits in Shamya Dasgupta's book on India's premier horror film family in my review, but it has sufficient merits in terms of providing insight into the fraternal chemistry and working methods of the Ramsays, and an affectionate examination of their contribution to the cinema of thrills, to handily recommend to fans of their legacy. After having met the author face-to-face at the book's official launch (an intimate gathering where one had the lovely chance of meeting with members of the Ramsay family, and their iconic monster-man Aniruddh 'Ajay' Agrawal), I approached him with the idea of an e-mail interview, to which he readily agreed.

Before we go talk about the book, tell us a little of your background.
Well, I’m from Kolkata, Calcutta actually. Grew up there, studied there, then moved to New Delhi where I started working, 1999 onwards. I’ve been a sports journalist all along, on the web, in newspapers, in TV for quite a few years. I wrote a couple of books. My wife, dog and I moved to Bangalore in 2012, when I joined Wisden India. My wife is an editor and a publisher.

Great, now let's talk about your interest in films (and horror films in particular). How did it all start? Were you into movies as a kid or did it develop later?
No, movies were most certainly a very, very important part of life in general from as far back as I can remember. It’s interesting – my mother is from a family of pretty eminent writers and poets and … you know the sort, ‘cultured’ Bengali family, etc. They also had some connections in the Hindi film industry. And my mother was quite obsessed with Hindi cinema, as well as Bengali cinema. Not horror, of course, because we are talking about the 1950s and 1960s in particular. My father, on the other hand, was a left-leaning liberal, an economist, a Fulbright scholar who went to the USA and Canada to study and teach, and developed a major interest in world cinema, serious cinema. While my mother developed an interest in his kind of cinema over the years, I don’t think he ever got around to understanding the magic of Hindi movies. In terms of mainstream films, I think the only one he really enjoyed was Golmaal [Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1979].
Anyway, so I was interested in all kinds of cinema from an early age. In Calcutta, there were lots and lots of film festivals, so watching ‘good’ cinema was easy. I read a fair bit too. My father had brought back many books from the US. I guess I wasn’t old enough to really understand film theory and stuff, but I read them all. And my mother’s Filmfares and Stardusts and stuff. So, yeah, movies have always been a part of life, in a very big way. I don’t think we ever had a VCR, but there were theatres, screenings of all sorts; ‘Good’ cinema, as well as mainstream Hindi and Bengali cinema.
As for horror, I enjoy my horror all right, but I won’t say I am a horror fan. I love all cinema, horror being one of them. If that’s a disqualification when it comes to writing about the Ramsays, I don’t know. As I have always said, I approached the book as a journalist telling a story, the same way I approached the book on Indian boxing I wrote some years ago – while boxing is a sport I follow very closely, I wrote it as a reporter, not as an expert.

Tell us about your interest in the films of the Ramsay brothers. How did the idea of writing a book on them occur to you? What was the process of bagging a publishing deal for this book?
I had watched a couple of Ramsay films when still in my teens (Which means I was not supposed to watch them, I guess). This was in the 1980s. They used to have these travelling video shows in tents and I saw them there – Purana Mandir, Veerana and one other film, which I can’t remember the name of any more. I saw their other prominent films later, on TV, and then all of them multiple times more recently. As for writing about them…there are many ideas about journalism; the one I subscribe to is that the job of a journalist is to tell an interesting story, a story that will interest people, using the words ‘interest’ and ‘interesting’ in the broadest sense possible. Whether it’s an investigative story, a report about the launch of a film or a political story, when you report, you report a story that will interest people in some way or the other. I have always felt the story of the Ramsay brothers – seven brothers making low-budget horror films and becoming incredibly successful – was going to be an interesting one. To everyone, not just fans of their films. The details about them obviously emerged later as I did my research and interviews, but it was always going to be an interesting story. One thing led to another, I met Amit Ramsay, got an 'in' into the family, and then on…
And ‘bagging’ the publishing deal was incredibly easy. Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri of HarperCollins India is the premier publisher of film books in India, in English at least, and is a film obsessive. I think it took just one email to him. I can’t imagine any publisher not being interested in a story like that of the Ramsays.

