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S. S. Rajamouli

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S. S. Rajamouli Life story


Koduri Srisaila Sri Rajamouli, professionally known as S. S. Rajamouli, is an Indian film director and screenwriter who predominantly works in Telugu cinema. He is best known for his work in action, fantasy, and epic films.

Koduri Srisaila Sri Rajamouli ( RAH-jə-mow-li) (Telugu pronunciation: [ɾaːdʒamaʊ̯ɭi]; born 10 October 1973), professionally known as S. S. Rajamouli, is an Indian film director and screenwriter who predominantly works in Telugu cinema. He is best known for his work in action, fantasy, and epic films. Three of his films, Baahubali: The Beginning (2015), Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017), and RRR (2022) are among the top five highest grossing-films in India to date. All three films were also the most expensive Indian films ever made at their time of release. He is a recipient of various awards including three National Film Awards, four Filmfare Awards South and five Nandi Awards. In 2016, he was honoured with the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour for his contributions towards the field of Art.

Rajamouli has directed twelve feature films so far; all of them were successful at the box office. Baahubali 2 is currently the highest grossing film in India, and sold over 10 crore (100 million) tickets during its box office run, the highest estimated admissions for any film in India since Sholay (1975). The 2009 fantasy action film Magadheera was highest-grossing Telugu film ever at the time. Baahubali duology has received two Saturn Award nominations with Baahubali 2 winning the Best International Film. His 2012 film Eega won the Most Original Film at the 8th Toronto After Dark Film Festival. RRR received Second Best Picture at the 5th Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Film Awards.

Rajamouli's films are characterized by larger-than-life characters, epic scale, mythological references, stylised action sequences, and heroism. His films are notable for their integration of computer-generated imagery (CGI) with practical effects and live action. Rajamouli is the highest paid director in India. Through his Baahubali films, he is credited with pioneering the pan-Indian films movement where a film is simultaneously released in multiple Indian languages and is made to appeal to audiences across the country, cutting across the linguistic and cultural barriers.

Early life


Srisaila Sri Rajamouli was born on 10 October 1973 in a Telugu family in Amareshwara Camp near Manvi in Raichur district of present-day Karnataka state, to V. Vijayendra Prasad and Raja Nandini. His family hails from Kovvur near Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. Aspiring to become a prosperous farmer, Prasad moved to Karnataka from Kovvur in 1968. He, along with his elder brother K V Shivashankar, bought seven acres of paddy fields in Hirekotikal village of Manvi Taluk in Raichur district. Their family moved back to Kovvur in 1977.Rajamouli was educated in Kovvur till fourth standard and then shifted to Eluru. He then studied at Sir C. R. Reddy College of Engineering, Eluru. His mother's family hails from Vizag and he lived there for several years.As his father Vijayendra Prasad and uncle K. Siva Shakthi Datta were passionate about filmmaking, they sold most of their assets and shifted their families to Madras. After their projects went unfinished, they faced huge financial losses and started working as ghostwriters. Later Prasad established himself as a screenwriter with films like Bobbili Simham (1994) and Gharana Bullodu (1995). Then his father directed and produced a film with his life savings called Ardhangi (1996). Rajamouli was actively involved in the project as an associate director. The film was a disaster at the box-office. His family faced dire financial situation later on for years. Rajamouli calls this the lowest phase of his life. He recalls, "That incident taught me to never take anything for granted. It imbibed in me the work ethic and perfectionism to make even a small scene or a shot which might seem unimportant, interesting for the audience. That lowest phase of my life taught me how I should work later on in my career."His elder brother, S. S. Kanchi is an actor, screenwriter and director known for his role as Ambhujanabham in the sitcom Amrutham. Rajamouli's cousin, M. M. Keeravani has worked as the music composer for all of his films. His other cousins Kalyani Malik and M. M. Srilekha are also music composers. Raja Koduri, a senior vice president at Intel is also a cousin of his.

