‘An SS Rajamouli film’ flashes on the screen. Rajamouli resorted to this line in the initial stages of his career as he felt insecure and so wanted to tell the world that he indeed was the director. When he started delivering hit after hit, this tagline became a brand. Rajamouli who has nine hits in a row is on to yet another milestone— a movie of epic proportions —Baahubali The Beginning. The numbers speak for themselves (see box).
For Koduri Srisaila Sri Rajamouli or SS Rajamouli, the film has been his dream, his vision, his life. For a man who was aimless in his twenties, the tide turned when he directed the mega Telugu serial Santi Nivasam, produced by the legendary K Raghavendra Rao. Then came his first movie, Student No. 1 and eight successful movies followed (including Magadheera, Eega).
The idea of Baahubali was born when his father, noted story and script writer Vijayendra Prasad, sketched two characters, Sivagami and Bhallala Deva. Rajamouli, who reveres the Amar Chitra Katha comics thought..why not weave a story round these two characters? For a man who was a popular storyteller even in his school days, working on the story of Baahubali was not difficult. He approached Prabhas, the title role player, a few years ago and got him on board, though Rana, who plays the antagonist Bhallala Deva, was initially reluctant as he didn’t know if he could devote three years to the movie. But finally he agreed. As did Anushka and Tamanna.
It is a ‘home production’ of sorts for Rajamouli. The music is by his elder brother Keeravani and story by his father Vijayendra Prasad. Sister-in-law Srivalli took care of the production and his young son too assisted him.
The film is being talked about for its massive sets and the excellent production design. Set in an imaginary realm, it promises to blur the lines between the real and the imaginary. The visual effects are by national award winner V Srinivas Mohan and art direction is by national-award wizard Sabu Cyril. The cinematography is by celebrated cameraman Senthil and the fight choreography is by Peter Hein.
The visual effects department did concept drawing for each scene over six to seven months and then prepared a storyboard to see which scene required visual effects. Rajamouli, with a track record of making special effects-rich blockbusters wanted three things for his magnum opus: a visual extravaganza, showcase Indian heritage and culture, and create magnificent forts and spell-binding fights.
Twenty-six VFX studios (Indian and international) and 600 graphic artists executed the graphics at 18 facilities around the world. A few members of the Jurassic World crew are said to have worked on this film. The idea is to create something comparable to a Hollywood spectacle at a quarter of its cost. For art director Sabu Cyril, it was a daunting task to create a period without any reference point as the story is set some 2,000 years ago. The magnificent palaces, impregnable forts, breath-taking water falls were all created for the movie.Usually a 24-foot-high set is created, but for this movie they made 45-foot-high sets.
Finally, the first part of Baahubali is set to hit theatres on July 10 worldwide. Made in Telugu, Tamil and dubbed in Hindi, Malayalam, English, French, Japanese, the film features top South -Indian artistes such as Prabhas, Rana, Anushka, Tamanna, Sathyaraj, Sudeep, Nassar and Ramya Krishnan in key roles. The second part will release in 2016.
Why two parts? Rajamouli has said time and again: “The story, about two warring brothers for a kingdom, is so big that one film is not enough. We tried but we were losing some of the emotional quotient hence the second release after a gap of 10 months.”