ANUSHKA SHETTY AND PRABHAS REVISIT THEIR GAME-CHANGING FILMS
by ASJAD NAZIR
BEFORE the Baahubali films came out Anushka Shetty and Prabhas had already delivered an impressive body of work, but after the blockbusters became global sensations, the two superstars helped South Indian cinema go global in the most incredible way.
Their game-changing performances in the two record-breaking films changed everything
in Indian cinema and set new benchmarks in the country.
They recently reunited with director SS Rajamouli, musician MM Keeravaani and actor Rana Daggubati for an epic reunion at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where Baahubali crossed another new frontier by becoming the first contemporary commercial Indian film to be screened with the musical score played live by a philharmonic orchestra.
The massively in-demand stars sat down with Eastern Eye to talk about the amazing Baahubali journey, upcoming projects, inspirations and more at Royal Albert Hall. Both were humble, gracious and down to earth.
Prabhas, you have become such a huge global star, but remain humble. What keeps you so grounded?
Prabhas: I think it is just the way I have always lived. Baahubali and cinema are a part of our lives, but life is different, and I just want to be happy, whether a big film is there or not.
When did you realise the Baahubali films were special, before you began work or after they came out?
Anushka: It was before I signed the film. I felt confident about the team and the content. They had already made special films, so I knew this would also be special. Then when the movie released, it reached out to so many hearts, and people loved it. That was a bonus for us, and it was amazing to see all the hard work had been appreciated. From day one itself, it was special.
Prabhas, tell us about the beginning of this Baahubali journey?
Prabhas: Rajamouli had this idea and developed it from the ground up. But before Baahubali he had about six other script ideas but went with this one eventually. It was almost his seventh or eighth script idea. We got excited and started building on the story he had. We had a feeling it would do something special and hoped people would like it. We felt if the magic works, it will be something else. We all had that feeling, and that’s why we gave so much time to it.
How much did it help that the whole cast is so amazing?
Prabhas: It helps immensely and especially since many of us have known each other from before and for a long time. I felt that Rana was perfect to play the villain in the film and had that presence. There were great actors throughout such as Ramya Krishna and Sathyaraj sir. We had seniors, and they helped us all.
In my mind, the director must be a crazy genius to think up something like this, but what is SS Rajamouli like?
Anushka: He is a genius, there is no doubt about that, but at the same time he is so real. It is important when you are working that you are doing that in the right atmosphere and surroundings. It is because of him, his family, the rest of the team, the cast and crew, that it made it so much easier to work together across four and half years.
Prabhas: (Laughs) Personally, he is more like a chilled out person. His priority away from work is his food, family, and you wouldn’t think he made such a huge movie, and wouldn’t believe he is the great Rajamouli. You would think he is just a middle-class family man doing a bank job. On set he is so focused and knows exactly what he wants, but keeps that friendly persona.
How do you feel about being at Royal Albert Hall for a first-of-its-kind event like this?
Anushka: It such an overwhelming feeling, Asjad! When we entered the auditorium, it was just another feeling altogether, and you are dazed looking at everything. It has been a magical experience, and I am really thankful for it.
You both have helped South Indian cinema grow globally in a way it has never done before, how do you feel about that?
Anushka: I am really thankful, but it is due to Rajamouli’s vision, Shobu Yarlagadda’s belief and the hard work of the entire team. I think all of us are like pillars around his vision and magic.
Prabhas: That magic has spread around the world.
The expectations around you both are even higher, how do you feel about that?
Anushka: I think as an artist you can’t think about expectations or satisfying someone’s expectations. Those two Baahubali movies were something else. We can’t put it as a benchmark that we are trying to cross or outshine because films like that only happen once in a while. So I am just looking forward to listening to good content, stories I want to hear and want to tell. I just want to pick up stories like that. I don’t think I would want to ever compete with Baahubali again.
Prabhas: Yes, I agree. I do think it is important to take your time and be selective. Telugu audiences know I have done different roles, including love stories before, and I want to continue with that.
How are you selecting your films?
Prabhas: In other parts of North and South India with new audiences who perhaps haven’t seen my work before; Rajamouli put me directly into a superhero persona with Baahubali. So it’s important to show versatility. I did Saaho, which is an action movie and the next is a love story. So I am looking for that variety.
Anushka, I’m really looking forward to your next film Nishabdham…
Anushka: It has been quite an experience working on that film. Acting is something I’ve been learning by doing different roles, and I’m still learning. I can’t judge it right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how audiences will receive it. I hope they like what we’ve done.
Have you selected your next film?
Anushka: I am currently listening to content and haven’t decided yet. (Smiles) I will let you all know when I do.
Prabhas: No, I like to focus on one film at a time. My focus is on my next film, which is a love story.
The Baahubali journey has been remarkable, but has anything surprised you along the way?
Prabhas: Everything associated with Baahubali has surprised me and continues to do so. Not just me, but the team also. The big war scenes, making India’s biggest commercial film, the most eye-catching period film, Madame Tussauds, the film becoming huge in countries like Japan and so many saying this is the first Indian film they watched. So it has gifted me many surprises and beautiful moments.
Anushka: It has been a few years since they released, but Baahubali will be a part of us for the rest of our lives. Each surprise has been very exciting for us.
Prabhas: Yes and even now with it being screened at Royal Albert Hall with live music. Lots of beautiful surprises!
For me, you are undoubtedly a strong symbol of girl power. How important is that for you?
Anushka: I don’t believe that you can make power as just one identity. Man or woman, everyone has their own identity and inner power. I believe it is important to empower yourself. If you can empower yourself, then as a society also, you will get empowered. So I think that each one of us needs to work on ourselves.
You are both heroes for countless people, but who is your hero?
Anushka: (Smiles) I think for any girl, your first hero is your dad. He is the first man you see and look up to.
Prabhas: My uncle was an actor. I got inspired by him and came into the industry. So he is my hero.
What has been your favourite moment on this Baahubali journey?
Anushka: It was just being able to act in the film. Acting is very personal to us, and we know each other, so we worked collectively as a team. The success meant a lot because we all worked really hard to tell a story, which reached out to so many hearts. That is any storyteller’s dream, so the success.
Prabhas: Any journey and how you travel is very important. On this journey, there have been so many memorable moments from the grand sets to the scenes and the interaction with the director. So many beautiful things happened, and if they didn’t, we couldn’t have done it for four years on a single project. Then it is the success, which is like the destination and people saying you did a good job on that journey.
Is Hollywood something that you would consider?
Anushka: I have no barriers about any language. I would want to do movies all over the world. It is all about the content. I would love to do movies anywhere.
Prabhas: I have honestly never thought about it, but if the right opportunity came along, then why not.
Can you give a message to your fans?
Prabhas: Thanks to all those who have shown me support, whether it was watching Baahubali or the films before it. I hope to entertain you as much as I can in the future Anushka: I want to thank them as they have been understanding, supportive, as well as protective. They have taken care of a lot of things, and the love they share has helped me explore certain things and follow my heart. That means a lot.