Career


Early work


Rajamouli started his film career as an assistant to the veteran film editor Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao. He also worked at AVM recording theatre in Chennai for a few days. Then, he assisted his father Vijayendra Prasad for six years. He also worked as an assistant director to Kranthi Kumar for some time. He then shifted to Hyderabad from Chennai and worked with Gunnam Gangaraju from whom he learnt about the practical aspect of filmmaking.Later under the supervision of K. Raghavendra Rao, he directed social message-oriented commercials. He also directed some advertisements for Telugu Desam Party. He then worked for one and half years as the director of the Telugu soap opera Santhi Nivasam which was produced by Raghavendra Rao and aired on ETV. In an interview in 2005, Rajamouli recalled it as the most arduous period in his life as he used to work for 17 hours a day.

2001–2006: Feature Film Debut


In 2001, he ventured into feature film direction with Student No.1. K. Raghavendra Rao produced the film, in addition to providing the screenplay and supervising the direction. Student No.1 was a coming of age romantic action film and was the second film of Jr. NTR in a lead role. Rajamouli would go onto collaborate with Jr. NTR in three more films. The film was a critical and commercial success and was Jr. NTR's first successful film.It took two years for Rajamouli to come up with his second film Simhadri. The film marked Rajamouli's first collaboration with his father Vijayendra Prasad who provided the story. Simhadri was also the first film penned by Rajamouli. The film emerged as a blockbuster and became the second highest grossing Telugu film ever at the time behind Indra (2002).In the two-year gap between Student No.1 and Simhadri, Rajamouli planned his first mythological film with Malayalam actor Mohanlal, but the film eventually got shelved. In 2015, Assistant art director Manu Jagath, who later worked as the art director for Baahubali, released several sketches he had drawn for the shelved Mohanlal project. During the same period he was also supposed to direct a fantasy film with Prakash Kovelamudi as the lead but the film was shelved due to financial reasons.Rajamouli's third film was Sye, with actors Nithin and Genelia D'Souza. It was a first-of-its-kind film in Telugu cinema, in that it was based on the sport of Rugby. This film was also the first instance where Rajamouli collaborated with K. K. Senthil Kumar. Sye was commercially successful and won four Nandi Awards. Sye made a huge impact on the Telugu popular culture through its popularisation of Rugby to the masses.His next venture was Chatrapathi, an action drama set in Vizag dealing with the plight of refugees. Chatrapathi starred Prabhas in the lead role with music composed by M. M. Keeravani and cinematography by Senthil Kumar. It was Rajamouli's fourth consecutive hit and became one of the highest grossing Telugu films of the year.

2006–2012: Breakthrough


In his next project Vikramarkudu, Rajamouli worked with Ravi Teja and Anushka Shetty. Vikramarkudu was a breakthrough film for Anushka Shetty. The film was screened at the International Film Festival of India in the mainstream section. The film was a big success and was remade into several Indian languages including Bengali, Kannada as Veera Madakari (2009), Tamil as Siruthai (2011), and Hindi as Rowdy Rathore (2012).He then directed Yamadonga, a socio-fantasy film with Jr NTR, Priyamani, Mohan Babu, and Mamata Mohandas in the lead roles. The plot follows Raja, a thief who is killed by his rivals. Raja's soul travels to Naraka (hell) to face the trail for his sins by Yama, the Hindu god of death and justice. The film was successful at the box-office and became one of the highest grossing Telugu films ever at the time.Rajamouli's next venture was the fantasy-action film Magadheera, starring Ram Charan and Kajal Aggarwal. Made on a budget of ₹35–44 crore (US$7–10 million), it was the most expensive Telugu film at the time. It was the first Telugu film to list a "visual effects producer" in its credits. Magadheera became one of the biggest commercial successes in Telugu cinema and was the highest-grossing Telugu film at the end of its theatrical run. For Magadheera, Rajamouli won the Nandi Award for Best Director and Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu. The film also won the National Award for Best Choreography and Best Special Effects at the 57th National Film Awards and a total of six Filmfare Awards South and nine Nandi Awards. The film's success catapulted the launched the leads into stardom.

