Baahubali 2 stars Prabhas, Rana Daggubati show us why they're so good in their epic avatars
SS Rajamouli's Baahubali: The Beginning was loved across all quarters for the world it created and transported us into. However, the world was not as alien as it seemed on the face of it. Besides the potpourri of universal emotions like love, rage, triumph and treachery (read: why did Katappa kill Baahubali!), there was a familiar deity that some characters revered — Lord Shiva.
Mahendra Baahubali, or Baahubali Jr, as I would like to call him, was raised by a tribe of Shiva devotees. While they were blind believers of the Mahakal, Baahubali Jr paid his respects through a rather heroic act. He used his Herculean strength to uproot the Shiva lingam and placed it under a waterfall so that it remains satiated for eternity.
It was tough to believe that for a man who could lift the gigantic lingam on his shoulders while crossing a turbulent river, could find any task under the sun just impossible to undertake. But then I saw Prabhas, the Telugu actor who plays Baahubali, struggle during the promotional interviews of the sequel Baahubali 2: The Conclusion that is slated to release on 28 April 2017.
It is common knowledge that film promotion is not as aggressive a practice in the south as it is in the Hindi film industry. There, the stars are deified for carrying off those larger than life characters on the silver screen. But since one of the pioneers of film promotion, Karan Johar, has acquired the Hindi version rights of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, he got Prabhas and Rana Daggubati, who plays the antagonist Bhallaladeva in the franchise, to fly down to Mumbai and put in a good word for their film before the media.
As Daggubati and Prabhas get their microphones on for an exclusive interview with Firspost, they laugh at the answers they gave in their previous interview, recalling them in Telugu. Measuring their mood, my colleague Renil Abraham says, "It looks like you are enjoying the promotions?", to which Prabhas replies with a curt 'no'.
But as the interview for Renil's show Gossip Guy progresses, Prabhas' mask falls off when he says that both their mothers are coaxing them to get married. Seconds later, he starts waving his hands fervently after analysing Renil's expression that suggested a 'queer' reunion of the two Telugu hunks. Prabhas locks both his hands and says, "No, not like that!" as the entire room breaks into laughter.
After clicking his tongue to mark a weak moment, Prabhas returns to his meditative state, sporting the same childlike smile that he flashed while crossing the river in Baahubali: The Beginning, the lingam resting on his shoulders. I envision him as the Shiva who meditates in isolation only to occasionally return to a ruthless state like he did in the action sequences of the film.
What I found ironic was that unlike Shiva who descended from Kailash Parbat on the insistence of Parvati, Baahubali Jr ascended the lofty mountain, while being seduced by an imaginary avatar of Tamannaah Bhatia. But that was probably Lord Shiva's reward to Baahubali Jr for quenching his thirst — to facilitate his return to his homeland where he is destined to serve a larger purpose of saving and ruling the Maheshmati kingdom.
Prabhas, in his off-screen capacity, looks like he yearns to return to his hometown of Hyderabad. Though he may not appear as invested as he is back there, that is not the case when I manage to get a few minutes of his time for a one-on-one interaction. His smile does not struggle but effortlessly rests on his face as he answers my questions — mostly in monosyllables.
"It feels great after cutting my hair. That is the first thing I wanted to do after wrapping up Baahubali. I even feel like I have lost a lot of weight," he says, bursting into laughter with abandon. The abandonment probably stems from the fact that his five-year long journey as Baahubali nears its end.
Daggubati, who is more comfortable with the endless promotions since he has worked in Bollywood films like Dum Maaro Dum and Department, occasionally speaks up for his reserved co-star. "The second part particularly has been more taxing for the two of us. Also, the action in the sequel is more drama-driven. Even in the first part, though we were not competing with each other, you could sense an air of one-upmanship in the war. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has two wars so there is no dearth of action," says Daggubati.
It is evident even from the trailer of the sequel that Prabhas will sport a more aggressive avatar. He is no longer the generous Baahubali Sr (Amarendra Baahubali) nor the naive and disoriented Baahubali Jr. Whatever action we have seen of the sequel so far has shades of Lord Shiva's brand of action — aggressive, wild yet spectacular.
Daggubatti comes across as an actor who could suit the role of Lord Shiva better — with his towering presence and muscular frame. He strangely sounds like Hrithik Roshan with a Telugu accent, which is interesting since Roshan was speculated to play the deity in Johar's Shuddhi, an adaptation of Amish Tripathi's bestselling novel The Immortals of Meluah.
But on second thoughts, I cannot imagine anyone else in the character of Baahubali, who is built as an avatar of Lord Shiva, than Prabhas. While he is yet to introduce his wild side, his calm and meditative smile stays with you once you meet him. "I am not looking at more action films right now. I want to try some other genre for a few years before I return to putting my body at risk. But I will do it again," says Prabhas, gradually receding into his zen mode with commendable detachment.
Watch the full interview here.