INTERVIEW

SS Rajamouli: ‘I need to take Baahubali’s success out of my system and think like a fresher’

A third movie is a distant possibility and will happen only if the story is strong, says the director of the blockbuster franchise.

What must Baahubali fans be feeling at the moment? They have watched and rewatched the sequel to the 2015 movie. They are probably celebrating the film’s historic box office haul since its April 28 release in four languages (a reported Rs 1,400 crore in India and the rest of the world). The answer to why Kattappa killed Baahubali has been revealed. Nothing in the world can match up anymore, especially since director SS Rajamouli had previously announced that he would be moving on to other projects, including a possible adaptation of the Mahabharata.

Baahubalians, take hope: Rajamouli and producer Shobu Yarlagadda do have plans for a third movie, but only if KV Vijayendra Prasad, the movie’s screenwriter and Rajamouli’s father, comes up with a strong plot.

Until that happens, Yarlagadda’s company, Arka Media Works, has many ways to keep the Baahubali juggernaut rolling. An animated spin-off series, Baahubali: The Lost Legends, will be available on the streaming platform Amazon Prime Video from May 19. The series explores the back stories of the movie characters, including Amarendra Baahubali and son Mahendra (both played by Prabhas), Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), Sivagami (Ramya Krishna), Kattappa (Sathyaraj), Devasena (Anushka Shetty) and Avanthika (Tamannaah). The story begins when Bhallaladeva and Baahubali are still young princes in the fictional kingdom Mahishmati.

What have you planned with the animation series on Amazon Prime Video? Is it only in Hindi?
Shobu Yarlagadda: No, it is not going to be only in Hindi. It will be available in other regional languages too, making it accessible to fans across the country. The first season will have 10 episodes and will closely be followed by a second season.

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Baahubali: The Lost Legends on Amazon Prime Video.

How do you hope to keep the ‘Baahubali’ franchise going?
Shobu Yarlagadda: We have always called it ‘the world of Baahubali’. And we had planned this from day one when we began the project and when the stories were developed for the films. There were lots of back stories and a whole world of Baahubali was developed right then.

Based on the success of the film and the creation of a fan base, we realised that these stories could be offered across platforms because fans are waiting to immerse themselves in the Baahubali world again. The animated series is one such example. The first book of the trilogy [by Anand Neelakantan] is out and the second and third books will be out in the next six months.

Then we have the virtual reality project, a mobile game and all the merchandise – all of these are multiple touch points for the fans. Since there are lots of great stories to be told within this universe, even within each of these platforms, the idea of Baahubali will only evolve further.

Is there a chance that ‘Baahubali 3’ will be made?
SS Rajamouli: We started making the film because we had a great story. Then, we expanded the market because the budget was going higher. Now, while we have the market, I cannot make one more film just because of that. That would not be honest filmmaking.

The story we began with has concluded. But who knows, if my father [KV Vijayendra Prasad] comes up with a great story, and I feel like I have to make a film out of it at any cost, only then Baahubali 3 will be made. It is a distant possibility, but I don’t see it happening in the near future.

If not a sequel, what can you do now to outdo yourself?
SS Rajamouli: The first thing I need to do is take the success of Baahubali completely out of my system. Obviously it will take some time to do that, and start thinking like a director of a first film.

People who dare to say that they did not like the film are being heavily trolled. Did you anticipate this?
Shobu Yarlagadda: There are a lot of fans who are personally attached to the film. If there is a certain comment against the film, fans are voicing their....I mean, it is not that the film shouldn’t be criticised. From what I have read, they are arguing against the criticism. It is a debate, in my opinion, an ongoing one, and a great thing.

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The song Saahore from Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017).

The combined budget of the films is Rs 450 crore. You planned for a megaton, but did you expect a gigaton?
Shobu Yarlagadda: We knew it would work. But the speed at which it captured the imagination of the audience took us by surprise.

SS Rajamouli: If we hadn’t expected this, we would have obviously not given it five years of our time or the kind of money we put into this project. But the speed and the rate at which it came back was really shocking.

What is your theory of why the franchise worked so well?
SS Rajamouli: On the surface, there is the scale, the grandeur, the visual effects, the dance, music etc. At the bottom of it, I think the film worked because of very strong characterisation. That is what held all the other aspects together. The strength of the narrative is what makes the audience so attached to the story.

Baahubali: The Lost Legends on Amazon Prime Video.
Baahubali: The Lost Legends on Amazon Prime Video.
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German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.