In conversation with Baahubali's cast and crew

Rana: We knew part two was the real deal

The box office numbers are staggering, with Baahubali – The Conclusion breaking previous records by a huge margin. The Monday after the opening weekend, the mighty Bhallaladeva a.k.a Rana Daggubati is beaming. “We are not the kind of guys who make a film thinking of numbers,” he says, when we ask him if the success has sunk in. “In 2012, we began with an intention of making the biggest war epic in India. It’s been a journey of determination and commitment. We took it step by step and walked up the path,” he says.

Myth and folklore

In 2012, Rana was fresh off Krish Jagarlamudi’s Krishnam Vande Jagadguram (KVJ). His previous films like Dum Maaro Dum, Naa Ishtam and Nenu Naa Rakshasi didn’t connect with the larger audience. He had begun with great promise when he debuted with Sekhar Kammula’s political drama Leader, choosing a director-driven project unlike other star kids. It took KVJ to put him back on track with a story and setting that gave him something meatier to chew on. That was also his first brush with mythology and folklore on screen, thanks to Surabhi theatre group that was a part of the film.

Baahubali is a fictitious fantasy drama, set in a style inspired by Amar Chitra Katha and the epics. “Some inspirations worked at a sub-conscious level,” he observes, when we discuss the Narasimha avatar-Hiranya style as he sits astride Baahubali (Prabhas) with murderous rage.

He went through a physical transformation to look bulked up to be a worthy opponent of the two Baahubalis. As an actor, he submitted himself to Rajamouli and Vijayendra Prasad’s visions. “They have a great eye for detail. Rajamouli will observe you and when he likes something you do, will stand by you and drive you to do better,” says Rana.

The world saw Baahubali as two films but for the team, it was one long story. “We always knew part two was the real deal. In The Beginning, each one of us was introduced, but the audience didn’t know our back stories and the drama. You wouldn’t have known how deep Bhallaladeva’s jealousy for Baahubali is,” he explains.

When part one became a blockbuster, the team drew strength and confidence to dream bigger, “It had become a pan-Indian film, the way we always wanted it to. And, that happens only when the content is strong.”

Defining moment

Bhallaladeva is not all sound and fury. There are portions in which he barely speaks but the body language reflects the bottled-up venom. “A lot happens between the time Baahubali is announced as the king and I become the king. No one knows what Bhallaladeva’s scheme is. To me, the defining scene was when Devasena walks into Mahishmati and has a showdown with Sivagami. As Bhallaladeva, I know it since I orchestrated it. Yet, I don’t speak. I have a firm hand on Bijjaladeva (Nasser) until I feel it’s the right moment to precipitate things. It’s only during Baahubali’s death that all the contained anger is given vent to.”

Rana: We knew part two was the real deal

Rana recalls being in sync with Rajamouli’s team and willing to take the long journey, “We didn’t know how many years it would take. We didn’t know the end; we kept working and were fine with it.” He drew energy from all that was happening around him. The innovative war machinery, Bhalla’s chariot and even those binoculars have become talking points. “As actors, when you go to work and see how Sabu Cyril and his team create stupendous things that Rajamouli had envisioned, it spurred us to do better,” he says.

Working with this team also gave him the confidence to take up a project like Ghazi in the meantime. “Hopefully I can green light more films with interesting stories,” he says.

The Conclusion answered many questions and yet, left out some. Like, who is Bhallaladeva’s wife? “Bhalla’s wife is not necessary for the story, so that’s all you’re supposed to know,” guffaws Rana.

Period romance

Tell him that it’s been a while since he’s romanced on screen and he laughs, “Isn’t it good that way? I’ve been a part of cool films without even romancing.” He would do romances “if they are written well”. He asserts, “We are moving into a phase where what was once alternative cinema is becoming mainstream. I like being in that space.”

Next up is Nene Raju Nene Mantri, a Telugu political thriller directed by Teja followed by Madai Thiranthu (Tamil) directed by Sathyasiva, set in 1945. “It’s a love story of a soldier. See, I get to do love stories also. Just that they won’t be the regular romances,” he signs off with that beaming smile.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 11:30:07 PM |

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