In 2010 he directed the action comedy film Maryada Ramanna with Sunil and Saloni in the lead roles. The film is inspired by Buster Keaton's 1923 silent comedy film Our Hospitality. The film opened to favourable reviews by critics. It received four Nandi Awards, including Best Popular Feature Film. Maryada Ramanna was remade in Hindi as Son of Sardaar and into other languages like Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, and Malayalam. In 2012 Rajamouli stated in an interview with Maa TV that Maryada Ramanna was his personal favourite among all the films he had directed.

Rajamouli's 2012 action-fantasy film Eega was screened to critical acclaim at L'Étrange Film Festival. The Tamil version Naan Ee was screened at the 10th Chennai International Film Festival. The Telugu version won nine awards, including Most Original Film at the 8th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The Telugu version was also screened the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the Panorama section of the 16th Shanghai International Film Festival and Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. The film received Best Art Direction award at the Fantaspoa film festival of Brazil. Eega won two National Film Awards (Best Feature Film in Telugu and Best Special Effects) and five South Filmfare Awards including Best Telugu Film and Best Telugu Director. Eega was listed among "The 25 Best Foreign Films of the Decade" by The Ringer.

2013–present: Baahubali and beyond


In 2015, he directed the epic action film Baahubali: The Beginning, which became the second highest grossing Indian film of all time, and the highest grossing Indian film of all time within India. The making of the epic film was featured in BBC's documentary on 100 Years of Indian cinema, directed by Sanjeev Bhaskar. The film was shot using Arri Alexa XT camera, marking Rajamouli's first film using digital camera. Rajamouli's work was cited by The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. The film was nominated in four categories at the 42nd Saturn Awards of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in Los Angeles, USA.Baahubali: The Beginning was screened at the Open Cinema Strand of Busan International Film Festival, Indian Film Festival The Hague, Sitges Film Festival in Spain, Utopiales Film Festival in France, Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, L'Etrange International Film Festival in Paris, Five Flavours Film Festival in Poland, Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium, and the Cannes Film Festival.The part two - Baahubali 2: The Conclusion was premiered at the British Film Institute, and was the inaugural feature film at the 39th Moscow International Film Festival. Baahubali 2 won the Telstra People's Choice Award in Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. It also won the Saturn Award for Best International Film. Baahubali 2 is currently the highest grossing film in India, and sold over 10 crore (100 million) tickets during its box office run, the highest estimated admissions for any film in India since Sholay (1975).In 2015, he was named as the "CNN-News18 Indian of the Year in Entertainment". In 2016, he was honoured with the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour for his contributions towards the field of Art.Rajamouli's subsequent film RRR (2022) is a period drama based on the lives of Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem. Made on a budget of est. ₹550 crore (US$72 million), it is the most expensive Indian film ever made. The film features NTR Jr, Ram Charan, Alia Bhatt, and Ajay Devgn. RRR opened to positive reviews from critics with praise for the performances, particularly Rama Rao and Charan, and screenplay by Rajamouli. With ₹240 crore (US$31 million) worldwide on its first day, RRR broke the record for the highest opening-day collection earned by an Indian film. RRR emerged as the highest-grossing film in its home market of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, grossing over ₹400 crore (US$52 million) and surpassing Rajamouli's previous film Baahubali 2. The film grossed ₹1,150–1,200 crore (US$150–160 million) worldwide, setting several box office records for an Indian film, including the second-highest-grossing film in India and the third-highest-grossing Indian film.

Rajamouli is also committed to collaborate with actor Mahesh Babu. The film, touted to be a jungle adventure set in Africa, is expected to begin its production in 2023. There were also reports of him planning a live-action animated film rooted in Indian content.Rajamouli frequently speaks about his intention to make a film based on the Indian epic Mahabharata in the future. He thinks it will be at least a four-part project requiring a time period of six to ten years. In May 2017 he noted, " I don't want to compromise in making it and the huge project is going to take 10 years perhaps. I am apprehensive as to whether I will be able to execute such a technically-superior project (in the immediate future)." He had also revealed that the film series may not feature established movie stars. "This is the kind of film that will not work out if I rope in stars. Once the different characters are designed, I would have to hunt for the right artists and mould them accordingly," he said. In July 2022 he said, “Mahabharata has been my long, long, long dream project, but it will take a long time for me to step into that ocean. Before I step into Mahabharata I want to make, maybe, three or four films."

