How does one match the global success of Baahubali: The Conclusion? SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus showed us the true box office potential of a pan-Indian film in our country, and Prabhas was the face of that humongous success. But it seems every film of Prabhas is now expected to recreate the same success. Even if it’s not explicitly said out loud, this seems to be on everyone’s mind.
Before Prabhas emerged as a pan-Indian star and caught everyone’s imagination, he was already a big star in the southern states. Like in Mr Perfect, flaunting his devil-may-care attitude and giving back to old-school folks who don’t appreciate the aspirations of the younger generation, was enough to set the box office on fire. Or the romantic comedy Darling, about him trying to make his childhood crush fall in love with him by spinning a web of white lies was enough to keep us entertained.
Since Prabhas was ‘discovered’ by the movie-going audience in other parts of the country, the X-factor that made Prabhas click with the south audience in the first place seems to be under stress. The personal relationship that his fans had with him through the magical big screen seems to be muddled with the need for him to please a whole new wide section of the market.
Instead of coming up with stories and screenplays to justify the stardom of Prabhas, which has grown leaps and bounds since Baahubali, some filmmakers seem to be spending all the budget just on cosmetics.
Take, for instance, Prabhas’ last outing Saaho. Before Baahubali, he didn’t have to drive futuristic cars in the narrow streets of Hyderabad, or his movies didn’t need to have exotic animals like ostrich, pythons, jaguars for us to feel thrilled to watch him on the big screen. We were quite in awe of his towering height and broad physique. He was a trend-setter when it came to fashion for a generation of boys who went to college in the 2000s. There seemed to be no pressure to do something out of the ordinary, or just trot around glossy buildings and expensive furniture. Saaho was all about making us feel amazed by the props used in the movie, and it did little to honour the relationship that the audience shared with Prabhas.
We don’t always want him in fancy suits, wandering across exotic European locations. He could simply be a rugged but oppressed young man, who spearheads an armed-rebellion against a tyrant (Chatrapathi), or a school dropout, who is a hard-core fan of Rajinikanth (Bujjigadu) or the most dangerous man, who is trying to give up violence and preach peace (Mirchi). The scale of a movie doesn’t come from the props used in a scene. It’s something that’s intangible, which connects the audience emotionally.
And that was what was missing in Saaho.
Prabhas’ upcoming movie Radhe Shyam is due in cinemas this Friday. It’s a romantic comedy and given that now, Prabhas is a pan-India star, the filmmakers have made something far bigger than a regular love story. It’s a battle between fate and desire and it involves a ship that is the size of Titanic, breaking into pieces in the middle of a storm. And the trailer showed Prabhas running around the wrecked ship.
The question is will that scene have an emotional heft to it when we watch it on the big screen or it’s just a piece of furniture simply added for cosmetic use?