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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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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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.