Before I begin this list ranking SS Rajamouli’s films, it’s important to understand what kind of a filmmaker I think he is. Therefore, you can understand how I’m rating the stories he tells and the criteria I’ve used and avoided.
There is a certain outlandishness to Rajamouli’s films that people are never able to comprehend. Why is it that two decades and 12 films later, you’re still finding yourself whistling at the moments he creates, even if you feel you’re above masala movies? What separates him from the other big mainstream filmmakers of his era?
I think the answer lies in the fact that Rajamouli is not just India’s biggest director but he is also India’s biggest teller of folk tales. He is not trying to root his films in realism but he’s trying to land them on regular emotions of storytelling such as love, anger, revenge, justice and take them into the exaggerated space folk tales exist in.
It’s not enough to “punch the guy who harassed the villagers”. It has to be “the hero punched him so hard he went flying and the angry villagers who got harassed cheered on in unison”. It’s not enough to say “the villain was ferocious”. It has to be “he is such a bad guy he could beat a wild bull with his bare fists and bring it down without breaking into a sweat”.
There is an implicit contract signed with a Rajamouli film that he is bringing metaphors, similes and exaggeration to life. So, whether it’s a regular college student in Student No 1, or the kings and queens of the Baahubali universe, or even the historical figures in RRR, they all become folk figures and take on the notions found in a folk tale.
Therefore, Rajamouli excels compared to his contemporaries because he is not asking the question of whether good will win over evil. Everyone knows who will win. But it’s how they win and what they lose that matters. That is more important to Rajamouli and that is where his methods cause such madness among viewers.
Each movie is being ranked by how well Rajamouli achieves this, with a focus on how such an idea is brought to life.
Where I’m overlooking Rajamouli’s flaws are the scenes that are copied from other films, particularly in his early works. In movies like Sye, he has lifted entire dialogues from Any Given Sunday and in films like Vikramarkudu he has lifted certain sections from previous Telugu films. While plagiarism is unforgivable, I am cutting him some leeway in the fact that in the second half of his career, he has done better and where he did copy, he managed to spin it organically into his film’s universe.
Similarly, I’m forgiving a certain level of sleaze in his early works too, which I’m attributing to the indefensible zeitgeist of Telugu cinema in the 2000s. But where I have felt it has crossed a ‘discounting for the times’ quota, like in Vikramarkudu and Simhadri, I’ve called him out and let it affect the ranking.
12. Student No 1 (2001)
It’s no surprise that Rajamouli’s debut is his weakest film, even though one can argue that there are hints of what’s going to come from him in the thrilling interval twist. When NTR Jr reveals that when he goes ‘home’ he is actually going to the city’s central jail, it’s a stunning revelation that shocks you and sets up what should be a fantastic second half. But the problem is that the flashback never really delivers on the punch the first half promises.
NTR Jr, who was all of sixteen (his voice has barely cracked in this film), tries his best to shoulder the emotion of a student who wants to achieve his father’s dreams of becoming a lawyer but he’s far too young to carry the second half.
Only in the end does Rajamouli have a Rajamouli-esque sequence where NTR emerges from fire…being literally on fire himself. Here NTR Jr is more comfortable with this depiction of heroism (still way beyond his years). The initial portions of the film are lit up with Rajeev Kanakala who relishes playing a senior who loves ragging and uses his political power to bend the college to his will. In comparison to NTR Jr’s cherubic face and his dream of studying law, Rajeev Kanakala comes across as a demon. There are some fun hat tips to NTR Jr’s legacy, like when he’s running with his grandfather’s statue guiding him in the right direction, or NTR Jr playing a mythological character in a play and you can’t help but wonder at the similarities between grandfather and grandson.
Barring a few ideas of which only a few translate, the film by itself feels amateurish and is clearly Rajamouli’s poorest film.
11. Yamadonga (2007)
I am prepared for all the hate I’m going to get from NTR Jr’s fans, but this one is easily Rajamouli’s weakest story. It’s odd that Rajamouli reserved his weakest story for NTR Jr, whom he considers his favourite actor. A conman Raja (NTR Jr) sees that by pretending to love a mistreated rich girl (Priyamani) he can gain access to her wealth. But he has an untimely death and is forced to go to Yamaloka (Hindu hell) where he confronts Yama (Mohan Babu). Using wit and charm, he comes back to earth and the film then becomes about whether Raja saves the girl and if he can hide from the wrath of Yama.
