It is somewhat befitting that director Rajamouli, famous for his larger-than- life films like Magadheera (2009), a period drama of sorts with reincarnation thrown in, Eega (Makkhi, 2012), the story of a young boy’s revenge on his murderer in the form of a housefly and now Bahubali, is a fan of Amar Chitra Katha comics!
In between the shoot of his mammoth multi-starrer Bahubali, the director confesses, “Amar Chitra Katha comic is the culprit for my fascination with stories of kings and queens.” But then again, for Rajamouli, mythological epics like Mahabharat and Ramayana are huge influences too.
Films that he enjoys watching, predictably, are larger-than-life period dramas, although he always tries to make them in a comfortable budget which, according to the director is, “10 per cent less than the market budget.”
As for films that have made an impact, he says, “Braveheart is a big influence as is Gladiator. “Fighting for honour, freedom or principles are emotions that fascinate me and find their way into my films. I live on these dreams. To me, story and screenplay are the most important aspects, but venturing into this genre, you have to be patient and persistent. You have to follow your vision and stay on course.
“When you imagine a film like Bahubali, you have to imagine the world in which kings lived. Sure you may not have a palace as high as the Eiffel Tower, but that’s the grandeur that has to be created. Compared to this world, the world of Makkhi was a cakewalk! It was as small as the name.” (laughs)
In his case it helps that he has a very supportive family — his father renowned scriptwriter Vijeyendra Prasad has written the story for his films, while his wife Rama, over the years has been swept up in the production work and is now the bonafide costume designer for the production. His actors too are completely in sync with him, submitting to his vision completely. Anushka Shetty, the leading lady of the film mentions that she simply follows his detailed instructions (sometimes Rajamouli even performs a scene for reference) and the results are usually very good. “I am a storyteller so it’s imperative to get across my emotions when I narrate the story to a technician or an actor as passionately as I can and that sometimes includes even acting it out. Some find it helpful, others perhaps not so much,” he says of his directorial style.
We are seated on the mammoth sets created for Bahubali in Hyderabad’s Ramoji Film City. The scene involves a huge statue of Rana Daggubati (the hero of the film) —the size of a three-storey high building— to be pulled and erected in front of a palace. There is a live pachyderm shuffling along as per the directions from its mahout and horses and horse riders awaiting their turn. There is a huge installation of four horses pulling a chariot and the scene is being orchestrated by Rajamouli till 6 pm when finally, it’s pack up time.
The scene requires actor Nasser to make a dramatic declaration, throwing up his hand in the air and expressing his displeasure. The director is unrelenting even for this small scene instructing the actor to throw his hands in the air a tad more vigorously till he gets the perfect shot. So, it’s not surprising that among Bollywood stars he admires Aamir Khan’s work and Rajkumar Hirani films.
For Bahubali, he has on board art director Sabu Cyril, composer M.M. Keeravani (popularly known as M.M. Kreem and a regular name in Rajamouli’s film credits), Prabhas, Anushka Shetty and Rana Daggubati, Tammanaah Bhatia, Nasser and Ramya Krishnan among others. The film, mounted on a huge scale is likely to release in two parts and seven languages in India in 2015.
A self-confessed lover of palace intrigues and lives of monarchs, Rajamouli admits that he is a big fan of Prince of Persia. “I am a big fan of the game and I was very disappointed with the film. Given a chance, I would like to take the character and make it into a story I have in mind,” he says.
Of his own style of film-making, he says, “I believe in sticking to the basic emotions as they don’t vary. Whether it is Hindi or Chinese, if you stick steadfastly to the emotions, universal appeal will happen. Costumes and other peripherals don’t matter as much. If these things mattered so much, we would not watch a film like Enter The Dragon. As far as acting is concerned, I have raised the bar with my principal cast and I am happy about that.”