Actors tend to receive the lion's share of the praise for the success of a film and those behind the camera seldom get the credit and praise they truly deserve. While critics and the cinema buffs continue to contend as to whose name should be affixed ahead of a film's title, the credits are often weighed down to the most popular name associated with the project. In most cases, it is the 'star'. However, when it comes to SS Rajamouli, no matter what the scale is, who the producer is or the actors he casts, the films he makes are riding on his name and credibility. That is why this year's one of the most anticipated titles, "RRR" is called a Rajamouli film, despite having popular Telugu 'star-actors' NT Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan.
What is the "brand" Rajamouli?
Over the years, Rajamouli has become a brand of sorts. A name that is associated with box office juggernauts. As one of the most triumphant Indian filmmakers, his first directorial was over two decades back in 2001 (Student No 1). Rajamouli has directed 12 films till now. This number may appear as quite less at first glance. Consider world-renowned filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (11 films in 32 years) and James Cameron (10 films in 40 years) who have similarly worked on less number of films, but they are some of the most successful of all times. Rajamouli too is known to the fans for his distinct films.
If you are acquainted with Rajamouli’s filmography, you must be aware of his signature aesthetic of visualisation, his love affair with mythology and long sequences of dialogue where characters bank on crude human emotions. All these factors have made him one of India’s most revered directors. He has several times reprised themes in his body of work. For example, his recurrent use of larger than life characters, period dramas, monumental locations and long camera shots.
Rajamouli’s vision is infinite but his approach precisely clings to compositions of mainstream commercial movies. But he chooses to be mindful and pivots the theme to his benefit by adding a little extravagance for the audience to cherish. Baahubali films are essentially about a family quarrel but Rajamouli capitalised on the age-old trope and how!
Rising above South and emerging as a pan-India name with Baahubali
Much before Baahubali, with films like Chatrapathi (2005) and Magadheera (2009), Rajamouli became a popular name down south. However, to break the language barrier, he delivered Baahubali: The Beginning (2015). With Baahubali's first installment, he broke almost all box office records and the following part, Baahubali: The Conclusion, was met with even more thunderous audience response. After all, everybody wanted to know, "Baahubali ne Kattappa ko kyun mara!"
But Rajamouli thinks he is not a visionary and that all he can do is make movies that reach the maximum number of people. Speaking about his filmmaking philosophy on the sidelines of a press conference to promote his upcoming Telugu-language period drama, "RRR", Rajamouli said pan-India movies can be game-changers for our cinema.
"Over the course of my career I learned that the stronger the emotions, or more basic the emotions, the more people tend to like your movie," Rajamouli said. "That's what I have been doing. When I saw how 'Baahubali' was liked by the entire country, I realised that if films are based on stories driven by basic human emotions, they will have a wider reach," he added.
Recapturing Rajamouli's essence with RRR
Human emotions have indeed been the highlight of his films. Rajamouli’s movies bank on society’s resting idea of masculinity, like a hero safeguarding woman’s honour, underdogs fighting the oppressor or a son who has to win his father's approval. His popular films, Baahubali, Chatrapathi, Student No 1 and Simhadri among others capitalise on the said themes.
His latest outing RRR too holds on to Rajamouli's essence. The film is set in 1920s, and is a fictional account of two freedom fighters who fight against the British and Nizam of Hyderabad. It said to be one of the costliest ever made in India and the songs of the film have already become social media favourites. The popularity of 'Nacho Nacho' and the number of Instagram reels made on it signify the same.
Rajamouli has indeed seized an uncommon position in Indian cinema. It’s only a few and far between to have found a director that is a more widespread name than the stars of a movie. After Prabhas became a pan-India name with Baahubali, the audience and the trade analysts expected his films to steal the show at the ticket window, however, his last two films, Saaho and Radhe Shyam couldn't even come close to it. Likewise, none of Jr NTR and Ram Charan's films so far have been able to deliver what Rajamouli did with his magnum opus production.
Though, it won't be surprising if Rajamouli’s RRR gives the actors the best of their career so far.