on the actor's trail

Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali? Here’s what the actor who plays him has to say

In an interview, Sathyaraj spills the beans on one of the most important characters in SS Rajamouli’s fantasy adventure ‘Baahubali’.

SS Rajamouli’s fantasy period drama Baahubali (2015) and its upcoming sequel have several iconic characters, including the titular hero (played by Prabhas), Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati) and Sivagami (Ramya Krishna), but a special place has been reserved by fans for Kattappa, the slave who kills the man he has vowed to protect. Played by veteran Tamil actor Sathyaraj, Kattappa has inspired a question that has plagued fans since the conclusion of the first film – why did Kattappa plunge a sword into the back of the prince Baahubali?

The question – which has become a hasthag WKKB (or, Why Kattappa Killed Baahubali) – will be answered in the sequel Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. The movie will be released on April 28 in the original Telugu language as well as dubbed versions in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. At the trailer launch in Mumbai on March 16, the media scrum was disappointed to learn that Sathyaraj wasn’t around to answer the all-important question. Ramajouli said at the event, “How many theories do I have [for WWKB]? Only one. But I have lost count of the number of theories proposed by various people.”

Sathyaraj finds himself in a sweet spot. The villain-turned-hero has acted in more than 230 films over 40 years, and the phenomenal success of Baahubali has given him a late-career boost. Sathyaraj is already familiar to Hindi audiences as Deepika Padukone’s stern father in the 2013 hit Chennai Express. “Much like superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who moved from being a hero to essaying character roles, for which he is appreciated more than his work as a hero, the same thing is happening to me here in southern cinema,” the 62-year-old actor told Scroll.in.

What was SS Rajamouli’s brief for the Kattappa character?
I love to play historical characters, since I am a big, big MGR fan. I merely followed what SS Rajamouli told me. He had done his research and knew the dialogue from my films, and he also knew that I am an ardent MGR fan. So he asked me to look at Bahubaali with the same love, admiration and affection I would show MGR. That is what I did.

I am totally a director’s actor. I have acted in so many films that I know what the director wants by the end of the first day on a set. Rajamouli knows the audience pulse. And he is extremely detailed and handles every small thing. They had stuntmen from Hollywood, and I was amazed by the novel action moves, but Prabhas told me the ideas came from Rajamouli.

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Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

How do you assess the character’s popularity?
It is delightful that social media and memes are all about Kattappa. I am so happy. There is great scope in a character that has shades of grey, like in real life. It was an easy role for me to do. I have 40 years of experience in films. I was skilled in sword fighting for a long time, so I was comfortable.

I love different get-ups and I loved the shaved head and beard look. It was different from what I had done before. Kattappa’s look is unusual and distinctive, he emanates an inner strength – it is amazing how he has caught the imagination of people.

So why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?
Now how can I answer that? I cannot reveal the reason.

I have done Tamil films for 40 years now, but Kattappa has made me famous not just all over India, but all over the world where Indians live. I can only give credit to Rajamouli. Kattappa is Rajamouli’s well-crafted character, I just brought him to life. People may have thought that I slogged to portray the role because I am 62 years old, but it was very easy.

In my career, the nicknames of the characters I have played have stuck in people’s minds. For example, my role as Professor Virumandi “Virus” Santhanam in Shankar’s Nanban [a Tamil remake of 3 Idiots] was the rage. People used to call me “Virus.” I am also known for my role as corrupt politician Amavasai in Amaidhi Padai.

What I liked is that the director and the crew used to call me Kattappa. It is a matter of pride for me. Wasn’t it Periyar who bestowed the name Sivaji on Ganesan, which is a matter of great honour for the actor?

Baahubali: The Beginning (2015).
Baahubali: The Beginning (2015).

What was it like working on the massive ‘Bahubaali’ sets?
The real strain of making such a huge film lay with the director and his crew. We, the cast, enjoyed working on the beautiful sets. It was like being in college.

What is a role that is closest to you?
Undoubtedly, it is Periyar [2007, about the social reformer and architect of the Self-Respect Movement in Tamil Nadu]. It was my ultimate dream role. It was a real challenge because I had to get his body language and dialogue delivery completely right. His contemporaries, such as Kalaignar M Karunanidhi and K Veeramani, are still alive. In the Gandhi biopic, Ben Kingsley had just two makeovers – one in a suit and the other in a veshti. I had nine makeovers, since I had to portray Periyar as a young man until he was 95 years old.

Karunanidhi cried when he saw the film. He gifted me Periyar’s ring, which is 130 years old. I am still wearing it.

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Periyar (2007).

You also worked with Rohit Shetty in ‘Chennai Express’ as Deepika Padukone’s father.
It was the most relaxed role I ever did. We used to start shooting only at 11 am. It was a film for which I was paid very well and had a relaxed holiday at a hill station.

How will you live down Kattappa? What are the films you are working in?
Life goes on. I am shooting for a period Tamil/Telugu film that is set in 1945 and stars Rana Daggubati. I am also playing a retired cop, a very strong role, in a Tamil film whose title translates in English as “Caution, humans are walking around in this place.” I am happy I am still getting good roles.

Sathyaraj in Chennai Express (2013).
Sathyaraj in Chennai Express (2013).
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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

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For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.