India Today - - INSIDE - (Aroon Purie)

Alost prince who can scale moun­tains and carry gi­gan­tic lingams on his shoul­der. His con­niv­ing un­cle who has usurped his king­dom. A griev­ing mother wait­ing for her saviour. A woman war­rior who is dis­robed by the play­ful prince. And a loyal slave who does as he is told by his mas­ter, even if it is wrong. A bud­get of Rs 450 crore, and a myth­i­cal Mahish­mati em­pire at Ramoji Film City with a palace, stat­ues and me­chan­i­cal an­i­mals cre­ated by 2,000 car­pen­ters, painters and prop mak­ers. The re­sult: a stun­ning two-part movie, which seems to have ef­fort­lessly segued from a Tel­ugu block­buster to a made-in-In­dia epic.

Baahubali makes the in­dia to­day cover for sev­eral rea­sons. It’s the big­gest movie ever made in In­dia. It is a show­case of the po­ten­tial of In­dian cinema, in terms of nar­ra­tive and tech­nique. It shows Bol­ly­wood that it is pos­si­ble to use money wisely, not merely to fund fat pay che­ques for stars or fi­nance ex­otic for­eign lo­cales. It also puts the au­teur front and cen­tre of the film­mak­ing process—Prab­has, who plays the roles of Amaren­dra Baahubali and his son, may have a su­per­hu­man physique but the real su­per­star is the Hy­der­abad­based direc­tor S.S. Ra­jamouli, who has shown Bol­ly­wood the way.

Baahubali shows the world that In­dian cinema is ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing its own unique su­per­heroes and su­per­heroines, brows sweat­ing, mus­cles rip­pling and swords glint­ing, bat­tling evil and chang­ing des­tiny. A col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of direc­tor Ra­jamouli, writ­ten by his fa­ther K.V. Vi­jayen­dra Prasad, and pro­duced by Arka Me­di­a­works, co-founded by his friend Shobu Yar­la­gadda, the first part made Rs 600 crore at the box of­fice. It also gen­er­ated the kind of at­ten­tion that has made it a text­book case study in good mar­ket­ing. So­cial me­dia was abuzz with ques­tions like: why did Kat­tappa the slave kill Baahubali, Sivudu’s fa­ther? Was Sivudu’s dis­rob­ing of Avan­tika not misog­y­nis­tic? Who is the right­ful heir—Baahubali or his cousin Bhal­laladeva?

The world of Baahubali is big­ger than the movie. There is a book, The Rise of Si­vagami, first of three, which will be turned into a TV se­rial. Two vir­tual re­al­ity shorts give a more im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of the king­dom. There are graphic nov­els, video games and mo­bile games. An an­i­mated se­ries for Ama­zon Prime Video is out in May. Clothes, ac­ces­sories and wall art in­spired by the films can be bought on­line. Clearly, the Baahubali story is likely to live longer than the films.

“Peo­ple thought we were fools,” says co-pro­ducer Shobu Yar­la­gadda, in our story. “They wrote us off even be­fore the re­lease of the first film.” But the crew is hav­ing the last laugh. With it be­ing shown on 6,500 screens, Baahubali is the big­gest the­atri­cal re­lease for a film in In­dia. It has had 100 mil­lion views on YouTube and Face­book less than a week af­ter the trailer was un­veiled, the most for any In­dian film, and the film in four lan­guages has such trac­tion that it has sold distri­bu­tion, mu­sic and satel­lite rights for an es­ti­mated Rs 500 crore.

But more than the stag­ger­ing num­bers, the movie shows that au­di­ences ap­plaud courage and re­ward the spirit of ad­ven­ture. The cover story, writ­ten by Se­nior As­so­ciate Editor Suhani Singh, shows what imag­i­na­tion can do. It is a tribute to In­dian in­ge­nu­ity and a tes­ta­ment to the coun­try’s soft power. As they say in the film, Saa­hore Baahubali!

Our June 25, 2001 cover on La­gaan

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