With a story to tell

man of the moment

With a story to tell

To acquaintances, admiring fans, or for that matter, to any member of the common public, director S S Rajamouli might come across as a simple, good-natured man who has had lady luck smiling on him a little more generously.

But to those who know him well, he is also a deep analytical thinker, who can process loads of information in just seconds, and make appropriate decisions in moments based on the data he’s just analysed. That ability to analyse and process information in seconds, that gift to see the big picture when all he holds is just one small piece of the picture in his hands is probably one of the many factors that has made this director truly one of India’s greatest. No wonder then that he has been able to deliver blockbusters after blockbusters.

Here are a few excerpts from an interaction:

First things first, why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?

Actually, when people ask me why Kattappa killed Baahubali, they obviously don’t expect me to tell them the answer. It is like saying, ‘Hi Rajamouli, I saw Baahubali: The Beginning. We liked the film very much. We are waiting to know the answer’. Instead of saying all this, they simply say, ‘Can you tell me why Kattappa killed Baahubali?’ The thought behind this question comes from love and admiration for the film.

What was the inspiration for doing a film like ‘Baahubali...’?

There are lots of reasons. But I would say that the first reason is my father. I am not saying this because he is my father, but because of the fact that he is a fantastic storywriter. The characters my dad gave me — be it Sivagami, Bhallala Deva, Kattappa, Devasena or Avantika — were all awe-inspiring. Every time he introduced a character to me, I had an electrifying experience. The characters and the sequences he narrated were so overpowering that they continued to rule my thoughts and mind long after he had narrated the script. I wanted to give my audiences the very same electrifying experience. That was the driving force. In fact, that has been my strength all through these five years.

What can audiences expect in ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’?

As far as I am concerned, this is just one story. To the audience also, it is an incomplete story. The point that needs to be noted about the audience is that they are not asking, ‘Why must we see this film?’ They have already decided they want to see the film, because they are expecting a continuation of the story. It’s like how it was during our childhood: our parents or grandparents would tell us a story and continue that story the next night to put us to sleep.

The audience are in that mood now. Commercially, we established the characters in the first part. The real drama, however, comes only in the second part. Be it the drama between Amarendra Baahubali and Bhallala Deva, the drama between Sivagami and Baahubali, people are waiting eagerly to see the drama between the characters. That is what we are giving in the second part. So, commercially, there will be big battle scenes, huge settings, and it will be on a grand canvas. But as far as I know, the main interest will be to see the drama between the characters.

Tell us about the CG work in the film.

We hope that you will not be able to find the difference. If audiences can distinguish between regular shots and CG shots in the film, it means we have failed. Our aim is to make you immerse yourself in the grandeur of the film.

How did you get your cousin, music director Keeravani, to agree to score music for ‘Baahubali 2...’ after he announced his retirement?

Anna had taken a decision right at the time he started his career that he would work for 27 years and then hang up his boots. As long as he was working, we never thought about it. But when he said, ‘Okay, in the next two years, it will be the 27th year,’ all our family members didn’t agree. I told him that I didn’t care what decision he had taken, but he was going to do the music for my film. The decision he took was that he would continue working on films, but he would do only films that he was really interested in. He will not compromise on his quality and what he thinks is good music.

Will there be a part three in this series?  

No, I don’t think so. When we wrote the story, there was just one story. This story is what you will be seeing in Baahubali-The Beginning and The Conclusion. But when we started writing to get into the depth of the characters, we started writing the backstories. How did Sivagami become such a powerful queen? Why was Kattappa such a loyal person? When we talk about the continuation of Baahubali..., we are talking about these backstories.

There will not be a part three, but there will be an animation series, live action series, comic books and virtual reality films. There is so much more to tell. When we decided to make a film like Baahubali..., we went on a scale that was never dealt with before. At a time when people were spending 50 or 60 crores on a big film, we went to the extent of spending 350 or 400 crores on ours. We are taking it to a whole new level. Baahubali... is synonymous with scale and grandeur. So, whatever we make, it will be big.

Tell us about the battle sequences in the movie.

For me, whether you shoot a battle sequence or a song, irrespective of how visually rich it is, there should be a story for that by itself. There must be an emotion that drives that song or battle. Talking about the battle sequences in Baahubali 2..., the seeds of the battles were laid in the beginning of the first part of the film.

Now, the first part had a very lovely emotional scene between a mother and her son. Unable to stand the hardship of his mother, the son is seen picking up a rock shivalingam on his shoulder and moving it to a place under a waterfall. The audience must have wondered about this guy’s strength. Next, we created a villain who is a megalomaniac. He is so much into himself that he can kill a bison with his bare hands. So, the audience will want to see what happens when these two people clash. So, in this part, only in the climax are we going to let people see the clash. When such a stage is set, you can create whatever you want. The grandeur can be anything because your base is so very strong.

What’s your take on piracy?

Over the years, my perception of the problem of piracy has changed. When we make a story, we have different mediums to take that story to different people. We have cinemas, we have TV, and we have web. We have been very late in making our film’s content available for the web media. We didn’t realise the potential of the web media, and we didn’t give those who like to watch the film on web a proper platform using which they could easily pay for the film and watch it. That was exploited by the pirates.

Now, that doesn’t mean what they are doing is legal business.Of course, it is affecting the film’s business. We should be able to exploit that medium. If I can guarantee audiences high-quality content at the click of a button, I am sure people would prefer to pay and watch it rather than go for a pirated version. At the same time, if we are able to catch pirates and take legal action against them, we will do that too.

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