 What sort of research did you do for the book?
Well, fortunately or unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of relevant information about the Ramsays. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons. Fortunately because it meant that not many people knew too much about them, which meant that most of what I was going to write would be new to people. So yeah, I dug out what I could; old magazines, some academic writings, a little stuff off the internet; and then it was all to do with the interviews. I had very few starting points, outside of the obvious questions. But it seemed to all mostly fall in place eventually.
As for the time and the effort – well, I will never say this is the definitive, most exhaustive and ultimate book on the Ramsays. It isn’t. I have a full-time job and limited means in terms of money and time and access. Within that, well, I did what I could. Would I have liked to speak to more people? Certainly. Satish Shah, for example. Gulshan Grover, Deepak Parashar and others..and so on. Didn’t happen, for various reasons. So those were misses. Within the family too, there were people I spoke to but found nothing usable. But that’s par for the course, I guess. I made a few trips to Mumbai, spent time with whoever I could, and Don’t Disturb the Dead is what I managed to come up with. I don’t think I’ve done a bad job. 

Much more than that. In fact all things considered, it's a damn fine job. Who were the most helpful sources of material (conversely, who were the least)?
All the people quoted in the book [were helpful]. Honestly. The brothers, of course. Kumar, the oldest, doesn’t keep well, and Keshu and Kiran have passed away. I had spoken to Kiran, in fact, when he was in Dubai and he had promised to chat once he returned, but it never happened. The other four brothers – Gangu, Tulsi, Arjun and Shyam – were all wonderful, as were their children. Aarti Gupta-Surendranath gave me all her time, as did Anirudh ‘Ajay’ Agarwal. Komal Nahta, Jerry Pinto, Sriram Raghavan, Sridhar Raghavan, Rajesh Devraj, Beth Watkins, Bappi Lahiri...They all had stories and opinions to share, I just collected them. There were people I tried to speak to who didn’t want to speak to me, they must have had their reasons. There were also a couple of people that I didn’t want to speak to, whatever the reasons might be. It’s not fair to take names, so we’ll leave it at that.

Fair enough. What impact did the effort of writing this book have on your life and routine?
Nothing at all. It was fun all the way. I do work on books pretty regularly, so no … no problems there at all. No story like I didn’t meet my wife and dog for days on end…

[Heh] If time and resources were not a constraint, would you have done anything different / better with the book?
Certainly. As I mentioned earlier, I would have spent much more time in Mumbai. I would have met the Ramsays and other people (their collaborators) more. Face to face, I mean. I met them a few times, and I did speak to everyone that I needed to on the phone multiple times, but that’s not the same thing. If I had more money, I would have had greater access to the archives of, say, Filmfare, Stardust, Film Information, all of those. There’s also the fact that I am not a film journalist but a sports journalist. So I didn’t have contacts in the industry in quite the same way. I might not have written the book differently, but I might have managed to make it richer in terms of detail. It’s fine the way it is, I think. No gaping holes. Some gaps, yes, but none that are major.

And now that it's out, what do you hope the book will achieve, both for its author and its subject?
For the author – I don’t know and genuinely am genuinely not bothered beyond a point. I don’t think I write to get anywhere. I don’t make a living from my books. It’s got mostly positive reviews, which is good. I hope it sells well. That’s all. For the subject – this is more important: We have seen a renewed interest in the cinema of the Ramsays in recent times; they have always had a cult following, but little recognition from the industry itself. I do hope people who read the book appreciate their contribution to Indian cinema: It’s huge. I don’t expect people to start loving their films after reading the book, but I hope people appreciate them for who they were and what they did, and achieved. And not just the Ramsays, even someone like Ajay Agarwal. He was outstanding, wasn’t he?

Couldn't agree more. Thanks a ton Shamya, for taking time out to do this. Here's hoping the book finds its audience and does some 'monstrous' business.
Thanks, Suresh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Don't Disturb the Dead [Shamya Dasgupta]

While there are flaws in Shamya Dasgupta's Don't Disturb the Dead (DDtD), a book on the Ramsay Brothers and their films, I am on the whole pleased because it was a volume that needed to be written. Most times, in the name of books related to the history of Indian cinema, we only get biographies, or rather hagiographies, of famous film stars. Also audiences, especially those born after the 80's, are unaware of the significant contribution, warts and all, made by the Ramsays towards acceptance of horror in the Indian context (Some young 'uns even think Indian horror initiated with Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot).

