You can have a dream, but following it can be intimidating. Ask filmmaker SS Rajamouli. In an interview he opens up about how he got the impetus to make the film, how the special effects team are the true stars of Baahubali and of course, the inevitable comparison with Hollywood.The filmmaker, who is awaiting release of his highly anticipated multilingual film Baahubali, believes it will be an achievement if Indian cinema can produce Hollywood quality content within limited budget.
"Hollywood is much ahead of us in writing and execution. There's no need to compare our work with theirs. I think getting 80 percent of their quality in our content with 20 percent of their budgets will be an achievement," said Rajamouli in an exclusive interview.
His film Baahubali, which is being touted as India's most expensive film made on Hollywood standards, is slated for worldwide release on July 10.The two-part Indian epic film is being made simultaneously in Telugu and Tamil languages. The film will also be dubbed into English, French, Hindi, Malayalam and in several foreign languages.
It was through the pages of Amar Chitra Katha comics, Rajamouli envisioned the world of Baahubali, which is said to be the story of two brothers for a kingdom.
"My father had introduced me to these comics at a young age. Ever since then, I've been living in this world of larger than life characters. I love fantasy, history, folklore and mythology. I dabbled a little with these genres in my previous films. The success of those films gave us confidence to make Baahubali," he said.But it takes more than confidence to set a project of this scale in motion. It required someone with more than just moolah muscle. Rajamouli found all the required qualities in his producer Shobu Yarlagadda, who had previously worked with him in Maryada Ramanna.
"I'd discuss everything ranging from the smallest detail to the development of characters with Shobu and his team. He would never let the pressure of budget and deadlines come near me. And my line producer Srivalli single handedly managed the mammoth scale of production," he said.
It took nearly two years to complete the film, not to forget another year that was spent on the pre-production.
What kept the team motivated?
"I developed an emotional attachment with the characters my father had narrated. To showcase these characters in the best possible way remained my motivational factor over the last two and half years," explained Rajamouli, and added that the team always draws the motivation from the director.The film features an ensemble cast of Prabhas Varma, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannah Bhatia, Sathyaraj, Nasser and Ramya Krishnan.
Without Prabhas, Rajamouli admits, he couldn't have done this film.
"Prabhas and I are good friends. I knew he was my hero from the beginning. When I requested him to set aside one year for the film, he kept himself free for two years. Rana was our energy booster on the sets. He brought us and Dharma Productions together," he said.
Thanks to Rana, the team managed to get Karan Johar to market the Hindi version of Baahubali.
The biggest contribution to Baahubali comes from its visual effects (VFX) supervisor Srinivas Mohan, who breathed life into an imaginary world with awe-inspiring visuals.
Srinivas along with over 15 VFX studios and 600 artists are still working on the film round the clock.
"Pete Draper of Makuta is responsible for the magnificent waterfalls and the palaces from the trailer. Firefly and EFX Hyderabad have contributed a lot of VFX shots through the course of the film, especially in the war sequences. Tau films are taking care of the scenes featuring the bison," Rajamouli said.Thousands of people worked on the film. Although Rajamouli hasn't kept track of the numbers, he says it was every individual's working spirit that resulted in the successful completion of the project.
"We never got into putting the numbers together. We shot the war sequences for four months. At one point of time, we were shooting with 2000 extras with about 600 technicians assisting them with costumes, makeup and weapons," he said.
"There were hundreds of metres of chroma screens. About 30-35 assistants' job was to ensure the chroma mats weren't blown away. There were always two ambulances on set, a medical camp for people and a vet on standby for the animals," he added.
Did Rajamouli ever feel all of this was too much to handle?
"Just before the start of the shoot, the sheer enormity of the logistics hit me. For about three to four days, I contemplated quitting. But the feeling washed over and I never looked back," he said.
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at email@example.com.)