Box office blockbuster takes Indian film-making to hitherto unknown heights
By Aarti Kapur Singh
SS Rajamouli isn’t exactly unknown to Bollywood. Two of his films have been remade in Hindi as ‘Rowdy Rathore’ and ‘Son of Sardaar’, each grossing Rs 100 crore. Rajamouli has consistently broken new ground, but ‘Bahubali’ is his biggest undertaking to date. 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’. His 2007 blockbuster ‘Magadheera’ is being remade by Sajid Nadiadwala with Shahid Kapoor in the lead.
In the south, he is a superstar director but Rajamouli was unfamiliar with Hindi-speaking audiences till recently when his ‘Bahubali – The Beginning’ made a record-breaking Rs 50 crore on its opening day across Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi screens, the highest ever for an Indian film. The magnum opus was three years in the making and is reported to be the most expensive Indian film ever, said to have been made on a budget of nearly Rs 200 crores.
By his own admission, Rajamouli was aware of what he had set out to do. “One either has to be extremely organized or one has 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,” he says.
‘Bahubali’ has witnessed unprecedented success at the box office, apart from creating a world record for any Indian cinema, with the movie being released on about 4,000 screens worldwide. In its first weekend itself, the film collected about Rs 170 crores (A$ 27 million). That the film has been accepted nationally and has done well in other languages, transcending language barriers is unique in itself. It stars Rana Dagubatti, Prantas, Anushka Shetty and Tamaannah Bhatia, and was presented in Hindi by Karan Johar.
Varun Dhawan took to Twitter to praise the film saying, “#Baahubali is not only an achievement for the South Indian film industry but for the Indian film industry. Inspired and how.”
Even Salman Khan is said to be in awe of Bahubali. ‘I don’t think we can do that much like Bahubali, it’s box office collections are scaring me,’ he stated at the recent launch of his film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. ‘Elizabeth’ director Shekhar Kapur praised Baahubali; “Film makers from South India are showing far more courage than the North,” he tweeted adding, “Where are the courageous film makers like @ssrajamouli in Mumbai?”
So what’s the magic of this film dubbed in Hindi that has taken the movie world by storm? Johar says, “Beyond the scale of drama that’s generated inherently in Rajamouli’s writing, the way he integrates emotion with latest technology is unmatched.” The film’s stunning visual effects also left audiences speechless. “I am amazed at the quality of effects in particular and the excellence of the film in general. It is truly an international venture,” quipped megastar Amitabh Bachchan after watching ‘Bahubali’. South Indian films are also known to push the envelope in terms of visual effects, but this film is being hailed as a game changer, raising the bar for Indian films.
The film’s lead VFX supervisor V Srinivas Mohan is a three-time national award winner with strong credits to his name. The production was farmed out between 17 VFX companies in India and globally, and other individual artists. The film’s VFX budget alone is itself rumoured to be in the 100-crore league. “Rajamouli has been a pioneer in this space. His earlier films too have had great VFX but with ‘Bahubali’, he will take it several notches higher,” said Johar.
It is not that only B-town stars are enamoured with the film. Rajamouli always wanted to make a Hindi film and rumour even has it that he approached Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham to star in the Hindi version. But he canned the idea when there was no response from the stars.
‘Bahubali’ is scheduled to create a film museum showcasing the film’s sets, weapons, artillery, costumes and props. That would also be a first for India. There is so much content in the film that the final cut was supposedly 5 hours long. This forced the makers to release the film in two parts. The first part, ‘Bahubali: The Beginning’ has already made audiences chant for the sequel, but it will only release next year. “We have worked on 30% of it and are looking at a 2016 release,” the Hyderabad-based Rajamouli stated.
‘Bahubali’ has certainly raised the bar of film-making in India. Let’s hope the rest of the industry matches up in future.