DDtD is thorough in its portrayal of the Ramsay heritage, starting with patriarch FU Ramsay (the family was originally called Ramsinghani and came from pre-partition Lahore. The surname was shortened to Ramsay for the convenience of the British clients at FU's radio store, and has stuck ever since). It chronicles how FU and later his children (Kumar, Tulsi, Shyam, Keshu, Gangu , Arjun and Kiran) got into film-making and how they hit upon their patented horror film formula. The making of a Ramsay film was literally a family affair, with the sons working together in various aspects and even the women of the house pitching in with the hospitality arrangements (Keshu's wife Kavita later did costume design for some films). Tulsi and Shyam were joint directors on most Ramsay flicks; from what we read here, Shyam was the more horror-focused, while Tulsi concerned himself with ensuring the right mix of other ingredients - song & dance, comedy, sexual frisson - that would make their films commercially viable. Keshu Ramsay after a point left the family and started his own production, dropping the Ramsay surname for the films he made, including several Khiladi ventures with Akshay Kumar and then the blockbuster Khakee (which he produced).

DDtD covers the making of several Ramsay features with special attention going to their landmark presentations including Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, Purana Mandir (PM) and Veerana, and later their hugely popular tele-serial Zee Horror Show. There are enlightening interviews with Ramsay stars like Mohnish Bahl, Aarti Gupta-Surendranath and of course Aniruddha (Ajay) Agarwal, the iconic monster-man of several Ramsay features like PM, Saamri and Bandh Darwaza. All of them are very complimentary towards the Ramsay family, about the atmosphere in which those films were shot, how even under the conditions of low budget and short shooting schedules, they did the best they could. It was especially heartening to see input from Aarti Gupta. With Ramsay films like PM, Saamri and Tahkhana she was, for a short spell, the Scream Queen of Indian horror, but soon after, she quit acting, married ad-man Kailash Surendranath, and became a producer and well-known Mumbai socialite. One feared she would be dismissive of these links to her low-brow horror past, but she fondly recalls the warm convival spirit of the shoots, and even though she regrets the negative impact of doing low-budget horror on her acting career, she never has anything bad to say about her experience (unlike beefcake Hemant Tarzan Birje, who blames the Ramsays for his career decline - he did Tahkhana and Veerana with them - and refused to provide any input for the book).

The interviews with the Ramsay family members and their collaborators form the highlight of the book, for which the author must be commended. There is a good amount of anecdotal information presented with a refreshing absence of condescension towards the subject. It is also worthwhile to pick up the paperback for the several memorable stills collated from the shooting and publicity events, which will surely thrill Ramsay fans. However, repetitiveness and padding are an issue. Too many times we are made to hear that the Ramsay policy was to "make them cheap and fast", how their audience was restricted to adult males or young couples, their essential criteria for selecting lead actors being solely "how smart or sexy they looked". The other caveat is the stupendously boring extended exploration of the life and career of all the current generation Ramsay kids (of whom only Shyam's daughter Saasha is currently into horror).

A few things I would have liked to see here: a better critical appraisal of the films themselves. Some of the Ramsay films (like Dahshat and PM) are arguably superior to the others in terms of their construction and impact, and needed to be discussed in that context. Interviews with regular Ramsay stable actors like Deepak Parashar and Anil Dhawan would have been nice. While there is chapter devoted to how the Ramsays got their masks and latex props fabricated by a Mr. Chris Tucker (no relation to the Rush Hour actor, I presume) I wish more had been explored about the make-up work in their films (for instance, what was the semen-like goo covering evil guy Nevla when he emerges from his coffin in Bandh Darwaza?). It's great that Shamya could get quotes about the influence of Ramsay movies from famous film buffs like Sriram Raghavan, Ram Gopal Varma and Sajid Khan, but his repeated reliance on the opinion of blogger Beth Watkins is puzzling, considering she has no specific interest in Indian horror. It would have been more relevant to talk to Omar Ali Khan, who has reviewed a lot of Indian horror on his website, or to the people at Mondo Macabro who licensed several Ramsay films for their Bollywood Horror DVD sets.

Mr. Dasgupta also sometimes displays a degree of naive extrapolation that borders on ludicrous. While Aarti Gupta was apt for her parts in the Ramsay films, suggesting that she could otherwise have fitted into a pantheon of female Indian megastars including Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit is outright laughable. His speculations on the fate of the Ramsay family heritage and the future of their offspring should have also been left on the editing table.

Its misses notwithstanding, DDtD serves as a frequently entertaining and informative look at India's pioneers of the horror film and should definitely picked up by people interested in the topic.

