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India’s Most Successful Director S.S. Rajamouli Interacts with CII Members in Mumbai

Tehnaz Dastoor

On 3rd July 2017, CII organized a wonderfully interactive evening with S.S. Rajamouli, India’s most successful Director of the famous Bahubali series at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.  If you have never had the opportunity to interact with Rajamouli, it is a treat! He is a little reticent, especially about his achievements, and even on a one-to-one told me that the success of the films had not altered him or his hero in the least.

To date, Bahubali 2 has taken-in box office receipts of over Rs. 1,700 crores, and this too without its release in the Chinese markets. When asked about the approximate number of people that were employed on the sets and during the production phase, I was amazed to learn that over 100,000 persons were involved with the film.

The evening began with an interactive session with the Director and Sudhanshu Vats, Chairman of CII’s National Committee on Media and Entertainment. During the interaction, Rajamouli mentioned that there were 2 turning points in his career. The first was after the successful film Simhadri (and everyone expected him to make a follow-up to it, which he declined to do), and instead made an off-beat film on rugby. And the   next turning point was the film Makhi (which wasn’t a commercial success in cinemas but excelled on TV). Both these films were path- breakers as they instilled in him a sense of confidence to break free from traditional films and indulge in what appealed to him rather than tread on the most common path.

Rajamouli emphasized that everyone should do what they loved and keep doing ‘consistently great work’ as success was never guaranteed. Since the normal course of film-making took about a year to complete, that is what he focused on and enjoyed, rather than the outcomes of the film which were evident within the first 3 weeks.  He noted that some films required ‘big stars’ as they brought in the requisite revenues whereas other films didn’t require this at all.

He stressed that the box office receipts of his film would have increased monumentally if India had more movie theaters especially in the tier 2 and 3cities where the majority of the population resides. However, unlike China where each week 10 new movie halls are constructed, India is closing down a number of its stand-alone halls in tier 2 and 3 cities due to poor sound quality, sub-standard seating arrangements and lack of any changes/improvements over the past 30 years. Hence, he showcased a model movie theater which could be constructed in 4 months in these cities and could help bring in large revenues in our districts.

One of the most interesting points made was that Bahubali did not use the traditional platforms and spend large sums on promoting the film. In fact it spent Rs. 0 on promotion! This was done through specially made shots, music and visual effects for the various social media handles and it was purely through social media that the film was promoted both in India and overseas.

Following the interview and question and answer segments, guests mingled with the Director and enjoyed a sumptuous meal hosted by Mr. Jamshyd Godrej.