DESCRIBED as India’s answer to Game of Thrones, the box office success of an epic fantasy film has prompted film fans in South India to troll Bollywood.
Bahubali 2 made more than £7.74 million in the US alone in its first weekend – an achievement described by the influential Forbes magazine as a "Holy Crap!" moment as it proves a film does not have to be made in Bollywood or in Hindi to be an Indian success story.
It is not just the financial success that was prompted fans’ jibes at Bollywood.
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The truly unusual fact about this film’s reception is that it was not only made in South India, far away from the glamour and glitz of Bollywood’s base in Mumbai, the financial capital, but that it was simultaneously shot in the Tamil and Telugu languages rather than Hindi.
Bahubali 2 has been lapped up across the whole continent but its fans in the south are particularly triumphant.
For them it is much more than a movie as it has boosted regional pride. "Bahubali should be celebrated because it has taken commercial, technical and glamorous aspects of Indian cinema much beyond the masala Bollywood,” tweeted one fan.
“Telegu cinema smashing Bollywood,” tweeted another.
Some fans are more militant and have trolled critics who have derided the film for violence, misogyny and casteism.
HOW MUCH HAS IT MADE?
THE movie’s fans are blind to any flaws and it looks like being one of the most successful films ever made in India taking in £60m at the box office worldwide in its first weekend.
Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is, as its name suggests, is the follow-up to Bahubali: The Beginning, which, although it was one of the most expensive Indian movies ever made at a cost of around $28m, was still cheap by Hollywood standards.
It was released in 2015 and since then lead actor Prabhas, who plays hero King Bahubali, has become a pin-up, with admirers swooning over his smouldering looks.
Gigantic cut-outs have been erected outside cinemas and some fans have mimicked a ritual usually reserved for idols in Hindu temples by pouring milk over the images.
Posters of Prabas as Bahubali can be seen nationwide and gyms are providing Bahubali work-out regimes that are claimed to produce toned torsos as seen on the male leads in scenes of hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, female fans are flocking to the cinema in saris depicting images of King Bahubali and Queen Devasena, played by Anushka Shetty.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
BOTH films feature muscle-bound heroes, breathtakingly beautiful heroines, exciting hunts, roaring elephants and, of course, the Indian movie staple of dance and song.
The special effects are a cut above most Indian movies, turning Bahubali 1 and 2 into visual spectacles.
All the drama takes place in Mahishmati, an ancient fictional kingdom where a dynastic war is being fought.
Co-written and directed by SS Rajamouli, they were produced in Tollywood, the centre of Telugu language films, which is based in Hyderabad in the south of the country.
They were filmed back-to-back on a total budget of £30m, with the first instalment ending on a cliffhanger.
One reviewer described it as “a throwback, the kind of peppy serial that would have graced the multiplex in the days before product-placement, billion-dollar PR campaigns and obligation 3D, when the sole components required for a blockbuster were a hero, a villain, a few fights, a few songs, and a happy ending.
“Rajamouli defers on the latter for now, but his skilful choreography of these elements shucks off any cynicism … wide-eyed and wondrous, his film could be a blockbuster reboot, or the first blockbuster ever made, a reinvigoration of archetypes that is always entertaining, and often thrilling, to behold.”
WHAT IS BEHIND IT?
RAJAMOULI said he was inspired by ancient Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata in creating Bahubali, which means the one with strong arms.
The film’s action sequences were choreographed by Peter Hein and one scene involved both elephants and 2000 stuntmen.
When it was released the first film became the highest-grossing Indian film within India, the third highest grossing Indian film globally, the first and only South Indian film to gross more than £74m worldwide, the first non-Hindi film to gross more than £12m in the dubbed Hindi version, and the highest grossing Telugu film of all time until Bahubali 2 superseded it.
The international version of the film edited by Vincent Tabaillon was screened at various film festivals, and nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film by the AmericanAcademy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. The Telugu version garnered the Best Feature Film Golden Lotus Award and the Best Special Effects at the 63rd National Film Awards.
IS THE LANGUAGE IMPORTANT?
TELUGU is a Dravidian language native to India and along with Bengali, English and Hindi is one of the few languages with official status in more than one Indian state. It is one of six designated a classical language of India by the Indian Government and ranks third by the number of native speakers in India – 74 million at the last census.
It retains features – especially in the pronunciation of some vowels and consonants – that have subsequently been lost in some of Sanskrit’s daughter languages, including Bengali and Hindi.
Tamil also a classical Dravidian language, predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from 500 BC have been found on archaeological site Adichanallur and 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been found near Madurai in South India.
Tamil has been described as the only language of contemporary India that is recognisably continuous with a classical past. Thanks to the variety and quality of classical Tamil literature, it has been described as one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world.