A word of warning: Please skip the introduction written by a dolt called Jai Arjun Singh - it's rambling and pretentious, and more interested in flaunting the writer's knowledge of films than having anything relevant to say about the book that follows.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Marriage of Maria Braun [dir. Reiner Werner Fassbinder]

I am ashamed to say I only recently cracked open my Reiner Werner Fassbinder blu-ray boxset released in Mar 2016 (In my defence I received it only around a year late, since I'd originally had it shipped to a friend living overseas to avoid it getting nicked or exorbitantly taxed at customs). This too was after a fellow member on a forum put me a query about the framing/AR of Marriage of Maria Braun. Anyhoo, I ended up watching the film and oh wow, it was terrific.

At the beginning of the film Maria (the amazing Hanna Schygulla), a gutsy and self-reliant gal, is getting married to Hermann Braun in the midst of an Allied bombing raid. Immediately after, Hermann goes off to fight and is reported killed. Maria, who is very clear about doing whatever is needed to survive and maintain her family, takes up with an American soldier who is good to her. But Hermann returns, and in the altercation that follows, the American is killed by Maria. Hermann takes the rap and goes to jail. Maria then takes up with a businessman Oswald, becoming both his hard-headed business adviser and sensual mistress, and doing a sterling job of both. But her heart remains with Hermann and she plans to be with him when he is released. A pivotal moment between Oswald and Hermann leads to Hermann scooting off to Canada after his release, and it is only later that he returns to Maria. When Maria learns the circumstances of his going away and return, it leads to a veritable explosive climax.

FB has said that in the later phase of his prolific film-making career (40 features and 2 TV series in 15 years, his shorts and theater work aside) he was less interested in promoting ideologies and more interested in the story-telling, and MoMB is a fine example of story-telling. Maria is a fascinating character, cold and iron-willed from one perspective, passionate and faithful from another, and on both fronts utterly honest. She never lies about her actions or intentions, but her personal magnetism is so strong, men are attracted like moths to her flame. It's a fantastically written and portrayed role, the sort I would love to see in an Indian movie. Technically MoMB is well done, with some arresting lengthy takes and the look of a ravaged Germany, but the story and performances are what grab the most.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Dopehri - A Dramatic Reading [Pankaj Kapur]

So last evening I headed to the Tata Theater at Nariman Point for an event billed as "a dramatic reading" headlined by Pankaj Kapur. Most of us 80's kids first knew of Mr. Kapur through the Doordarshan TV series Karamchand, in which he played the eponymous carrot-munching (and on occasion cigarette-smoking) detective, tailed by goofy secretary Kitty (Sushmita Mukherjee). Directed by Punkuj Parasher (oh, how the mighty have fallen) the series thrashed everything around it for pace and slickness, and was an instant hit. So of course one looked around for other things the actor had done. By happy coincidence this led to an exploration of non-mainstream cinema, for Mr. Kapur, like his National School of Drama predecessors Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, was a rising star of this scene. I have a faded memory trying to sit through Sudhir Mishra's 1987 political drama Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin, simply because the cast had both Karamchand and Kitty. The 80's were Pankaj Kapur's golden era, with a string of memorable appearances in Mandi, Jalwa, Khamosh, Chameli ki Shaadi, Raakh, the 12 Angry Men ripoff Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, culminating in his justly celebrated portrayal of the frustrated researcher Dipankar De in Ek Doctor ki Maut. The decline of the parallel film scene post that era meant that Pankaj Kapur had fewer opportunities to display his histrionics at the cinema. Being better known then on for television work in Zabaan Sambhal Ke and Office Office, he nevertheless registered his presence in such parts as the terrorist Liaqat from Roja, the Don Corelone-sque Duncan character in Maqbool...even in that ghastly misfire called Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola he was one of the saving graces. With his hypnotic gaze and gravelly voice, a wonderful capacity for brooding silence, explosive drama or pie-eyed comedy, Mr. Kapur has a staggering repertoire; and there may have been bad roles (Mohandas BALLB anyone?), but I do not recall any bad performances.

