SS Rajamouli: Jakkanna of ‘epic’ tales

In this exclusive freewheeling interview, down-to-earth director Rajamouli talks about allegations on plagiarism, family, RGV and next project

By Author  |  Published: 20th May 2017  11:05 pmUpdated: 21st May 2017  1:26 am
Rajamouli
File Photo. Director SS Rajamouli.

He has an envious success streak and his films always cast a spell at the box office. With the stupendous success of the Baahubali franchise, Rajamouli touched the pinnacle of fame that others could only dream of. Having achieved global acclaim, SS Rajamouli is still humble, courteous and down-to-earth. He talks about creative process, his perceptions about Indian cinema and Hollywood, and his future projects in this exclusive chit-chat.

Sharing his childhood moments, Jakkanna says, “We are 13 cousins, each with a unique trait. Contrary to them, I am neither proficient nor amateurish. As there was no spotlight on me, I used to try my hand at everything.”

Talking fondly of his brother, he says: “I am very close to my brother Kalyani Malik. When I was in second standard, we both used to share a lot of fantasy stories stuffed with magic and tricks. We used to feel like we possess superpowers and we are superheroes.” 

Even then, Rajamouli conceived those stories in bigger canvas. But, he says, his source of imagination and basis of storytelling started only after he read Bala Bharatham and Amar Chitra Kathalu given by my grandmother and father. “Perhaps, this fascination towards fantasies had motivated me to direct Baahubali,” he smiles.

No regrets
As someone who is ‘uninterested or tired of working on a film for many years’, the director confesses that he wanted to wrap up the proceedings fast but “never had regrets while shooting for the Baahubali franchise or any of my previous films”.

“I always ensure that there are no complications in the story and work on every minute detail. I prefer simple scripts but I try to make them grand with my conviction,” he adds.

Not one to be nervous, Rajamouli feels the humongous success has increased his responsibility as a director. “Whatever film we make, people will have expectations owing to its genre, star cast or the combination. But, when the audience comes to theatres, it’s where a director should convince them with the content and if we succeed in that, we have reached their expectations.”

On plagiarism
Stating that he doesn’t react to plagiarism allegations as such things ‘don’t deserve an answer’, Rajamouli says that having attained this fame, no director intends to copy from other films and they may have parallel thoughts or get inspired at times; it’s just a coincidence.

“However, I’m not saying that I’m a saint and didn’t copy. I did copy but I always try to make sure that it doesn’t offend the original creator. Coming to Baahubali, I was really surprised to see people drawing comparisons out of nothing and, sometimes, wonder how they caught them,” he adds.

Where credit is due…
Talking about his better half with a tinge of pride, he says, “It’s no secret that Rama designs costumes for my films. I have a bad memory and forget to acknowledge her contribution most times. I feel bad for that. But now I realised that I should give the credit where it is due. Though we’re two different individuals, we never had ego clashes. When I’m associated with a project, I completely get involved in it and she rarely shows her anger – that too only if I don’t pay attention to some important issue. But, it lasts for only 10 minutes.”

Beaming about the ‘darling’ of the industry, Rajamouli says, “As a person, Prabhas is so grounded, caring and well-behaved. As an actor, he evolved a lot. He changed his style of script selection and is attempting diverse roles. He is the only choice for Baahubali and I don’t see the film and Prabhas as two separate entities.

Admitting that he attempted to write a story when he was assisting his father Vijayendra Prasad, the director says that story writing is an art and a different ball game. “Writing is not my cup of tea and I only enjoy direction. I’m a constant learner and try to update myself with the latest technology (about VFX). I try to understand the fundamental concepts and apply it with the help of my team.”

Admiration for RGV
Rajamouli insists that directors KV Reddy and Ram Gopal Varma are two pillars for him and he has the highest regard for both. “Even though he made many bad films, I still admire RGV as a director,” he says.

On his next ambitious project, Mahabharata, Jakkanna says that it will take at least 10 years for him to take it to sets. “I’m still in Baahubali mania and it will take a few months for me to think about my next project. First of all, I have to compensate for the strenuous hard work of these five years. I want to relax and spend some time with my family,” he adds.

Touching upon the topic of western cinema and Oscar awards, the director says that they are far ahead of us in terms of filmmaking, technical standards, earnings, and budget. “I’m not undermining our efforts and cinema as there are many stalwarts who made it to the Oscars. But, I strongly feel that it’s difficult for our films to win an Oscar as the western audience rarely connects with our scripts,” he says.