Rajamouli has rarely delivered linear films without a flashback or giving his leading men the chance to play two characters. But he always tries to ensure both stories have equal importance or at least his protagonists die at the altar of having clear goals and having many obstacles in their path.
But in this film, it is obvious that Rajamouli is itching to get to the segments involving hell and show us the confrontation between Yama and Raja. He constantly breaks the rules of his universe when he needs to propel the dull screenplay forward.
And this is the only film where all the lead actors have saved Rajamouli rather than the other way around. The portions involving hell are great fan service and play into NTR Jr’s legacy. Mohan Babu brings gravitas to the Yama trope that seemed to be dying. In the second half, Yama enters the soul of Dhanalakshmi (Mamata Mohandas) causing her to act as Mohan Babu acting as Yama. She tries her best but the ‘duet’ between NTR Jr and this Yama version of Mamata Mohandas is awkward bordering revolting.
Once the portions in hell are done, and they are over sooner than the audience would have liked, Yamadonga delves into cliches and melodrama unlike what you expect from Rajamouli.
Also Read: Every Sekhar Kammula Film, Ranked
10. Simhadri (2003)
First and foremost, I know this film is a fan favourite and established the legendary status of NTR Jr as a superstar in Telugu cinema at the age of 19. This film is one of those where NTR Jr again saves Rajamouli with his commitment to the slightly oafish but highly principled titular character who believes in the utilitarian idea that one must be ready to die or kill if it benefits a larger group.
There are elements that exhibit why Rajamouli respects masala moments and tries his best to reimagine them with freshness.
Take the interval scene for example which finds its echoes in Baahubali: The Beginning. A big revelation has happened and we learn that Simhadri is not who we think he is. There is a war-like scene at play with hordes of men hacking away at each other on a riverbank. So many filmmakers could have used this moment and the resulting high as an interval block. It’s exhilarating and has already driven fans into a frenzy. But Rajamouli believes in story service more than fan service. So, he ends on the shot of Indu (Bhoomika) stabbing Simhadri so fans and the regular audience are dying to come back and find out why this girl, who was in some psychological shock till now, has stabbed the one man who has taken care of her with so much (platonic) love.
But Simhadri has not aged well despite many such adrenaline-pumping moments in the second half. Rajamouli has always used the torture of women and children as a way to amp up villainism but nowhere is it uglier than in Simhadri. It feels excessive and unnecessary given that the initial portions of courting between Simhadri and the heroines seem equally crass.
9. Chathrapathi (2005)
No other film of Rajamouli’s feels as uneven as Chathrapathi. That’s primarily because of how much story and masala Rajamouli packs into the first half.
In the first half, we see a young Sri Lankan refugee, Shivaji (Prabhas) escape his motherland, land up in Vizag after being separated from his family, be a star amongst the people in his slum, fight a local goonda, then fight his brother, then confront the local minister and rise up to be the saviour of the people of his slum while also falling in love. It feels like the story is done and “the masses lived massily ever after” moment has come.
Suddenly it’s almost as if Rajamouli remembered that Shivaji hasn’t reunited with his mother and taken part in an item song. Predictably, the second half takes care of those “glaring” omissions.
Despite a dull second half, the first half has so many great moments that it culminates into what is modern Telugu cinema’s massiest interval block that hasn’t been beaten to date. Keeravani’s score, Prabhas’ commitment to the part, the way Senthil Kumar’s camera celebrates the star’s physique and the performance of other actors like Shafi, LB Sriram, Kota Srinivas Rao, and Sekhar, leaves you worried you might be hospitalized if the second half has more such chest-thumping moments.
Thankfully, it goes off into an ‘amma’ sentiment zone and even a menacing Rash Bihari Bose (Pradeep Rawat) can’t save the film from becoming a bore.
8. Vikramarkudu (2006)
A key aspect of any Rajamouli film is the duality of his protagonists. They are either murdered and brought back to life in a new avatar, or they have a past which the audience finds usually at the midpoint of the screenplay. Here he opts for a template of the 80s and 90s to express the duality where Ravi Teja plays two characters, Atthili Sathi and Vikram Rathore, who are lookalikes and the former goes in the place of the latter.
