For most Indians, when they hear of the name SS Rajamouli, the first thing that comes to their mind is Baahubali. That's because the film has become an international success and has made Rajamouli famous India wide. But before Baahubali, unless you are a Telugu cinema fan, chances are you had no idea who Rajamouli was before it.
He is perhaps the only director in contemporary Indian cinema along with Shankar in Tamil and Rajkumar Hirani in Hindi who are yet to face a flop in their career.
After starting his career with an film called Student No.1, an average film in my opinion, the film went onto to become a raging hit and made not only Jr. NTR but also catapulted Rajamouli into a dependable director.
It was then he proceeded to deliver an Industry Hit in the form of Simhadri and we all know how the film turned out. Since Student No.1, all his films have gone onto either become blockbusters, super hits, or industry hits. He has 4 industry hits to his name and has directed 10 films so far. A lot of people have criticized his filmmaking style and have said he largely copies and is make scenes or movies inspired from other film i.e. Hercules or 300 or Our Hospitality.
However in all his films, there are certain similarities or elements that are common in all his film. In this post, we are going to explore that and see what makes SS Rajamouli such a brilliant director even though some may disagree with that adjective about him.
Revenge: In every Rajamouli movies, Revenge is usually the theme. In fact in almost 75% of his films, revenge is the motive for the story going forward. Simhadri, Chatrapathi, Maryada Ramanna, Magadheera, Eega, Vikramarkudu, and Baahubali. All of these films run of the basis of revenge. While his father has penned all of the stories he has directed, one can't help but discern that almost all of his films have the same type of storyline. But it is his story telling where his greatness lies and is perhaps the reason for his greatness.
Flashback: If Nandamuri Balakrishna garu's movies have flashbacks, you are not surprised and they're usually all the same. In Rajamouli's films however, you look forward to the flashback as this is arguably Rajamouli's biggest strength. Every film of his has featured a powerful emotionally charged flashback which will have you sympathize with whoever has died and whatever has happened in the flashback and will make you root for hero. It is a fact the flashback is where most of Rajamouli's films produce their greatest moments. Some examples are Simhadri, Vikramarkudu, Magadheera, and of course recently Baahubali which holds the distinction of the longest flashback in the history of Indian cinema. But as a director Rajamouli knows that the audience waits for the flashback and cleverly inputs mass elevations and hero elevations and puts up the tension as the audience impatiently waits for the flashback to be revealed. This is a staple or mark of every Rajamouli film. It's safe to say that if Baahubali had began when Amarendra Baahubali and Bhallaladeva were training before the Kalakeya War and then Sivudu's story was told at the end of Part 2, the film wouldn't have worked out the way it has. Rajamouli's brilliance lies in setting up the story and making you anticipate the much awaited flashback to know what actually happened. They are easily the best part of every Rajamouli film as well.
Interval Scenes- For any Telugu films no matter what, whether it be action, comedy, romance, drama, etc. they must all have an interval scene worth remembering or one's that's worthy of anticipating what's going to happen in the 2nd half of the movie. Most interval bangs are routine, some are predictable, but very few stay with you after you come out of the movie theater. And in Telugu cinema, there isn't a director who does interval scenes better than SS Rajamouli. In every film of his barring Maryada Ramanna, his interval scenes leave you on a high and make you impatiently wait for the 2nd half to begin. Student No.1, Simhadri, Chatrapathi, Vikramarkudu, Magadheera, Eega, Yamadonga, and of course Baahubali with two epic interval scenes. In my opinion, either Baahubali 2 or Chatrapathi is the best interval scene in any Rajamouli movie.
Villains- For any action film, a strong protagonist must have an antagonist that is as powerful or even stronger than him. Only then will a good conflict arise and it will be a good tug of war to see. Boyapati Srinu is the only director who comes close to matching the brilliance in villain characterizations that Rajamouli creates. His villains are so powerful and are usually stronger than the hero himself. However, his villains usually have a sense of absolute disgust around them and you feel a sense of relief when they meet their end in the climax of every film. There is just something about the way he creates his villains that they are just so repulsive and bad that you'd like to see them die as soon as possible. Bhallaladeva from Baahubali is arguably the strongest villain in Rajamouli's films after Titla from Vikramarkudu. Bhallaladeva was as strong as Amarendra Baahubali and matched him in every respect except kindness, had the power to manipulate Rajamatha Sivagami, the strongest character in the entire film, and almost kill Mahendra Baahubali who was even stronger than his father. He also single handedly killed thousands of soldiers and even killed the Kalakeya king. I really don't see a villain who's more powerful in my eyes. This is another reason why the action in his films are so good and the performance he extracts from the actors that portray his villains is unlike any other director I've ever seen.
Storytelling- There are many top directors in the Telugu film industry such as Sreenu Vaitla, K Raghavendra Rao, VV Vinayak, Puri Jagganadh, Boyapati Srinu, Sukumar, Koratala Siva, Trivikram Srinivas, and Sekhar Kammula. While each of these directors has their own type and brand of cinema, none of them have come close to replicating what Rajamouli has done. And that is purely because of the Rajamouli's storytelling abilities. His skills to narrate a story with the utmost conviction and sincerity and knowing how to make a routine scene appear amazing is why he is the #1 director in Telugu cinema today. There is a difference between writing sensational dialogues and generating humor throughout a film and narrating a story compared to telling the story in the most compelling way possible with emotions. If you look at all the stories Rajamouli has directed, most of them are revenge dramas and they appear routine if you were to say them on paper. But he makes the routine seem interesting and the climax scene in Baahubali 2 where Sivudu jumps in the air the sword and you see the silhouette of Amarendra Baahubali in the background with thunder just shows you how amazing and incredible his imagination truly is.
Final Thoughts: A lot of people claim that Rajamouli is a huge copycat and just rehashes numerous scenes from successful films and directs routine stories but somehow makes them a hit. While it may be true, you cannot deny the fact that he is the most successful director we have seen in ages, not only in Telugu cinema, but Indian cinema as whole. This man had a vision and passion and put Telugu cinema on the global map with Baahubali. No other director has pushed the boundaries and envelopes like he has and he is continuously trying to push Telugu cinema to the next level. Whether you hate him and his films or you love, SS Rajamouli is a blessing to the industry and a pure genius in his own regard due to his incredible story-telling skills and directorial expertise.