Personal life


Rajamouli married Rama Rajamouli in 2001. Rama has worked as a costume designer for many of Rajamouli's films. He has adopted Karthikeya, Rama's son from her previous marriage. The couple also has an adopted daughter. Karthikeya is married to Pooja Prasad, niece of Telugu actor Jagapathi Babu.Rajamouli is nicknamed Jakkanna after the legendary c.12th century sculptor Jakanachari (known in Telugu as Jakkanna) who is credited with building numerous temples during the Hoysala reign. The moniker was coined by actor Rajeev Kanakala during the making of the TV serial Santhi Nivasam directed by Rajamouli and was in reference to his work ethic and perfectionism like the famed sculptor.In 2017, Chandrababu Naidu, then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh consulted Rajamouli for inputs on the design of Amaravati, the proposed capital of the state.In 2017, Rajamouli identified himself an atheist. Later in a 2022 interview, he clarified: "May be atheist is not the right word. I don't believe in God or religion the way it is portrayed now. But if you ask me 'Do you believe in the existence of God?' I'd say 'I don't know'."

Filmmaking style and influences


Themes


Rajamouli's films are often larger-than-life and epic in scale. He mentions that his penchant for bigger films and larger-than-life characters was present right from his childhood. He reminisces, “From a young age, I had this vivid imagination. When my father started working, he would tell us scenes he had developed, and I would amp them up in my own way.”

His films have themes often related to fantasy and Hindu mythology. He frequently admits that his films are inspired by Ramayana and Mahabharata. Rajamouli spoke about the mythological elements in his films as follows:I am deeply influenced by mythology. Including it in my projects has always been a very sub-conscious decision because I grew up listening to the stories of mythology from my grandparents. It is completely embedded in my blood. Whatever goes in, comes out. I have so much input of mythology, it comes out in my stories in different forms. I feel very proud of it.The idea of reincarnation was first used in Magadheera, following that it was next seen in Eega. Devarsi Ghosh of India Today observed, "the themes of an orphaned hero, a secret backstory, a separated family and a protagonist in search of his/her origins are prominent in Rajamouli's films." Jealous siblings and adopted sons who strive to prove their loyalty, feature prominently in Simhadri, Chatrapati, and Baahubali. Love is a key theme in Magadheera and Eega.

Rajamouli's films feature strong, principled heroes who never give up in the face of daunting odds. His antagonists are irredeemable with no moral compass. His films have a liberal dose of violence, often in stylised action set-pieces. Regarding violence he notes, “Indian epics are full of violence, and such stories have shaped India. As filmmakers, I don't think anyone in India would tone down the violence, keeping in mind the censorship.” The violent scenes are often employed to induce awe in the viewer by invoking mythology. His films also feature protagonists wielding ornate weapons.Revenge is a prominent theme in his films. In an interview with Sandeep Vanga, Rajamouli said, "I believe revenge is the strongest emotion. I don't set out to make a revenge drama in particular. Revenge is an emotion that strongly and easily resonates with the audience. So, most of the time it's revenge." His films generally use a wide range of animals and Rajamouli attributes this to his love of animals.

Filmmaking style


Most Rajamouli films follow the three-act structure where every major plot point has a Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution. This results in a screenplay where every plot point ends on a high note and the film having a clap-worthy moment every 10 to 15 minutes.

Several of his films feature flashback episodes where the protagonist's backstory is revealed, typically in the second-half of the film. This narrative style is used in Simhadri, Vikramarkudu, Magadheera, Baahubali: The Beginning, and RRR. The high point of Rajamouli's narrative style is considered to be the pre-interval scene—the scene immediately prior to the intermission. His pre-interval scenes rev up the emotions of the audience creating a high point that increases the interest for the second-half of the film.

Rajamouli says, "I learned that if I make my story based on basic human emotions, I have a chance to connect with more people." He also prefers action sequences with strong emotional buildup and motivations for the protagonists. "For me, the character being emotionally charged up at that moment to go into that action sequence is very, very important."Rajamouli's later films use extensive pre-visualization executed by concept artists. The previsualization process includes traditional storyboarding on paper, animated storyboarding, and animation. All the stunts are practised, performed, filmed, edited and set to music by the stunt team, without the cast, and presented to the heads of departments before the filming begins.His films typically, are visual effects-heavy and he is one of the pioneering filmmakers in India in integrating computer-generated imagery (CGI) with live action. He prefers practical effects over CGI and likes to capture as much footage as possible in-camera.