The success of this film lies in casting Ravi Teja and squeezing dry his comic timing for the thief and his serious side to play the cop. Usually, in Rajamouli’s films, the audience is waiting for the ‘real’ story i.e waiting for Simhadri’s flashback, or waiting for NTR to go to Yamaloka, or waiting for Harsha’s story to end so we can witness Kaala Bhairava’s story in Magadheera. This means the viewer is hanging onto a story that they are not necessarily invested in.
But in Vikramarkudu, the story of Atthili Satthi Babu is as exciting as the story of Vikram Rathod which the film is saving till the interval. And this works primarily because this is a film tailor-made for Ravi Teja and one could go as far as to say that there hasn’t been a better marriage between an actor and the roles they played in any Rajamouli film since Vikramarkudu.
But the film suffers from some cringe ideas of romance and a few vulgar scenes where Rajamouli dives into the ugly zone of putting women through immense torture to elevate a hero to mythological status. It’s a film where the romantic scenes and songs age badly the minute you walk out of the theatre. It’s all the more jarring because he could have chosen any kind of romance for it has no bearing on the real story and yet he chose the path of copious amounts of sleaze.
7. Maryada Ramanna (2010)
Although heavily borrowed from the English film Our Hospitality, this is one of Rajamouli’s bravest films. He had just come off of the stupendous success of Magadheera, which not only was a point of inflection in his filmmaking abilities, but it also changed him from being a regional filmmaker to a director the country noticed.
Expectations were sky-high on what his next project would be and with whom. The names that were being thrown around ranged from NTR Jr to Vikram and Surya, to Hrithik Roshan. And yet like a rockstar preferring to sing in the shower after a career-defining concert, he picked comedian Sunil who was just transitioning into lead actor parts and made a film with a simple premise and video game-like screenplay where he keeps overcoming various levels of difficulty until he meets the final boss.
Its protagonist Ramu (Sunil) is stuck in the house of a family that wants to kill him. The film narrates his struggles to not leave the house so he won’t be killed and once he does manage to escape the house, his goal is to remain alive. This is Rajamouli’s simplest premise and yet Rajamouli’s penchant for bigness is visible on screen. Whether it’s the hundreds of cars exploding as Sunil sings in existential frustration, or the final stretch where Ramu is being chased by hundreds of goons and it really looks like a clipping out of Discovery channel where a gazelle is being hunted by a pack of cheetahs. The movie is a testament to Rajamouli’s strength in visualizing a film’s central conflict to its fullest and most masala-esque potential.
The film suffers from a poor climax and you can sense it coming with the awkwardly written love story between Aparna (Saloni) and Ramu. The idea of love saving Ramu is a copout and instead of a large-scale fight sequence, here he is forced to conclude with shallow emotional drama and cheesy dialogues about love.
Also Read: Every Puri Jagannadh Film, Ranked
6. Sye (2004)
This is probably my most controversial opinion in this list and that is that Sye is Rajamouli’s most underrated film. The film is a sports revenge drama about the students of a college taking on a local goonda once he threatens to take away their college. The protagonist, Prudhvi (Nithiin), is Rajamouli’s weakest in terms of physical structure and baggage the actor who plays him comes with. Until Eega of course but we’ll get to that later.
Prudhvi is just a college student who behaves as recklessly as you expect from someone of his age. Especially the Telugu movie version of a college student. He rags juniors, takes college rivalries way too seriously, and wastes time performing stunts on his bike.
Also, the actor Nithiin doesn’t come with the political baggage of NTR Jr and the benefits and burden of being the grandson of NT Ramarao. Neither does Nithiin have the towering physique of a Prabhas or the mature look of someone like a Ravi Teja where it feels inevitable that they will triumph over evil.
In Sye, compared to the villain Bikshu Yadav (Pradeep Rawat) who looks like an untamed beast, Prudhivi looks boyish and immature and we are not certain if good will overcome evil. This makes the difference between the protagonist and antagonist the widest as compared to other Rajamouli’s films. And Rajamouli has repeatedly stated that the one filmmaking principle that constantly runs in his head while making a film is “the more ferocious the villain, the greater the hero”. In no other film is the gap wider which makes the final defeat of Bikshu Yadav that much more cathartic. Added to this the performance of Rajeev Kanakala as the head coach (who has a lot more at stake than just the college) makes the violent climax feel earned.
