From the humble beginnings of Student No. 1 to the mega success of Baahubali franchise to becoming a brand name himself, director S. S. Rajamouli's journey as a filmmaker is as fascinating as it gets. It is as epic as his stories and as heroic as the best of his heroes. He started out as a young protege of the legendary K. Raghavendra Rao. With his second film established himself as a director who knows mass pulse. Then he had shown his ambition of telling stories on grand canvas with Yamadonga and then upped the ante with Magadheera.
The journey to that point was just the prologue to the main story. He set the bar higher and higher with each of his films. He proved himself to be not affected by hype and expectations. He changed the way how a film business is done with Baahubali films. See, at first, he established himself to be a bankable director who can deliver hit movies. Then with Magadheera, he proved himself to be a force to reckon with. A lesson for every aspiring filmmaker how to get a foothold in the big world of cinema by being reliable and then make people dance to your own tunes.
He also became a part of the film vernacular. Rajamouli heroes. Rajamouli villains. Rajamouli hero elevations. Special Weapons of Rajamouli. Rajamouli this and Rajamouli that. Here we attempted to trace the journey of Rajamouli the filmmaker and tried to rank his films from the first to the last based on cinematic merits. Also, it gives how his range has increased exponentially over the last two decades since he first wielded the megaphone. Just dive in!
While the name Rajamouli evokes Baahubali scale films and grand ideas, it is Sye which remains close to the hearts of the true fans of the top director. The movie rode on the then trend of youthful entertainer and the sports background added more value to the movie as the core emotional thread. It is a true youthful film in every sense.
The college rivalries, the modern and jaunty romantic thread, young set of protagonists led by Nithiin, and then the villain Bhikshu Yadav. A cult figure in his own right and the first of the great line of Rajamouli villains. The music composed by Keeravani for every other Rajamouli movie is one thing and the score he came up with for Sye is another thing. Despite murmurs that Rajamouli crossed the line a few times in the narration, everything is part of the story. He had shown the youth as they are and will be in this movie.
Eega was the most ambitious project of Rajamouli’s career at that time and can still be called one of his greatest creations after Sye and Baahubali films making wise. The way he realized the housefly’s hexagonal vision, the characterization of the villain (played by Kichcha Sudeep), integration of the heroine’s (played by Samantha) profession (miniature artist) into the core plot of the film all make Eega not just a great watch but also a telling proof of Rajamouli’s directorial mastery. Early indications about how Baahubali moves will pan out. The visual effects and carrying the spirit of Nani’s throughout the movie makes the film emotionally rich.
3. Maryada Ramanna
Maryada Ramanna is proof of why Rajamouli is the most successful Indian director in the current generation. What will anyone do if they score such a humongous success like Magadheera? Aim higher? Or try to recreate the magic? Rajamouli did none. He just went about business as usual and told a story he wanted to tell. Choosing Sunil as the protagonist of his film proved to be a masterstroke similar to S. V. Krishna Reddy’s move with Ali for Yamaleela. Rajamouli damn well knows what he wants and how to create expectations while playing down the hype factor at the same time.
4. Baahubali: The Beginning
The Baahubali of Indian Cinema. Rajamouli arguably reintroduced the potential of Indian Cinema to the world. Forget storytelling. Forget cinematic conventions. It's pure magic. Epic scale visuals. Larger than larger than life heroes. This is one adventure not just on the screen but also in the making of a film. Talking about Baahubali and its characters is a futile exercise. It needs a separate space. Let me tell you two important things that really matter.
It helped the Indian filmmakers think beyond the beyond when it comes to the market potential. 2.0 is possible because of the success of Baahubali is an undeniable fact. Baahubali: The beginning was listed by Roger Ebert website (the best critics team in the world) among one of the top 10 films of the year 2015. A feat matched by Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. Yea, come on! Tell me what you want to say!
Magadheera will always have a special page in Tollywood folklore for its ambition and scope of storytelling. The 40-minute block of the Udaygadh story in the movie lifted an already trendily mass romance story to the next level. Not just the arrival of Rajamouli whom the world knows him today the movie also unearthed two stars who still rule Tollywood in the form of Mega Power Star Ram Charan and one of the top South Indian heroines Kajal Aggarwal.
Keeravani’s music and Rajamouli’s screenplay an up and down graph was a trendsetter and was unsuccessfully imitated by many Telugu directors at the time. That it went on to become the highest grossing Telugu movie at that time and still remain one of the highest grossing movies in Tollywood is just part of trivia.
Chatrapathi did to Prabhas what Simhadri did to NTR. He reached the peak of his heroic image and there was only one way out. For Rajamouli, Chatrapathi saw his best storytelling. Despite comments that the graph has fallen in the second half of the movie, Chatrapathi still remains one of the best screenplays of Rajamouli. The movie has everything. A powerful story with an emotional connect. Loads of heroism. Foot tapping songs, ample but not overloaded sentiment. And then the Rajamouli touch of undercurrent class.
7. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion
Why Kattappa killed Baahubali? Enough said. Just those 4 magical and enigmatic words kept the hype alive for almost two years before Baahubali 2 hit the theatres. Why this film, the first Indian movie to gross Rs. 1000 crores, is placed below the first film? The wondrous feel of the first film missed a bit and the climax despite the length is a tad disappointing. Second highest grossing Indian film of all time and the highest grossing Indian movie in India. The film also gained a cult following in Japan and the Baahubali-Avengers memes caught the internet like wildfire.
With Vikramarkudu, Rajamouli continues what he started with Simhadri and refined the technique of grand canvas storytelling with heroic characters. Ravi Teja was seen in one of his best roles both in class and mass orientation. Anushka Shetty got her first breakthrough.
The Jintha tha mannerism caught up and has become a part of vernacular. But it is also the first time there appeared comments that Rajamouli films have undercurrent vulgarity. And also the scene involving villains which dangerously resembles a scene from a Vijayashanthi movie. Leave aside these, Vikramarkudu is as much electrifying watch as Chatrapathi and Simhadri. These three movies could be classified as Rajamouli Mass Trilogy.
Simhadri is one Rajamouli movie that set the template for the films to come from Rajamouli for the next few years. After being labeled a decent director heavily influenced by K. Raghavendra Rao after Student No. 1, he had broken the shackles with Simhadri. The movie redefined what mass masala entertainers in Telugu so much so that it took Young Tiger NTR a long time to come out of the mould. The peak level heroic elevation, a powerful villain (still the same with all SSR movies), and emotional action sequences. All trademarks of Rajamouli are visible in this film.
Yamadonga is the precursor for both Magadheera and Baahubali films where Rajamouli had shown his knack for integrating visual effects into his storytelling. Despite certain portions of the film feel disjointed and inconsistency of Yama Dharma Raja’s role, the movie is known for two things. A proper showcase of NTR Jr.’s potential for mythological roles and the artwork for Yama Loka is the best yet in an Indian film. Rajamouli took what worked in this movie and carried them forward with Magadheera. The biggest turning point in Rajamouli’s storytelling and making-style of films.
11. Student No. 1
It is where it all started. As is the case with all epic journeys, Student No. 1 was a humble beginning for Rajamouli. A simple tale of a youngster who wanted to be accepted by his father. Good musical numbers by Keeravani and the surprisingly good performance by NTR Jr. all made Student No. 1 a highly enjoyable entertainer when it was released. But Rajamouli's direction was expectedly raw and is heavily influenced by Raghavendra Rao style. The interval block was exceptionally good for that time and for a debut director.
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