TRANSFORMATIVE turns in SS Rajamouli’s epic action franchise Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017) gained Prabhas worldwide recognition.
The game-changing performances not only elevated the actor as the biggest Indian movie star but it also changed the face of cinema in the country. That is why there are such high expectations and fever-pitch excitement surrounding the sought-after south Indian star’s new film Radhe Shyam, which is set to be released in multiple languages globally on Friday (11). The period romantic drama sees him play a palmist opposite hot-right-now actress Pooja Hegde.
When Eastern Eye recently caught up with Prabhas at an upmarket seaside hotel in Mumbai, the actor spoke at length about his latest film, whether or not he believes in palmistry and the extra hard work he has done to improve his Hindi diction. Prabhas also shared what he looks for in a script before greenlighting it.
What’s the excitement level like for you as your film is finally headed to theatres after numerous delays due to the pandemic? It is indeed very exciting because the film is finally being released. But I am also a little bit stressed because my film is coming out after a long time. So our future lies in what is going to happen on Friday.
You are playing a palmist in the film. Do you believe in palmistry, astrology or numerology? No, I do not believe in any of them. I know there are a lot of predictions that have turned out to be true. I know something is there. But I have never shown my hand to anyone. So, when my director, Radha (Krishna Kumar), narrated this story to me, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t believe in this. How should I do it?’ But the way it goes is very interesting. He made the character of Vikramaditya very interesting, but this person has a problem with love – now what is that you will see in the film.
So do you believe that hard work can make or break your destiny? Yes, I only believed in hard work until Baahubali happened. (Seeing the tremendous response it received) I thought, ‘this is too much. Maybe something called destiny exists.’ It is too late, but yes, I believe now that there is fate, there is destiny, because in 100 years of Indian cinema, Baahubali was the only one (to achieve what it did) and I am not the greatest actor you have ever seen. It happens, things like Baahubali happen. So I have started believing in fate and destiny. But I don’t follow any of that because I feel it is too big to understand. But I also still believe in hard work.
You are called a true pan-India star after the success of the Baahubali franchise and your last release Saaho. Do you feel any pressure ahead of the release of Radhe Shyam, another Indian film? Yeah, there is a lot of pressure, definitely, when so many people love you. From a few Telugu speakers to thousands across the country, it is beautiful but comes with a lot of stress. If you do a film or have selected a script, it should be right. A script is like an ocean – some points go wrong, and some go right. Yeah, it is definitely a stressful job.
When Saaho came out, there was talk about your Hindi diction. Did you work extra hard to correct it for Radhe Shyam? Yeah, I did a lot of work on it. I can read and write Hindi. I read my dialogues in Hindi as I do not like them written in English because of the pronunciation. The only problem is the Hyderabadi Hindi we speak there [in his south Indian home state of Andhra Pradesh] sounds different. At home, we do not speak in Hindi, but we do listen to Hindi songs and watch a lot of Hindi movies. When you speak any language at home, you know you are better at it. I think I got a little better in Radhe Shyam. In Adipurush, I should be even more perfect. I still need to dub (for Adipurush). Maybe I will dub 10 times, and then I will show everyone. I will see that it should be right.
After Tollywood and Bollywood, do you have any plans to do Marathi films? I will do any film, be it in Marathi or in any other language. It does not matter. Even Punjabi, which is fun. Who would have thought that the Telugu film industry could make a Baahubali? Now it is like all the doors are open. Anyone can make the greatest film, not only in India, but in the world. You cannot just say this is a small or a big industry.
What do you look for in a script and role? See, it is the toughest part. I have experience of 15 years, so I know I can do a very realistic performance. The director and script should help. But the script is the toughest part. Because in every language, be it in Bollywood, Bhojpuri or Punjabi, there are many variations. Some people like family films, some like commercial films, others like action films, content-oriented films, and the audience changes every Friday [the day films are released]. So, it is very hard to make an Indian film. We’re just going with our instincts, and the emotions should be correct. They are what we know, and we are just going with them – the right Indian emotions.
Was Radhe Shyam an easy film to make considering the fact that your past few releases had a lot of action and you had to transform yourself physically? (Laughs) I don’t know why I take risks. In Baahubali: The Beginning, yes, we did a lot of action, so there was so much stress. In Baahubali: The Conclusion, luckily, everything was fine. Ahead of the release of Saaho, wherever we went, everyone asked, ‘we have watched Baahubali, why will we watch Saaho?’
We are still stuck with Baahubali. Even today, people are stuck with that film. For the past eight years, I have been under so much pressure. I don’t know what is right. Not only me, the whole country (does not know what is right). You talk about Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Telugu, Bollywood – everybody wants to make an all-Indian film and we don’t have the experience to do that. Because Baahubali worked, that does not mean we can make another one like it. Because Pushpa worked does not mean we can make another one work. There is so much confusion.
What do you think about people tagging south Indian movies as regional films? That is going to change. We already know the process has started. Everybody wants that. For us, it is better that we fight together. We made a bigger film than China, we made something equal to Hollywood or better than that. That is a bigger fight. We are all one – Telugu, Tamil, Bollywood. We are using every product as one. Films should also be one. We are already late, but it is going to come. We will need to take risks. We need to push ourselves a little more. We are all going to do it.
All the mega-budget films that are currently in production are Indian films. Do you think this is a golden period for Indian cinema? Even if at least 40 per cent of films work, it is a golden period. Then it is going to go to 60 per cent, and to 80 per cent. Then we will understand what Indian cinema is. Again, it will change, as usual. Indian cinema has been around for 100 years, but still every Friday, the audience changes. Someone says, ‘no, we don’t like love stories, we like commercial films’. Another says, ‘no, we don’t like commercial films, they take too much time’. That happens every week. But it’s the first time that we all are thinking about Indian cinema. We should go and watch Indian cinema – this is a beautiful sign, and we are very smart people. We are going to do that.
What was your favourite part of playing Vikramaditya in Radhe Shyam? I like the love story a lot and the romance.
Talking about the romantic part of the film, you are paired with Pooja Hegde. Both of you make a great pairing… Yeah, that is one of the biggest advantages for a love story. The pairing has to be good.
What was working with her like? Actually, I had seen a few films of hers. We had a discussion about how she was going to do it. But then we thought she had that thing in her. I think she has done a very good job in Radhe Shyam. As I said, I had seen a few of her previous and I believe that she has done much, much better than what she did before. We could see Prerna in her character. She is a big asset to Radhe Shyam, no doubt.