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A rare insight into Being Prabhas: The stress of living up to Baahubali’s success, the face of pan-India films

Prabhas opens up about the pressure that comes with being the Baahubali of Hindi cinema. He also says that SS Rajamouli directorial is attached to his identity even if it bogs him down sometimes.

Prabhas- Radhe ShyamPrabhas' Radhe Shyam will release on March 11. (Photo: Prabhas/ Instagram)

With the kind of films Prabhas has done in the recent past, he is one of the most bankable actors in India today. SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali, with him in the lead, established pan-India films in the country and made him as much of a fan favourite in Himachal Pradesh, as he was in Hyderabad till then. After the humongous success of Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion, the actor accepts he now feels the pressure of delivering pan-India projects, and expectations that are attached to his films. His Radhe Shyam is ready for release.

 

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On pan-Indian films, Prabhas feels that more than the stress of competition with his peers, the pressure is on choosing which story will work for the country’s audience. He says, “Of course, competition is there in any business, the actual pressure that follows a pan-Indian film is to know what the audience wants. A Telugu filmmaker won’t always know what the Punjabi audience wants. For years, Bollywood has catered to the northern audiences and we have had movies like Mughal-e-Azam and Mother India; Tamil cinema has Rajini sir, Vijay and they have been giving great films for years. It is not easy to know what story will be liked by the whole country. It is not a competition between actors, but what we can give to the audience and how to deliver it. There is no one hit formula for pan-India films.”

 

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Baahubali minted Rs 511 crores at the box office; ever since then, the country’s gaze moved to the south in terms of entertainment. He says, “The film performed well, of course, but the stars don’t have to always have to make Rs 500 crore. There are superstars everywhere in the country, and everybody wants to do good work. That’s more important to them, I think.”

It has been five years since the films released but Baahubali still defines who Prabhas is. “I got lucky with Baahubali, and that gave me a lot of responsibility to keep performing again and again for my fans, keep doing commercial films. I know it is very easy if I do action films, but I want to experiment with different genres,” the actor says.

Prabhas also confessed that at times he gets a little bogged down as all his films are compared to Baahubali. He is also called Baahubali of Telugu cinema. On this, he says, “Baahubali has given me so much that I don’t mind being called Baahubali for the rest of my life. But the thing is that expectations after Baahubali… It is a little hard to reach there always. The pressure will always be there, suddenly a film from one state got such immense response from the whole nation, the world, so that stress point will be there. Baahubali was so big, part one and then part two, when it still comes on TV, people call me. So, it is okay, it is my film still. The audience understands that all my films are different, that not all are going to be like Baahubali, but Baahubali will always be attached to me.”

 

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Since Baahubali, Prabhas has only done big-budget films. His last film was Sujeeth’s Saaho, an out and out actioner that was mounted at Rs 350 crores. With bigger budgets come bigger expectations and pressure to perform, and deliver. How does the star work around it? He says, “It is easier when you work on smaller budget films. If you get good opening, and of the film can hold for some days, we can be saved. But, when the budget goes bigger, the stress goes even bigger. The film should be a hit! That is more stressful, the film should be a hit in any way, but with such high budgets, a film being just a hit is not enough. That was the same stress with Baahubali. Because of its budget, we wanted the whole nation to watch the film, people to watch it in other languages.”

“When we talk about the scale of the film, I don’t want to do every film like that, I am planning a comedy film next. After every two-three larger-than-life films, I want to do something different. Maybe one day I want to do an art film, right now I am not ready, but I want to do a very realistic film which is very small. For such a film I can’t take lot of remuneration, and we can’t spend big. But I will do that (a small film), I am already planning for it, I am mentally prepared for it now,” Prabhas adds.

 

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We have had superstars in Bollywood who have done big commercial films and then done art films too, like Aamir Khan did Dhobi Ghat after churning out back-to-back Rs 100 crore films, or Shah Rukh Khan doing Dear Zindagi. Is Prabhas being offered such films too? The next projects lined up for Prabhas are all big films — Radhe Shyam, Adipurush, Saalar, Project K. “I am planning to do a horror comedy. It is not big, but with it I want to give my audience something different. One romantic, one comedy, I want to do more. Filmmakers and audiences want to see me in larger than life films, but I am trying to tell them that I can do other things too, and I am pushing for it. With the kind of films I get offered, at times I worry I won’t get films which are relatable. In commercial cinema, I also want to try a villainous role,” he says.

 

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While Prabhas is of course trying to push the envelope in his own way by skewing his filmography with different genres, he is known to be a very shy person, and he shares how neither him, nor his friends ever thought that he would become an actor. He says, “Nobody thought I would be an actor one day, I used to be very shy. Even if you see my interviews from Baahubali time, I have changed. I used to be very shy then, now I feel I have quite opened up.”

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So what is Prabhas cut out for? According to him, he is still figuring his true calling when it comes to the types of films he wants to do. He says, “When I came to the industry, I wanted to try really different stuff, I tried and failed. So I decided to understand what the audience wants. I did Chakram, then I realised I am not that, I can’t do commercial and great films, so I thought of sticking to commercial. I still don’t know what ‘different’ I want to do, but I know I want to do it.”

First published on: 09-03-2022 at 08:23 IST
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