But the boldest choice was to use rugby and not cricket, football, or hockey and still not alienate the audience. The physicality of rugby works to the advantage of Rajamouli School of Masculinity but to adapt it and sell it to the audience is a stroke of genius where others might not have dared to go. Without rugby the film wouldn’t seem half as engaging.
Sye might have been a film ahead of its times, even with its share of silly scenes and ordinary songs (the weakest in the collaboration between MM Keeravani and Rajamouli), but the film’s central conflict and the way Rajamouli visualizes it through his action sequences are some of his best given how simple and everyday the world is.
5. Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)
You knew that a Rajamouli film that’s going to become a household name across the country was coming. It was not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. And this was that film. This film is a compilation of all the best tropes usually found in a Rajamouli film, which is why I think this film was better received outside the Telugu states. What felt fresh for others had a sense of familiarity for the Telugu audience.
You have the superb opening sequence where Ramya Krishna walks into a gushing river with an arrow in her back to save a baby which is Rajamouli’s way of keeping us hooked till we hit a flashback. Then you have the massy superhero-esque introduction with Sivudu (Prabhas) trying to climb a mountain, justifying his superhuman strength. And then the subsequent sequence where he uproots the Sivalingam achieves many things that are a staple of Rajamouli’s films:
- It lays the ground for numerous mythological references and allusions to mythology that Rajamouli bestows upon his protagonists.
- It has a high dosage of mother sentiment pitting love for a mother against devotion to God.
- And for the Telugu audience, it’s a hat tip to Prabhas’ legacy as the nephew of Krishnam Raju who played Bhakta Kanappa, a devotee of Shiva.
Following that, there is the expected crass sequence with a woman protagonist as Sivudu tries to ‘tame’ Avantika (Tamannaah) that leads to a romance between them. If there is anything that can forgive the creepiness of the sequence, it’s that Rajamouli convinces us that Tamannaah can be a warrior. This was her most ‘actorly’ part since Happy Days.
All of this is in the first 30 odd minutes in the film. The introductions of each of the main characters, such as Kattappa (Satyaraj), Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), an elderly Devasena (Anushka) all set up a large world as if Rajamouli is planning to write a third Hindu epic on par with the Ramayana and Mahabharatha.
But this ambition is probably what lets the film down eventually and I use the term ‘let down’ in comparison to his films that rank higher on this list. It feels like a giant set-up to a punchline that is going to come in the second part. In the larger scheme of affairs, the extended battle with Kaalakeyas feels more of a showcase (or a showing off) of Rajamouli’s vision than a set piece relevant to the plot, considering the Kaalakeyas don’t make a comeback later on.
The film borrows the iconic frame of Kattappa stabbing Baahubali from Simhadri’s interval where a most trusted character stabs the film’s protagonist. It set up the one question that plagued the nation on par with ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’: Why did Kattappa Kill Baahubali?”
But there is something about the film that doesn’t feel as hair-raising as Magadheera’s flashback storyline. You couldn’t help but wonder if Rajamouli had run out of ideas in this one and he had used up his best ones for that film. Prabhas’ speech after his soldiers begin to flee from the Kaalekeyas doesn’t carry the same level of charge as the flashback in Magadheera. Maybe it’s just that Prabhas never really looks like he’s in trouble so you’re never really scared for him.
But for an audience that wasn’t used to his Telugu films, this movie put all its stars and Rajamouli on the map and it gave courage to filmmakers to aim beyond their regional confines. Also, this film exposed the Hindi film industry’s disconnect with the rest of the country and the Hindi speaking belt that doesn’t belong to the urban centers. Like a true Rajamouli hero, Rajamouli himself served the people what they wanted. Except that instead of revenge and justice, he served entertainment.
Also Read: Every Shankar Film, Ranked
4. Magadheera (2009)
This film is the clear point of inflection in Rajamouli’s career where you can see that he was destined for box-office greatness. While his contemporaries such as VV Vinayak and Puri Jagannath were struggling to make a mark after seemingly hitting their peaks, Rajamouli reached new ground in this epic reincarnation love story. The film spoke about lovers Kaala Bhairava (Ram Charan) and Mitra Vinda (Kajal Agarwal) who are separated four hundred years ago, only to be born again and face familiar obstacles. It’s a story that showed Rajamouli’s scale of ambition and that he demanded a bigger canvas to play with.
