Telugu film aficionados are more than just familiar with the name Venkata Satyanarayana Prabhas Raju Uppalapati. However, it took the record-smashing success of Baahubali to make Prabhas a household name the world over. The Guardian in its review of Baahubali wrote: “The Beginning described him as someone who “embodies several legends for the price of one”, comparing the superhero to Moses, Hercules and Tarzan.” Back home, parallels have been drawn with the likes of Bheem, Shiva and Ram. But for Prabhas, Baahubali is simply, “the role that changed my life.”
Growing up, Prabhas didn’t want to be an actor, despite having a film producer (Suryanarayana Raju) for a father and veteran Telugu actor Krishnam Raju for uncle. Food, not films, filled up his childhood dreams. “I was the laziest person around,” he says. “Suddenly one day I decided to become an actor. Thank God for that whimsical decision, else by now I’d have been a 140 kilo butter chicken-bingeing hotelier.” It was after his graduation that he turned to movies.
For someone who made a debut in 2002 with Eeswar and starred in 16 films thereafter, “coming to terms with fame” is something he is still learning. It is something that he should get used to. The Baahubali fever has now gone international and made its presence at the world famous basketball tournament NBA. Young girls dressed in bright lehengas and cholis, with jasmine flowers on their heads, and boys in traditional wear displayed some brilliant dance steps as they performed to the title track of the magnum opus during the half time of a game in Orlando recently. “I always dreamt big as an actor but not this big,” says Prabhas, talking about the Baahubali phenomenon.
Prabhas was 32 when he started work on the Baahubali films. The next four-and-a-half years were spent working out to build six-pack abs, learning archery and doing yoga. “More important than the physical preparation was the sustained conviction in the project and unwavering dedication. It wasn’t easy to match up to Rajamouli’s perfectionism and passion that clearly borders on madness. I did not want to disappoint him even if I couldn’t please him,” he says.
Not many know that he had a blink-and-you-miss it appearance in an item song in Ajay Devgn’s 2014 film, Action Jackson. “It was something I just did for Prabhu Deva sir! It gave me a chance to shake a leg and that was it,” says the actor, who is now preparing to star in the much-anticipated and equally well-guarded Saaho. Ask Prabhas and all he has is, “I can’t reveal anything about it yet. All I can say is that fans will have some terrific scenes to look forward to.”
Going by the buzz, one of the scenes in Saaho, involves Prabhas in a death-defying stunt, shot on the world’s largest building Burj Khalifa. While Prabhas’s first look in the film has already created much buzz, the action sequences might actually turn out to be the game changer. The actor is reportedly set to shoot for a 20-minute long chase that involves cruising across different places in Dubai. The sequence is said to be choreographed by Hollywood action choreographer Kenny Bates, of ‘Transformers’ (2007) and ‘Die Hard’ (1988) fame. Reports also suggest that Prabhas underwent stringent cardiovascular training and other exercises to pull off stunts in Saaho, which is being produced by Vamsi Krishna Reddy on a supposed budget of Rs 150 crore. Prabhas even learnt scuba diving for some of the underwater sequences. Confirming the same, a source from the sets told The Indian Telegraph, “No doubt, Prabhas is a dedicated actor and loves to do his scenes with perfection. He was supposed to shoot an underwater scene in Saaho and therefore learnt deep sea diving.”
Speaking on which, Prabhas admits, “See I want to entertain my fans and viewers. I have a certain image and I am willing to experiment within the limits of my image. Sometimes one has to up the ante in terms of performance. Saaho is my chance to be able to do that. Also, as an individual, I look forward to the new things I can learn from every film, be it action or dancing or anything else.” He means it. Because he has already made an interesting pact with Shraddha Kapoor, his co-star in the film. Revealing details, Prabhas says, “We have promised to help each other with Hindi and Telugu respectively. Of course, we will have professional language tutors, but conversing in the language will improve our grasp on it.” The multilingual (Telugu, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam) Saaho will also star Neil Nitin Mukesh as the antagonist, and also has an ensemble of names like Jackie Shroff, Chunky Panday, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mandira Bedi and Tinnu Anand.
Prabhas has bashed up baddies in action films, been an endearing ladies’ man and an entertainer, but what is the one role that he would like to do? “I think I have done and am doing a lot of action. I would love an interesting comedy role,” quips Prabhas. Are there chances that there could be another Baahubali? “I think the film’s producers would be the right people to answer this question . Personally, I’d love to live the character of Baahubali again and again and again. It is a given,” declares Prabhas.
Apart from movies, the one thing he truly loves doing is “playing volleyball with my friends whenever I can.” What about getting hitched? It is a question that without exaggeration, the nation wants to know the answer to. Prabhas, the once-reclusive and shy star is unfazed by it and signs off by saying, “I will marry when I feel like it. Maybe next year.”
So that’s another reason to look forward to 2018, or perhaps not?
THE PRABHAS FACTFILE:
- Prabhas is the first South Indian star to have his own wax statue at Madame Tussauds, Bangkok. He has beaten the likes of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan and has got a statue based on his Baahubali character Amarendra Baahubali, wearing the battle armour.
- He cannot resist chicken biryani and butter chicken.
- Prabhas is a huge fan of Rajkumar Hirani and has watched the Munnabhai series more than 20 times.
- His cinematic idol is Robert De Niro.
- If rumours are to be believed, Prabhas will tie the knot, with a 23-year-old engineering student chosen by his parents, in 2018.