What fans of SS Rajamouli’s two-part Baahubali films wanted was a third chapter. What they got instead was an animated prequel.

The Disney+ Hotstar series Baahubali: Crown of Blood reunites us with the super-strong Baahubali and his super-shady cousin Bhallaladeva. Their kingdom Mahishmati is under threat of attack from Raktadeva.

This Sauron-like villain has a few tricks up his crimson sleeves. Raktadeva has a slave army of aggressive boys, a tech wizard who has figured out automation before the concept was invented, and a foundry that churns out deadly weapons.

Raktadeva keeps Baahubali on his toes, as do Bhallaladeva and his weaselly father Bijjaladeva. Mahishmati’s general Kattappa is once again caught between the cousins, one so noble that he is god-like and the other already well on his way to taking Raktadeva’s place.

Jeevan J Kang and Navin John have directed the show; Kang is also credited with the character design and art direction. The animation has uncluttered and colourful backdrops, easy-to-follow movements and a healthy quotient of streaming-friendly violence.

The music is by Kaala Bhairava, sounding a lot like his father MM Keeravani, who composed the Baahubali soundtrack. Sharad Kelkar returns in the Hindi version to dub Baahubali’s voice, proving yet again his valuable contributions to the character’s success beyond the original Telugu productions.

A prequel offers the opportunity to show characters as they once were. Baahubali: Crown of Blood isn’t the least curious about imagining its players differently.

Bhallaladeva’s mother Sivagami is as imperious as ever. Kattappa appears to have been born with an ultra-loyal gene, devoted as he is to the glory of the great Baahubali and the ideal Mahishmati kingdom. Baahubali, who is forever trying to see the good in people, might have qualified for a Nobel Peace Prize if it had also been around at the time.

It’s hard not to think of Rajamouli’s brilliance in taking comic-book characters and imagining them as flesh-and-blood people. The nine-episode series is so tightly yoked to Rajamouli’s vision that it is unable to break free and chart its own path.

The show goes over well-trodden ground, but in a different format. Crown of Blood ends with the suggestion of a new villain – ergo, more of the same, only this time in animation.

Baahubali: Crown of Blood (2024).