The Baahubali

India Today - - OTHER NEWS MAKER - —Amar­nath K. Menon

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.”

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