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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