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Baahubali is successful because it entertains a five year old as well as a seventy five year old

Rohan Sippy

Rohan Sippy

I have enjoyed the increasing diversity of Hindi cinema lately, but as a father, I also realize I can’t take my young daughter to see most of these films. That’s the biggest universe Hindi cinema is missing out on, which was its staple audience till very very recently- the family audience. Baahubali was that big screen movie that was accessible and not overtly sexual. SS Rajamouli made what Hollywood calls a four-quadrant film – catering to the young, old, male and female audiences. A big part of its success is that it engages as a communal experience, entertaining a five-year-old as well as a 75-year-old.

Ticket sales for Hindi cinema went down 11 percent in 2016 and there’s hardly a murmur here; the only response seems to be hiking ticket prices. Compared to the regional cinema, we are far more influenced by the west, and the need to belong there. Our focus is more western and urban. In the South, I don’t think they have ever left their roots – addressing a large family audience which buys cheaper movie tickets but fills bigger halls. Markets like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh cannot rely on a big urban audience alone. Projects like Baahubali are driven by the madness, passion, and insomnia of phenomenal storytellers, who recognize the value of universality and timelessness. The Baahubali films are not going to be dated because they are set in a fantastical world. Because we have grown up on AKC stories of king & queens, revenge & redemption, the film feels red-blooded and isn’t alien in any way. You relate to it. In a sense, it is an Indian film which fits in the Marvel and DC action entertainer universe, which is flourishing in Hollywood. The original had almost a video game treatment – a series of challenges, and at each stage, you define a clear goal, there is an obstacle, and then you play it out – and the young audience likes that. To include a 45-minute plus long battle sequence in a script is unprecedented enough but it’s also about getting the execution right. How do you get several hundred fighters, all Indians, with the right physique & skills to pull off that action? I remember dad’s [Ramesh Sippy] Sholay had horse stunts, and other unprecedented action, which made you go ‘How did you do it?’ Sholay triggered decades of action which filmmakers both here & in South took inspiration. Now we are looking to them for inspiration. Both Shankar and SS Rajamouli make movies like Sholay, the Star Wars films, which are nice simple fables with emotional mass appeal and cutting-edge technique. It is amazing that now the very best technical work is not originating from Bombay, but is very clearly in Chennai and Hyderabad. Currently, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan seem most focussed on delivering tentpole films. The difference is that if you replace the star here, the film is likely to be half as appealing; far more than the converse. There the canvas is larger- the scope of the story, the scale of action and VFX- and the collaboration is of more significance – a gestalt, where the total becomes more than the sum of the parts. The cast and crew have devoted four to five years on an epic like Baahubali. Here, the potential opportunity cost of that is enormous- stars have great deals on films, where often they are receiving the majority of the revenue with no financial liability on the downside; the good people in the media who make them huger stars; the studios who keep fuelling their stardom with tens of crores of promotion & advertising … all make them into mini (or mega) studios in themselves. So what does Baahubali mean for Indian cinema in the larger scheme of things? We aren’t likely to get a film of that ambition in Hindi anytime soon. For starters, one needs a producer who supports the vision of the filmmaker and doesn’t work in some studio excel sheet paradigm. The producer’s goal is simply that we have to bring the director’s vision to life, whatever the cost. That is just not the way studios operate in Bombay. Not just Rajamouli, but his entire family is living and breathing the project – including his father who has written the story, and wife who designed the costumes – where do you find the 2.0 of that? I remember watching the film in IMAX and being bowled over by the big battle sequence, the shock at the end which was a fantastic hook for the sequel and to make audiences wait for it. Baahubali: The Beginning wasn’t a hyped film initially, and it won over the audience which walked in without any expectations. The biggest challenge for part two is that it is hard to surpass the expectations of audiences who are preconditioned to be very greedy- we want the second one to be bigger and want to love it more. Never an easy task, though Rajkumar Hirani did it very nicely in the sequel to Munnabhai in the way he managed to both satisfy and surprise the audience of the first film. Also published in India Today. Author Bio. Film Writer, Director and Producer of films like Dum Maro Dum, Chandni Chowk to China, Bluffmaster etc.
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Baahubali is successful because it entertains a five year old as well as a seventy five year old was last modified: February 21st, 2020 by Marketing

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