Although Harsha’s storyline in the present is weak, it is actually to Rajamouli’s credit that he keeps the audience hooked enough to land the flashback. And once the film reaches the iconic interval point where it says something to the effect of “within ten minutes, we will head back 400 years” you knew the film was special.
The sequence that sets up Kaala Bhairava’s entry, his relationship with Mitra, the race with Ranadev Bhalla (Dev Gill) and the sequence in the desert where his horse saves him, are all examples of how to create masala moments that fit into the emotional arc of a story. This flashback sequence is a textbook for all budding writers and directors of masala films.
And once the fight where he battles a hundred of Sher Khan’s (Srihari) men begins, Rajamouli is in the kind of form the audience had only seen in Sachin Tendulkar of the 90s. You could hate his films and you’d still be invested in this fight. A hero fighting a hundred people sounds comical even by Telugu cinema standards. So much could have gone wrong. But to sell it as a masala moment that fits into the larger love story shows the perfect synergy Rajamouli, the actors, the music director (Keeravani), the cinematographer (Senthil Kumar), and the VFX team were in.
This film is also Rajamouli’s biggest contribution to Telugu pop-culture (more than Baahubali) with its dialogues and scenes being used in lingo and lexicon even to date.
But the film struggles to make the present story line of Harsha and Indu interesting and the first half an hour is so flat it needed a Chiranjeevi cameo and the remix of ‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ to hold it together. And the comedy with Sunil and Brahmanandam is poor by Rajamouli’s standards. But then again, this is the film that really defined the term ‘Rajamouli’s standards’.
3. RRR (2022)
This film provides the best theatrical experience compared to any other Rajamouli film in that it never lets you take your eyes off the screen. That’s primarily because of seeing two big stars, NTR Jr and Ram Charan play freedom fighters Konaram Bheem and Alluri Sitaramaraju. It’s chapterized unlike other Rajamouli films and although odd at first, it was probably Rajamouli’s way of telling fans of these actors to forget the stardom and the calculations of who gets how much time. He wanted the audience to only see Ramaraju and Bheem. And for the most part, he’s successful. Barring the ‘Naatu Naatu’ song, there aren’t any direct fan-pleasing moments and even here, the fan-pleasing is done right. You can’t help but be in awe of the footwork of the two leads.
The movie asks the question: what if Alluri Sitaramaraju and Komaram Bheem met each other in Delhi during the years where little is known about them? Coincidentally they go “missing” in history around the same time. The movie moves from set piece to set piece while giving the audience the perfect dosage of emotion to balance the aggression on screen. The strong motives of its characters justify each of Rajamouli’s outlandishly imagined sequences.
The collective gasp followed by a cheer in the theatre post the pre-interval sequence is all that is needed as proof to understand why Rajamouli’s ideas thrive on the big screen. It’s easily the most outlandish masala idea I’ve seen executed to near perfection and that moment is meant to be savoured in theatres alone. In the hands of Rajamouli, Ramaraju and Bheem aren’t historical figures but folk heroes. And this is where the meter at which NTR Jr and Ram Charan perform is perfectly in sync with the screenplay.
But for all the joy of a theatre experience, I couldn’t help but think of how Rajamouli, who has given Telugu cinema timeless villains such as Bhallala Deva and Kaatraj, had given his weakest villain in his ‘biggest’ film. All of this removes the emotional connection from the third act and the action sequences in the climax. You’re in awe of the imagination, but never as invested in them as you were during the earlier portions.
But the movie promised during promotions to “bring back the glory of Indian cinema” and I can’t help but believe it has delivered on that promise. Theatres are buzzing with crowds, fans are in delirium, and critics are nitpicking. What else can a filmmaker achieve?
Also Read: Every Gautham Vasudev Menon Film, Ranked
2. Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017)
This is the ‘real’ Baahubali film with the meat of the story and it pretty much knocks it out of the park. The stunning title sequence using broken statues counts as the perfect recap of the first film and Rajamouli wastes no time getting into the story only to never lose control.
