Rajamouli has even broken records in Bollywood without reshooting Baahubali: The Conclusion in Hindi or casting any major Hindi actor.

How SS Rajamouli launched the Baahubali campaign from the south to win hearts across India
Flix Baahubali Monday, May 01, 2017 - 13:25

By Fahir ME

Among the highlights of Baahubali: The Beginning was the war with Kalakeya. In tearing down the army’s tents to weaponise the huge sheets of cloth, Amarendra Baahubali's innovative and meticulous planning struck you as much as the enormous scale of the war sequences.

SS Rajamouli strategises and executes his plans in much the same way as his lead character. Even before the release of The Beginning, Rajamouli had a clear long-term vision for how both Baahubali movies should turn out.

It is this vision that has now garnered him a place among the biggest directors India has produced. It’s this vision that got Baahubali: The Conclusion the biggest box-office opening (over Rs 100 crore in the first day) the country has ever witnessed.

Most filmmakers spend much of their time and effort in production and post-production, but have already missed out on the most important aspect of the film – the screenplay. The two Baahubali movies, on the other hand, may have grand production scale, beautiful sets, fine music and great performances, but find their soul in well-knit and compact screenplays. Though his stories originate mostly from his father, Rajamouli can write excellent screenplays that sync wonderfully with his imaginative direction.

It is more than apparent after the release of The Conclusion that Rajamouli had a concrete view, right from the start, of all the dots and how best to connect them across the two movies.

Here is someone who knew what would lead to the opening shot of the prequel (of Ramya ending up in the river with the baby) and knew just where to place that backstory in the sequel. Here is someone who designed the intervals of both movies in the same way, so that they are reminiscent of each other and give you the same goosebumps.

Here is someone who dared to end his first film on a cliffhanger and not a conventional ending, confident that the second film would be made and watched by his audience.

 If Rajamouli's writing is brilliant, his ability to build in the goosebumps at the most unexpected times is his USP. Whether it is Magadheera – when Ram Charan runs, jumps  over a car and then to the top of a horse – or Baahubali: The Beginning – when Prabhas jumps off a cliff, turns back in the air and shoots an arrow onto a tree on the cliff – these scenes may not look really great on paper. But on screen, when Rajamouli slows down the action, draws out his heroes energies to the full, and gets his music director to raise the tempo, the results are magnificent.

As a director, his imagination has no bounds, but he manages to translate all of it onto screen effectively. Sabu Cyril, the gifted art director who worked on Enthiran and Baahubali among other films, once said that it was the latter movie that challenged him the most. From the massive beautiful palaces to the elegant costumes to the wars on a gigantic scale with innumerable supporting artists, everything betrays a grand vision.

There are sequences that seem to strain your logic – such as the sequence in The Beginning, where our hero starts from a valley and leaps from cliff to cliff through waterfalls, pushing massive rocks onto the snow and sliding through it. But the rational part of your brain takes the backseat, as the director draws you into a fantasy told through never-before-seen visual extravagance.

Rajamouli’s casting deserves special mention too. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Prabhas as Baahubali, and the role the actor dedicated three years of his life to seems tailor-made for him. But bringing in gifted actors of the calibre of Sathyaraj and Ramya Krishnan for roles aptly written for them has been a stroke of genius too.

 Many top actors and filmmakers from the south have tried their hands at Bollywood and making it big north of the Vindhyas. But they’ve never enjoyed the kind of success they have had here. So, to see the dubbed Hindi version of The Conclusion break the existing records set by the Khans of Bollywood is truly incredible.

Importantly, Rajamouli did not re-shoot his movies in Hindi. He did not even cast any mainstream Bollywood actors. He stood his ground in the south, and stayed true to his roots. The one thing he did differently from his earlier Telugu movies was to bring a strong distribution house from the North onboard. And his collaboration with Karan Johar turned out to be the biggest masterstroke as far as the business end of the Baahubali series is concerned.

 Finally one should notice that Rajamouli wanted to leave no stone unturned before the release of The Conclusion. With the movie seeing a massive release across India and overseas, perhaps he didn't have to go the distance to resolve issues in Karnataka, where certain groups wanted actor Sathyaraj to apologise for some “anti-Kannadiga” comments made some years ago. But he intervened with a personal statement and made sure Sathyaraj responded too.

Going the extra distance at every step, Rajamouli has today claimed an undisputable spot at the top.

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