Influences


Rajamouli frequently mentions Ben-Hur (1959), Braveheart (1995), Mayabazar (1957) as his favourite and most influential films. His other favourite films include Missamma (1955), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Terminator 2 (1991), Indiana Jones films. The chariot race scene in Ben-Hur was a strong influence on him in his childhood. Magadheera, RRR, and Baahubali films feature scenes with horses and chariots and Rajamouli acknowledges Ben-Hur as an inspiration.Rajamouli has cited Mel Gibson as his favourite filmmaker and as the biggest influence on his filmmaking style. He noted in an interview, "Many of Mel Gibson's films have a very, very big influence on me. The way he blends the action with the drama, how he slows down, how he switches the dramatic moment before the action explodes, I really, really love it. I get really inspired by his action a lot. That’s one thing that really comes to my mind when I talk about action films. It’s what inspired me to do action films." Rajamouli attributes his sense of drama to his father Vijayendra Prasad under whom he worked as an assistant early in his career. He was deeply influenced by the novels of Malladi Venkata Krishna Murthy and Yandamuri Veerendranath.Among Indian directors, he cites K. V. Reddy as his biggest influence. Ram Gopal Varma and Raj Kapoor are other Indian directors who had influenced him. Among his contemporaries in Telugu cinema, he expressed his admiration for the works of Sukumar and Trivikram Srinivas. He also praised the work and cinematic style of Rajkumar Hirani and Anurag Kashyap.For Baahubali, he was inspired by the tales of Chandamama and Amar Chitra Katha along with the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. For RRR, he mentioned The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Inglorious Basterds (2009) as his inspirations.

Recognition


Rajamouli was cited as an influence by directors like Prashanth Neel and Ayan Mukerji. Prashanth Neel noted, "With his films, he brought immense recognition to South cinema and he is a big source of inspiration to all of us.” Ayan Mukerji mentioned that there is a lot of Rajamouli’s influence on his film Brahmāstra (2022).Producer and columnist G. Dhananjayan credited Rajamouli for the expansion of the reach and market of regional Indian cinema. He notes, "Rajamouli stands tall among all Indian filmmakers for his vision, innovation, and expansion of the regional language market at a global level.” Manoj Kumar R of The Indian Express writes, "It’s a rarity to find a director who sells more tickets than the leading stars of a movie. And in that respect, he has monopolized that space." Filmmaker and actor Rahul Ravindran says, "Every time someone tells me during a script discussion that doing this or not doing that will make the script a hit film, I always say… how can you be sure, nobody can be, except Rajamouli sir.”Matt Groening, the creator of the television shows The Simpsons and Futurama while discussing his inspiration for Disenchantment said, "In a given show there might be homages to Buster Keaton and to an Indian filmmaker named S. S. Rajamouli, who has made some of my favorite films of the last decade. I particularly recommend a movie called Magadheera."

Pan-Indian Films


Through his Baahubali films, Rajamouli is credited with pioneering the pan-Indian films movement where a film is simultaneously released in multiple Indian languages and is made to appeal to audiences across the country, cutting across the linguistic and cultural barriers. Gautam Jain of Ormax Media, a media and entertainment consulting firm writes, "Before the release of Bahubali: The Beginning (2015), the term ‘Pan India film’ did not exist in film media or audience lingo." He also calls him the 'original Pan India filmmaker' and the 'most successful Pan India filmmaker'.

Filmography


Film


Director


Other roles


Television


Box-office performance


Awards and nominations


Civilian HonoursOther HonoursNational Film AwardsFilmfare Awards SouthNandi Awards (Andhra Pradesh State Film Awards)IIFA UtsavamSouth Indian International Movie AwardsCineMAA Awards

Notes


References


External links


S. S. Rajamouli at IMDb

S. S. Rajamouli Photos

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