S.S. RAJAMOULI, 44 For imagining the impossible, dreaming the undoable and executing a spectacle not seen before by Indian audiences
His clear vision of epochal grandeur may pose a huge challenge to producers, but it has great cinematic appeal. It is by pursuing this as a tremendous perfectionist, that S.S. Rajamouli, 44, the master of dramatic storytelling, keeps audiences riveted to their seats till the very end. As he did in the second part of his epic creation, more than two years after the release of the first, in India’s most expensive film, Baahubali. The first part seemed like a trailer whipping up curiosity and firing the imagination of the audience for the sequel Baahubali : The Conclusion with what has by now become a legendary question: Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali? The Rs 270 crore film went on to make Rs 1,750 crore at the box-office, becoming the biggest blockbuster of the year.
In an industry where everyone turns to the director to pump in energy, he sustained interest in the sequel and took responsibility for the huge team over five years. As the effort grew bigger and bigger, he continued undeterred by the challenge or the cost to make the story a spell-binding experience. To him, the art of storytelling is limitless. “No one can ever create art, even on a piece of paper, as they have envisioned it in their mind. Because there are no limits, you cannot frame the mind, you can imagine whatever you want, whereas putting it on paper, in writing form, in film, on celluloid, [each medium] has its own limitations. You can never do complete justice to whatever you have created in your mind,” says Rajamouli.
He is modest enough to admit that any audacious adventure in the digital age, if it is to be a success, has to ensure appropriate marketing and branding to create the right engagement and anticipation for the film. This is what kept the Baahubali universe alive and kicking during the break in making the two parts—the merchandising and the promotional initiatives, with books, toy models and other products—a hitherto unexplored strategy in Indian cinema.
With all this, Rajamouli is positioned, all alone, in an exalted orbit. He sees himself more as a storyteller rather than as a creator, and therefore, believes what is intrinsic to the epics of India, particularly the Ramayana and the Mahabharata is that they are “rich in legend and culture and can be retold visually in cinema.” No wonder work on his magnum opus is still to begin. “Ultimately, even if I have so many restrictions, if I don’t have the freedom, I’ll still make it one day.”