Dopehri, the theater listing informs, is a novella written by Mr. Kapur himself. The plot is a simple one, the sort that would feature in Readers' Digest or fill an episode of Katha Sagar. Elderly widow Amma Bi lives alone in her haveli, save for the servant Jumman. But even Jumman is not around all the time, and her loneliness grows ever more frightening. After some escapades, including a visit to an old age home, Amma Bi is persuaded by her well-wisher Dr. Saxena to take in a paying guest. How the guest's arrival changes Amma Bi's life, in the process giving her an identity and purpose in life, forms the crux of the story. It's a standard human interest story, but two things make the narrative come alive. The first is the language: Mr. Kapur's prose doesn't just read, it flows. On several occasions, you could hear the audience go "wah, wah" (respectfully) when they heard a particularly artful turn of phrase. Hindi has a uniquely apt flavor especially when used for satiric humor and Kapur fluidly molds the language to his bidding. The second is the performance: As a narrator and actor he is tremendous, able to convey much by glance, by inflection, by the rhythm of speech. And he has a love for his written world and characters that is contagious. Simply by modulating his voice and speech mannerisms, he "plays" all the characters: we see and hear them clearly, their amusing quirks and foibles brought to life in our heads. At numerous times, he has the theater rollicking with laughter, without ever cheapening the material or being untrue to his creations. By the end, we have been moved by these characters.

The production is also simple but effective: The sets are suggestive rather than elaborate, a tree with a broken kite, an armchair with a table holding a "paan" box, a writing desk. With the help of lighting changes to suggest time and mood, they are sufficient to convey the setting, and the actor expresses an ease that gives a wonderfully homely feeling, like a favorite uncle narrating a cherished family story. In all, a heart-warming experience in a time where we can always do with one.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Byomkesh Pawrbo [dir. Arindam Sil]

Admittedly I am a sucker for period detective stories, and in Indian fiction, I have been entertained by the adventures of Satyajit Ray's Feluda and Saradindu Banerjee's Byomkesh Bakshi. Recent times have seen a huge revival of the big screen detective movie (I believe there are at least 2 competing Byomkesh film series in Bengali, yes?), and that's not even including the Dibakar Banerjee misfire.
I had earlier seen Arindam Sil's Har Har Byomkesh (and his other detective film Ebar Shabor). I had problems with
HHB's narrative (with its very predictable mystery - my review) but it was quite attractively shot. Byomkesh Pawrbo (BP) continues the tradition. The film is set in post-independence India in the Dooars, a gorgeous North Eastern jungle-scape (which definitely calls for a visit, assuming that's where they actually shot). Byomkesh, accompanied by wife Satyaboti and buddy-chronicler Ajit, is assigned to track a large cache of hidden arms that may be used for nefarious purposes. There is also a mysterious black garbed 'ghost' rider galloping on a black horse in the forest (sadly, there's nothing very ghostly about him, I confess I was hoping for something like Sleepy Hollow's Headless Horseman). In the archetype narrative, there are a bunch of red herring suspects, and it's fairly easy to guess who the bad guy is (although showing him to be personally involved in the dirty work stretches credibility). To be sure, it's writing-wise a very mediocre film, but that way most detective films are. I believe excellence is rare in this genre, and even Satyajit Ray wrestled with the conventions of the genre in his Feluda films.
In a nod to today's trends, Bymokesh (Abir Chatterji, again) is given the action intro normally accorded to Telugu masala heroes, as he single-handedly dispatches a half dozen goons with high-kicks and slow-motion in Kolkata's Chinatown. Thankfully the macho-giri is restricted to the intro and the climax, and for most part he remains bhadralok. I like his interaction with Satyaboti (Sohini Sarkar, she looks like Maushmi Chatterji but much cuter) in these Arindam Sil films more than in the previous movies. But both Satya and Ajit remain mostly spectators here, it would have been nice to see them have more to do.

For me the best aspects of the film were Soumik Haldar's postcard-pretty cinematography (the lush locales certainly help) and Bickram Ghosh's creative background score - my fav example of the score is when Byomkesh visits a red-light area in disguise - you have a naughty saucy musical theme tracking him, which eventually erupts into a song that uses the same instrumentation.

Apart from the obnoxious logo and the omnipresent 'Smoking kills' disclaimer, Sangeet India Network's DVD gives a strong presentation of the film with bold colors and excellent contrasts. The level of detail is limited only by the SD resolution (the forest scenery screams for an HD transfer). Be assured this stands among the best of the format. Sound is excellent as well, with (surprise, surprise) a DTS track that does justice to the action moments and to Ghosh's music. No extras, but the presentation is stellar enough to justify the buy.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Moh Maya Money [dir. Munish Bharadwaj]

Sometimes a Baradwaj Rangan recommendation isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

The ingredients were good: Given its relative scarcity, noir is always a welcome shade in Hindi cinema, and the combination of Ranvir Sheorey as an inveterate wheeler-dealer led to faking his own death for insurance money, Delhi setting and a convoluted exploration of dark deeds promised much.

