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Bahubali is a Team Effort: Cinematographer Senthil

Senthil is a marvellous technician. The low profile cinematographer had been with Rajamouli for most of his movies and helped the latter in transforming his craft to a visual wonder. Baahubali is Senthil’s crowning glory and throughout the conversation, the man stresses that it is a team effort and that speaks volumes about his humility. The contribution of a cinematographer from the pre production to the wrapping up of the film is monumental. Senthil draws a deep breath as he says it isn’t over yet and he needs to finish Bahubali II before thinking of a Bollywood debut.

It has been a 3 year journey, how does it feel?

 We are awaiting the release tomorrow. We have done our part and now the people have to give their verdict. I never expected this type of hype though we knew we were making a big budget movie. This rush for the tickets is something I have never seen. The expectations are so much that I have begun feeling a bit sceptical if we will be able to reach it or not. I am tensed. The second part will be more challenging. The first will become the bench mark but the biggest challenge will be to exceed the first part.

You have been with Rajamouli in most of his films. How is this film different?

I have been associated with Rajamouli since Sye. I have seen a constant growth in his story telling and use of technology which became big with Eega. The scale and budget has seen an escalation and we have attempted what no one ever did in Indian cinema. It is purely a fictitious film where we tried showcasing traditions like we saw in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon etc and other Chinese films.

What about this film touching people so much?

Whatever you have seen is a trailer is a visual. Generally when you see it, the connection happens. The cast and the previous film of the director and is being promoted as India’s expensive film. The emotional content is what might strike. So much of homework has gone into it. We were watching so many films to get some reference and show something different. Our concept artistes were working on it and it was complete team work. We were studying and wondering how Hollywood people must have used maximum numbers to get the real war feel. We trained 2000 people. My challenge was to capture director’s vision. The art director, costume designer’s work and finally the emotion that the artiste is delivering, needs to be captured and presented in a grand scale without losing any essence in any frame. It was a tremendous pressure as every frame had to show the grandeur, emotion and detailing that other departments have contributed and then, giving it to the visual effects department to get enhanced.

How long was the shoot?

The shoot happened for 350 days spread across two years, shot in all the seasons. We were equipped with it and shot in minus ten temperatures in Bulgaria. We shot from extreme heat in Hyderabad to continuous rains in Mahabaleshwar. The fog was major challenge as it was ten feet away in Mahabaleshwar and Bulgaria. The camera helped me in seeing in low light conditions. We could hardly see anything, but the big crew was stationed and we couldn’t stop shoot. We had to shoot in worst weather conditions and still give it a good look.

Is giving a personal touch to the frames important?
Giving a personal touch is deviating; it would be a confusion. The basic job is to help the director tell his story in the best possible way. I need to blur my vision into his and  through my craft, deliver whatever best I can. It is finally about story telling. Be it light or the camera movement, every film comes with an inbuilt style and visual approach. We need to find out from the story and deliver it. For war scenes, we did extensive research and story boarding before i.e pre production. Before actual shoot, 2000 people were trained so that they don’t look comical on screen for the battle sequences and the training was shot on video cameras to get right angles. The idea is that once costumes come on board, it shouldn’t go wrong. We then edited, saw the footage and actually went to shoot. On the location, it is a different scene. The  cinematographer goes by his instinct, despite all the preparation on location. What he instinctively feels makes a difference. We have reference point to fall back on.
How are we different from international standards?
It is sad we are comparing with international standards, they are far superior. Perhaps in content, we can compete them but technology wise, they are far superior. It is a blessing to have Ruhi as my wife. Since three years, she was prepared to have no entertainment and made all the sacrifice. My wife has been very cooperative and has been taking care of the domestic aspects. It is because of her that I had zero tension. If I get an offer from Bollywood, why wouldn’t I take it up? It is not the next level. As of now we are doing Bahubali II. This is once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to focus on this.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Interview With Bahubali Producer Shobu Yarlagadda


[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or Baahubali producer, Shobu Yarlagadda, choosing a project depends on the relationship that he shares with director and artistes. Read on to know more about him.

