'Baahubali' and the magic of Rajamouli

Prabhas, the leading man of 'Baahubali', spent two years of his life working on this one film

'Baahubali' and the magic of Rajamouli

Subhash K Jha

This month, S.S. Rajamouli’s epoch-defining Baahubali: The Beginning turned seven years old. Everything you thought would one day happen to Indian cinema, finally happened …right there right then.

So you thought our films can never compete with FX-driven films from Hollywood? Think again! S.S. Rajamouli, that man who created a hero out of a fly in Makkhi not too long ago, was back again to create the kind of spectacle which Indian cinema was hitherto financially and aesthetically unequipped to handle.

Baahubali with its harvest of breath-taking images looked more marvellous than any movie created from the Marvel comics. It was a charming old-world fable told with the kind of flourish that made anything attempted before in the genre look feeble and unkempt.

The film is flush with flamboyant visuals which take the fairy tale narrative to a level of lucid expression never experienced in our cinema. It’s hard to see Baahubali as a ‘regional’ film. So elevated is its aesthetics and so steep is the director’s appetite for weaving fantasy and drama that we are left gaping at the narrative’s mastery over the language and grammar of mass-oriented filmmaking.

The director ignites a spark of scintillating sensuousness in every nook and corner of the film. Every frame is a work of art, thanks in no small measure to art director Sabu Cyril and cinematographer K K Senthil Kumar who imbue every frame with sparkling sublimity.

Rajamouli’s love for grandiosity is enchanting and endearing. His hero Baahubali is royalty in exile. A rogue in the mountains whom you can’t help feeling warm towards, Prabhas plays the role with a compelling candour. Prabhas’ Baahubali is destined for royal greatness.

But before he gets to his kingdom, Rajamouli takes us through an epic journey saturated with romance drama and a battle scene in the finale lasting more than 25 minutes which makes 300 and Hercules look like glorified video games. It is no exaggeration to say Baahubali redefines the fantasy-adventure drama. It pushes the envelope so far, only the director’s stamp remains imprinted.

Baahubali presents the kind luscious and lavish cinema that transports us into the era of courtly intrigue without any of the characters faking their old-world charm. Prabhas and Rana Daggubatti playing the main protagonists and antagonists play off against each other without snarling and snapping in every frame.

Son of writer K.V. Vijeyendra Prasad who wrote Bajrangi Bhaijaan, S.S. Rajamouli is arguably the most successful filmmaker of the South with a string of Telugu blockbusters to his credit including mega-hit Vikramarkurdu remade as Rowdy Rathore in Hindi. Producer Sanjay Bhansali wanted Rajamouli to direct Rowdy Rathore. Rajamouli declined due to his work in Telugu cinema.

Rajamouli’s favourite source of inspiration? “Amar Chitra Katha...Those comics, even today transport me into those times. I have endless fantasies revolving around those stories set in the past. My excitement with that genre translates into my films.”

Prabhas the leading man of Baahubali spent two years of his life working on this one film. Says Rajamouli, “We worked before on Chathrapathi and we clicked very well both on creative and personal front. I needed a giant of a man with royalty personified, but with a tender heart to play Baahubali. At the start I told him I’ll need one year of his dates exclusively. He smiled and said I'll be needing two years and kept himself free for the whole period. I don't think I could have done this with anyone else.”

The war scene is almost half an hour long. Did Rajamouli consciously design the battle as a lengthy ode to the spirit of ancient valour and patriotism? “There were hundreds of versions of war edit. We were constantly changing and rearranging to get the best out of hours and hours of footage. But I knew every single shot by heart. And the length is determined by the tactics and emotions on the battlefield rather than anything else.”

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