But there are crucial slip-ups. The relationship between the lead couple is a mystery: Both Sheorey and Neha Dhupia act well, but the script never convinces us why their characters are together. She is an independent aggressive achiever, irritated by his shady shenanigans, and he's a needy blowhard. There is no suggestion as to the romance or attraction which justifies why they got together at all, rendering null the crucial central chemistry. Not that the film needed a youth romance flashback, but there are rapid and subtle ways of hinting this, and it's not that Munish Bahardwaj's script is exemplarily ruthless about extraneous detail. In fact there is an abundance of tepid sub-plotting which adds to the running time without hugely propelling the narrative.

The clumsy execution of the central crime also hurts the immersion factor. Considering the highly suspicious circumstances of the faked death, it's laughable that the insurance company prior to making a multi-crore payout doesn't ask for a basic level investigation that would undoubtedly have exposed the lie.

While the film falls in the noir genre, it's not shot in the trademark Chiascuiro play of light and shadow, looking dull and flat most of the time. All is not lost however: There are occasional moments where it shows fleeing glimpses of the engaging thriller it could have been, particularly when Sheorey is doing jugaad to arrange for a corpse to stand in for him. In a lighter vein an amusing drinking game can be made of the number of shots Neha Dhupia is seen packing a bag.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bahoo-bali 2 [dir. SS Rajamouli]

Yesterday being a public holiday, I took the opportunity of watching Bahubali 2 with mum. I really wanted to like this film, and it has its moments of thrill, but I found it overall more exhausting than exhilarating.

Let me talk about the good stuff first, lest y'all think I'm just a grouchy snob. The visual spectacle matches up, although does not surpass the first film. The climactic battle scenes like when beta-BB single-handedly opens the drawbridge or they use palm trees as catapults to send up troops are testament to the imagination that transcends the technical quality of the VFX. Also, the way Rajamouli uses the combo of fast and slow motion in fight scenes is a lot more sensible and interesting than others have done. Anushka Shetty's Devasena is the BEST thing by far about this sequel. Unlike Tamanna's Avantika from Pt 1, who meekly sat down once the **HERO** turned up, Devasena is a sexy, feisty firebrand that gives as good as she gets. The scene where she and baap-BB are fighting side by side smolders with sensuous camaraderie, precisely what was missing in the first film. She is also the perfect Draupadi to Ramya Krishna's Gandhari/Kaikeyi and their saans-bahoo confrontations generate sparks (Nasser's Dhridarashtra is more akin to a Shakuni / Manthara).

Part of my frustration has to do with the narrative structure. Part 1 had the responsibility of introducing all the characters and the colorful world they inhabit. I expected that in the second instalment the pace would be significantly accelerated, considering there was so much ground to cover. But the flashback segment just went on an on, with a large segment devoted to another wooing exercise, this time between father BB and Devasena. While there is nothing so distasteful as the disrobing / molestation scene in Pt 1, this should have IMO been handled more quickly and without wasteful song sequences - I doubt anyone from the audience would say "Oh, I won't watch BB2 because it has no / less songs". What makes it particularly galling is that for all the epic scale, the personalities and emotions are so simplistic it does not for me justify the time spent. Bhallaladeva's Duyodhana/Ravana mix could have made for a more layered antagonist, but no, he's purely EVIL [all caps]. And [SPOILER]for all the suspense raised over why Katappa killed father BB, simply saying "I was ordered to" comes off as a damp squib and reduces one's respect for the character if he's going to be a blind cuck. Even Nazi officers who ran concentration camps and gas chambers said they were following orders, how are his actions any more redeemable?[/SPOILER].

Because of the unbalanced pacing, all that there's time for after the flashback is the revenge climax, which hugely short-changes the current characters. Tamanna's role is so tiny it can't even be called a cameo, why then bother having a female "lead" then? Rajamouli has some great ideas and a grand sense of scale, but he also seems to have been fatigued by the rigor of working on such a massive project and lost focus amidst all the threads. Eega was fun from beginning to end (well, at least from where the fly made an appearance), because he took one interesting idea and played it to maximum potential. Here he juggles with too many eggs and a fair number slip his grasp.