When did your association with Rajamouli begin?
My relationship with him goes very long back even before our professional association started. I know him since he started working with Raghavendra Rao garu. We were supposed to do a small film first but it never materialised. Then we did Maryada Ramanna, we struck a good rapport and became good family friends. It is more personal friendship between two families. After Maryada Ramanna, he was supposed to do a big project for K Raghavendra Rao. Since Raghavendra Rao didn’t want to handle it on his own, given it is a huge product, we stepped in. It became a joint production between him and us. Arka Media Works belongs to me and Prasad and we do some work with RK Films. I came back from US in 96 and did a couple of businesses and it didn’t work and was looking for a new avenue. Then me and Prasad decided that television is a good option. We entered television and do selective work. Films is a natural progression.

[pullquote position=”left”] Around four thousand screens all over the world will come out with Bahubali. There is so much post production which is a big aspect. For all of us artistes and technicians, producers..it is a once in a life time experience. [/pullquote]

How do you choose your project and people?

It is the relationship that we have with the director and artistes. Krish came and narrated the story. It was more of an accidental narration and we did it. Maryada Ramanna was our first film and we wanted to do it with someone we could trust and we are comfortable with it. We are not in a hurry to do a film; television is our bread and butter and that goes on. Movies, unless we have rapport comfort level and we see some value as we bring as producers to the project, we don’t do it. We bring a lot to the table, not just money. There are two or three lines but Rajamouli wanted to do a folklore or a period film and not a contemporary subject. He and his father went back and forth and both of us liked this subject.

You are being called the real hero for believing in the project

Partly it is inherent in me, not to get perturbed. We are used to ups and downs and we have lot of belief in this project and we know will pull it through. When someone is working, the entire team is genuinely working for the project with genuine interest, you trust and want to support the project to the best. By the time we finish the second part it will be four years. There have been ups and downs, the budgets have gone up. There were certain hiccups and we had to reschedule the whole thing as Prabhas had to go through a surgery. One year has been allotted to pre-production. Even after one year, we did parallel planning and designing. We were mentally prepared in a way that it will be out in 2015, for a long haul. Also we were prepared that the budget will go up, but it went up little more than expected.



How important is Bahubali for TFI ?

It is important in a way that if it does well, the buoyancy will be there. It will spread to the distributors and exhibitors. It will be positive. It will give confidence to others to try something out of the box not necessarily on the same scale. It will bring Telugu film industry on the national map. We have been covered in international trade magazines; they came to the sets and met us. The vastness, the scale is making news and also Eega, the last film of Rajamouli has become an internationally a cult film. It has been screened in film festivals. They are aware of the film and believe in this director.



Risks involved in the making of the film

It will definitely have a strong impact if something goes wrong but I don’t foresee it. About ups and downs, mainly it is trying to get the film ready on time, on schedules in budget. We are trying to do something. It is going to cost more, how much more can we stretch it? These are the challenges we addressed. Rajamouli strongly believes in emotion and the scale to go with it. He didn’t want to compromise on the points. Some areas we reduced and some we didn’t. Second part sixty percent has been shot and the climax and some action episodes is pending.



Reason to split the film into two parts?

Beyond two and half hours, however great a film is, no one has the patience to sit through a film. Both the budgets were such. One film doesn’t justify so much spending. To make it economically viable, we made it into two parts. Originally, the intention was to make one but when the story was written it was coming to three and a half hours to four hours. When we try to make it two and a half hours we lose the essence and the costs were high. We went back to the drawing board and re-looked at the story and screenplay and decided to make two independent films which will slightly increase the budget but the sets would be the same and it would make more economic sense across two films. We would be doing justice to both the stories. It is a continuation; it is one story told in two parts and would have an independent feel.

Confidence levels after execution of the project

This is at a different level and scale. It required a lot of patience, persistence, lot of  detailing, going into minute things. The bigger picture is to ensure the film is made in time in this much budget and it travels to all languages and rest of the world as far as possible. To ensure this happens, you need to do a lot of things at many levels and I was lucky to have people to take it everywhere. Lot of support came in from family and friends for financial and emotional support. RFC played a key role. They provided infrastructure and lot of financing for the film. That is one aspect and to have a place spanning over 2000 acres and getting to do multiple things in one place, the logistics would have been difficult but for RFC. We had sets, a floor with 1000 people working. We could go and check when we wanted. Eighty percent in RFC and then little in Mahabaleshwar, Kerala and Bulgaria. After the visual effects and CG, it will transport you into a different world. Around four thousand screens will be ready for Bahubali. There is so much post production, which is a big aspect. For all of us artistes, technicians and producers, it is a once in a life time experience.

(Sunita Yalavarthi)


Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.



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