MUMBAI — The 6,000 marriage proposals the man received after the “Bahubali” franchise have arguably made the South Indian actor (born in Tamil Nadu but based in Andhra Pradesh) the seeming heartthrob of the nation. Though Prabhas’ career in Telugu films began way back in 2002, he entered pan-India territory with “Bahubali — The Beginning” in 2015 and became a mega-name with “Bahubali 2 — The Conclusion” and won over everyone.
Naturally, everyone was keen to know the next career move of a man who had gambled and given a full five years of his life to this franchise, and his choice was the movie he terms “intelligent, a ‘screenplay’ film and yet a movie with mass appeal” — “Saaho,” co-starring Shraddha Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Neil Nitin Mukesh.
We meet the unassuming superstar at the J.W. Marriott. Cool, soft-spoken and prone to endearing sudden smiles and a gentle sense of humor, Prabhas once again proves that true superstars are always grounded.
Excerpts from a rapid-fire interview:
Q: We are meeting for the first time. So to begin, did you expect “Bahubali” to be so huge?
A (Shakes his head): So much money and time had been invested in it that we got stressed. (S.S.) Rajamouli-sir gambled in a big way. We started shooting with a sequence with Devasena’s character in part 2, doing it for about a week before we shot the first scenes for part 1. The budget was going so high, and Rajamouli-sir finally said that if it works in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, we had a chance to improve our market for part 2. But what a response we got! “Bahubali” made history!
Q: When a film flops, it is easy for the star or director to recover from it, relatively speaking. But what happens when your film turns out to be like “Sholay,” which cannot be matched?
A: That’s a very good question! You are right! Overcoming a flop is so much easier. You have already lost, so anything you gain—is your gain! But Rajamouli-sir has given me “Bahubali,” and I really don’t know what to do now! (Smiles)
Q: Will you do more Hindi films now?
A: If “Saaho” works, yes. Offers are coming in from Hindi as well as Tamil cinema. I might do other regional films, too.
Q: Is it challenging to do a Hindi film?
A: Yes, to an extent it is. The cultures are different. But if the script is intriguing, it works.
Q: A lot of Hindi actors are venturing South — Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt in Rajamouli’s next, “RRR,” Amitabh Bachchan in “Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy,” Akshay Kumar last year in “2.0,” other stars in earlier movies and now the Mumbai actors in ‘Saaho.” What do you think of this trend?
A: It’s beautiful, right? You see, the other big production centers like Hollywood and China make their movies in ONE language. But we have 100 languages! And we have so many big markets, so why should we not do big films together? Karnataka has made “KGF,” and one day, for all you know, Punjab might make the world’s biggest film!
Q: What is your interaction with the Mumbai stars been like?
A: I was welcomed very warmly. Ajay Devgn called me up, Ranbir Kapoor messaged me. From our cast here, Jackie Shroff is so cool, and was on my wish-list of co-stars. Shraddha Kapoor is also practically like a South Indian — she loves South Indian food so much!
Q: Can you share some details of your heavy-duty action in this film?A: It was heavy-duty, but the prep was more effort for our stunt directors who came from all around the world. It was not like the 120 days of action work for “Bahubali,” which included coordinated and choreographed action sequences like the bow-and-arrow scenes.
Q: Two things are known about you: one, that you never watch your films on day one, and two, that you are or were very shy!
A (Smiles): Yes, on the first day, it is all very stressful and I get confused, thinking about what will happen to the film! That is the reason.
And as for your second question, I have been like that throughout! I would not even speak to girls in my college and they would come to talk to me. But when I came into the industry, I found that shy men were quite common! I don’t know why! (Laughs)
Q: This time, we will hear your own voice speaking Hindi in “Saaho,” unlike in “Bahubali.”
A (Nods and smiles): Yes, I loved Sharad Kelkar’s voice in that film and met him recently. But “Bahubali” was a period subject. So the voice and pronunciation had to be perfect, authentic and traditional. I speak Hyderabadi Hindi and can read and write Hindi, too. So I decided to manage this film as it was a contemporary subject.
My filmmakers did not know that I could read Hindi, so they first gave me a script in Roman! But that would have been more difficult. Anyway, on the sets and during the dubbing, I had a coach named Kamal Ahmad helping me.