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Monday, July 20, 2015

We haven’t explored Hindi market enough: 'Bahubali' director SS Rajamouli

S S Rajamouli has consistently broken new ground, but Bahubali is his biggest undertaking to date.
Two of his films have been remade in Hindi as Rowdy Rathore and Son of Sardaar, each grossing Rs 100 crore. In 2012, he made a hero out a housefly in the critically and commercially acclaimed Telugu film, Eega, which was released in Hindi as Makkhi.

In the south, he is a superstar director but S S Rajamouli was unfamiliar with Hindi-speaking audiences till last week when his Bahubali — The Beginning made a record-breaking Rs 50 crore on its opening day across Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, the highest ever for an Indian film.

Rajamouli has consistently broken new ground, but Bahubali is his biggest undertaking to date. It took three years to make and is reported to be the most expensive Indian film ever.


Kalpana Nair spoke to the director about what it takes to make a truly national blockbuster.

Bahubali took over 500 days to shoot. One year of pre-production. You dealt with 17 VFX studios in India, China and South Korea. One battle sequence featured 2,000 junior artistes. How did you manage such a mind-boggling project?

You either have to be extremely organized or you have to be mad. I think one day I was extremely organized and the next I was mad, and somehow we did it. At the core is the belief of everyone in the unit that we are going to make something big, something extraordinary. That drove us.

Mythological films in India usually tap into existing sources like the Mahabharata or Ramayana, but Bahubali is an entirely original epic. How did it come about?

My father narrated these characters to me about a decade ago and I found them very interesting. Initially, we didn't have the full story, we only had some characters like Sivagami (the character you see at the beginning of the film) and Katappa the bodyguard, in the last scene. About three years ago, we started putting these characters together to form the story.

Salman Khan praised the film and admitted that its box office gross scared him. Has the film proved that a truly all-India blockbuster is possible outside of Bollywood?

In theory I know that if you have a universal theme and a good story told well, it will work everywhere. The success of Bahubali across the country proves my theory right. Audiences are always open to an interesting story. In our childhood, we used to read stories of the Arabian Nights; why were we so interested when it happens somewhere in Arabia, in a different culture? Until now, we hadn't gone to the Hindi audience with a good story. There were films like Roja by Mani Ratnam and Shankar's Endhiran (Robot) which did well nationally. I think we haven't exploited the market enough and from now on we should be able to do it.



Do you think a film like this could be made in Bollywood, given the way budgets are skewed towards star remuneration?

Bahubali did not happen just because Prabhas (the lead actor) and I kept our remuneration low and pushed all the money into production. Bahubali did not happen overnight. The producer Shobhu Yarlagadda, Prabhas and I kept talking and discussing and imagining. It happened because of the huge amount of trust we had in each other. Bahubali is not about big budgets, big visuals or massive marketing. If a hero, producer and director in Bollywood can have that kind of trust, something even bigger than Bahubali is possible.

Bahubali has been criticized for the portrayal of its heroine Avantika (Tamannah). She starts as a strong warrior but is relegated to the sidelines once she falls in love with Bahubali (Prabhas)... Generally people look at female characters and think if she is against love, she is a strong character, but if she falls in love, she is weak. I don't think so. In fact, if you find a soulmate, falling in love makes you stronger. I think her character is even stronger once she finds her soulmate.

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