Nearly a month ago, the interest in SS Rajamouli-directed Bahubali: The Beginning was piqued when a poster that featured a hand emerging out of a river holding up a newborn was released. When Rajamouli — with his enviable record of delivering nine blockbusters in a row — launched the film’s first teaser last week in Mumbai, along with filmmaker Karan Johar who is presenting the magnum opus, the audience could peek into the magnificent world that the director has been engaged in creating for the last three years.
As the trailer plays, clouds part, revealing the aerial shot of a kingdom where a warrior runs around gleefully, hangs from a cliff without any fear, and lunges off a mountain with gushing waterfalls forming a beauteous backdrop.
Before one could savour these grand visuals, action rapidly changes, and all is not as enchanting as it looks. Subjects are oppressed at the hands of an egotistical king. Impressed with the story and its narration with generous use of special effects, Johar says: “Beyond the scale of drama that’s generated inherently in Rajamouli’s writing, the way he integrates emotion with latest technology — Magadheera (2009), Eega (2012) and now Bahubali — is unmatched.”
The most ambitious Indian movie, with a budget of Rs 175 crore, Bahubali is looking at finding a pan-Indian audience. Rajamouli, who mostly makes movies in Telugu, has got a taste of it with the super success of Eega, which released in Hindi as Makkhi. Even though Johar has been roped in to help him achieve that once again, it’s Rajamouli’s ability to emotionally hook the audience that might prove to be his trump card. In the past, that’s what made his stories work even if they tend to sound absurd at times. In Magadheera, a reincarnation drama, the paths of four leading characters cross after 400 years, while in Makkhi, a boy, reborn as a housefly, not only protects his ladylove but takes revenge on his killer. Both the movies have won the National Award for special effects.
How does he achieve the suspension of disbelief that’s integral to such stories? “Firstly, you have to be convinced about your character and the storyline. The initial 20 minutes of the film are crucial. You have to hook the audience. If you can’t do it then, how much ever you try afterwards, they would not buy it even if you have the most beautiful sets and colourful costumes,” says the 41-year-old. For Rajamouli, the creative fodder for such emotionally-charged stories comes from the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) series. “All my childhood, I was living on those comics. Some years ago, I bought all 400 titles of ACK. As I was going through them, I was shocked to find that many of the emotions and incidents in my films have been inspired by those books,” he adds. The prominent characters of Bahubali were created by his father — KV Vijayendra Prasad, a writer-director — eight years ago. But they were strung together in a story five years later.
“It took us three months to finalise the story of Bahubali. Doing the concept sketches for pre-visualisation work, building the sets and other preparations took two-and-a-half years. Even after the shooting began, we kept working on them. The filming was wrapped up three months ago, but the concept artists are still working on the visual effects,” he says. As the film readies for it release on July 10, the question when Rajamouli would make a Hindi film is being frequently posed to him. “I was asked the same at the time of Makkhi’s release too. I want to finish my commitments down south before I make that move,” says the director, whose next big task is to make the second part of Bahubali. “We have worked on 30 per cent of it and are looking at a 2016 release,” the Hyderabad-based director adds.