Hail Prabhas!

There’s a lot riding on Prabhas’s ‘Baahubali’ shoulders but the actor refuses to get weighed down by mere expectations while delivering the high-octane ‘Saaho’, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Prabhas

The resounding success of the Baahubali franchise and his looks have combined to make Prabhas the heartthrob of the nation. If the index of popularity outside his home state is anything to go by, Prabhas is set to go where no South hero has gone before from over a dozen names that began in the 1980s.

Prabhas is humble, soft-spoken, has an attractive smile coupled with subtle humour, making him quite a delight to chat with. We begin with his action-packed extravaganza, Saaho, which is also his vocal debut in Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil. In Baahubali, his voice was dubbed by actor Sharad Kelkar.

“Here, it was a conscious decision to dub in all the languages, though I personally loved Sharad Kelkar’s voice. I also met him recently. He was simply amazing in the Hindi Baahubali. But you have to understand that in a period drama, the accent needs to be authentic, traditional and perfect. Saaho is a contemporary film, and I thought I could manage that. Besides, Kamal (language coach Ahmed) helped me with the pronunciation on sets and again while dubbing.”

A feat

He is almost considered a pan-Indian actor now. What does he have to say about it? Prabhas says, “Baahubali, simply, made history. We spent so much money and time on it and we were stressed so much in our endeavour to entertain. Do you know that we started shooting with a sequence from Part 2, of
Devasena? We shot that for about a week and then went on to Part 1. The budget went so high that we decided to continue only with Part 1. Rajamouli sir
took a gamble that if the film worked in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, we had a chance and the market for Part 2 would be good. But what a response we
got,” he says, in an awestruck tone. So, will he do more Hindi films now that the film has become so huge? He nods his head and says, “If Saaho works, yes. Offers have been there from Hindi and Tamil. I might do some regional films as well.”

Born in Tamil Nadu, he confesses that he is not all that fluent in Telugu and “needs to work hard on it”. He admits that it was also not easy to work in Hindi, but
the Mumbai press was “very warm” and he received a nice welcome. “When we were in Delhi, Ajay Devgn called up to congratulate me after Baahubali. Ranbir
Kapoor also messaged me,” he says.

A good trend

Asked how he felt about the current trend of stars acting in different regions, like Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt doing Rajamouli’s next, RRR, Akshay Kumar doing 2.0, Amitabh Bachchan doing Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy and Shraddha Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Neil Nitin Mukesh acting in Saaho, and stars like him
doing Hindi movies, he replies with a smile, “That’s beautiful, right?”

He explains, “Hollywood and China are big film markets. Their films have one language, but we have 100 languages. Within these are so many big markets — Hindi, of course, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi and others, so why should we not do films together? Today, Karnataka has made KGF, and tomorrow, Punjab might make the world’s biggest film!” Prabhas agrees that the many Indian cultures are hugely diverse, but thinks that finally if the script is intriguing, it works.

Talking about his co-stars, he mimics Jackie Shroff’s informal way of speaking and reveals that he always wanted to work with him.

“He’s so cool,” he raves. As for Shraddha Kapoor, he considers her like “a South Indian girl,” because she loves South Indian food.

High expectations

How challenging were the action sequences in Saaho? “They were nowhere as tough as those in Baahubali,” he says.

“This time, the technicians, who had come from all around the world, did much more prep than us. With Baahubali, it was choreographed and coordinated action, like the bow-and-arrow sequences. It took 120 days, and was very demanding.”

It is known that Prabhas took a calculated risk and gave five years of his life and 17-year career to the film by not taking up any other film while the two parts, Baahubali—The Beginning and Baahubali 2—The Conclusion were made, and that included the physical transformation. It is easy to overcome a flop, but what happens after a massive hit like it? People have sky-high expectations from the actors behind such a mega blockbuster.

“That’s a very good question,” he smiles. “Yes, your next movie after a flop is much easier, as you have already lost, so anything you gain, you gain.Now Rajamouli has given me Baahubali, so I don’t know what to do now.” He says that he signed Saaho from among the films offered because it was a “screenplay film” that was intelligent and yet appealing to the masses.

We have also heard that he does not like to watch his films on the first day. Is there any specific reason for this? “It is very stressful, and I can misjudge a film and get confused,” he explains.

Another well-known facet of him is his shyness. Could he shed light on this? He smiles again and remarks, “I was always shy. I never used to talk to girls in school but they would come to talk to me. I don’t know why, but a lot of stars are shy.”

We can well believe that, as after the two Baahubali films, he reportedly got some 6,000 proposals from across the country. Right now, the situation is that he cannot take a stroll or roam the streets of most foreign countries in which Baahubali is known and has been shown. All we can say to that is Saaho (hail) Prabhas!

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