There were allegations that the first half an hour or so of the film where Amarendra Baahubali is in disguise in Kuntala kingdom is a bit of a ‘bore’ till the evil plotting of Bhallala Deva and Bijala Deva (Nasseer) begins to take shape. But I disagree because this portion of the film allows us to buy the love story between Amarendra Baahubali and Devasena, who thinks the former is a commoner. It sells us the idea that their love is ‘pure’ as opposed to an arrangement of convenience between royals so when Baahubali lets go of the opportunity to be the king of the Maahishmathi Kingdom, the sacrifice feels earned. As for the silliness of the cartoonish prince Kumara Varma (Subbaraj), there is a payoff with not just his bravery but also him being pivotal when things go awry in the kingdom.
This film also heavily benefits from the chemistry between Prabhas and Anushka who take no time to sell their romance. The confrontation scenes between Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) and Devasena are some of the best scenes in Rajamouli’s filmography and they are easily the best women characters in his films. The bar isn’t high given his past but at least when he did clear it, there was some grace and dignity; there is solace in the fact that at least in his ‘biggest’ film, he was a little more mindful to avoid the usual sleaze.
Rajamouli sheds any doubts over his diminishing creativity with beautifully imagined sequences. Amarendra Baahubali’s ‘reintroduction’ early on, the ‘mating-dance-fight’ sequence between Devasena and Amarendra Baahubali when they defend Kuntala show how to add freshness to the same characters in a sequel. The melodrama surrounding the killing of Amarendra Baahubali by Kattappa, or even the callback to the interval sequence of the first film with a similar, but emotionally loaded interval sequence in this film show how to do callbacks within masala tropes. The epic final shot where the golden head of Bhalladeva falls at the base of the Shivalingam which Sivudu aka Mahendra Baahubali lifted in the first film’s opening stretch ensures that the film has a satisfying circular structure.
There is a feeling of rushed emotions and you wished Rajamouli lingered longer on the turning and regret of Sivagami over her decision to kill Baahubali, the guilt of Kattappa before his decisive action, etc. Rajamouli himself expressed this same regret in an interview with ABN’s Radha Krishna.
But this film was supposed to be the punchline to the set ups in Baahubali 1, and it was a knockout punch that cemented Rajamouli’s place in Indian film history.
1. Eega (2012)
Personally, I would say this is not just Rajamouli’s best film but this is the best masala ‘mass’ film to have come out of Indian cinema in my lifetime. Yes yes, I’m keeping in mind the Shankars, the AR Murugadosses, the Rohit Shettys and the Prashant Neels.
Just the sheer audacity of the film shows that Rajamouli can make a hero out of anything or anyone. It is almost the brash signature of a director sick of stars claiming that their ‘star’ power alone sells films and that audiences aren’t ready for experimental films.
This film which was released in 2012 shouldn’t exist. Especially as a Telugu film. Let me put that into context.
Magadheera had released a couple of years earlier and it was obvious that there wasn’t going to be any film that matches its ambition or box office records. There had been cheap imitations of the film such as Badrinath, Shakti, and Anagana O Dheerudu, but they were all rejected by the audience. There was a sense of stagnation within the industry as there were barely any films that were working that didn’t seem to take the safe route of ‘a little bit of comedy and a little bit of masala’. Mahesh Babu and Pawan Kalyan emerged as the mass star duo that would dominate the box office but they seemed to be struggling with films that were either hits but barely experimental or experiments that suffered. Smaller heroes seemed to be playing safe too and were struggling to break new ground. No new star broke out in that period. And from an audience perspective, there seemed to be little need to come to the theatres for the kind of films that were being dished out.
And then came Eega. A fly that showed not just the boldness of the imagination of its filmmaker but also that he demanded the audience to come to a theatre. Because Eega on the small screen is not the same as watching a fly flex its muscles at the villain on the big screen, that too in packed theatres.
This film has one of the simplest stories of Rajamouli’s filmography. A young man Nani (Nani) is killed by Sudeep (Sudeep) because the former is in love with a miniature art work expert Bindu (Samantha). Sudeep has his (evil) eye on the same woman. Nani is reborn as a fly to take revenge on Sudeep and protect Bindu from him.
Remember how Rajamouli said he loves films with a villain bigger and more ferocious than his hero(es)? Here he takes that principle very seriously and makes the hero as small as heroes can get. Even the casting of Nani is genius because unlike the star he is now, back then he had the perfect boy next door image. His small frame and lovable comic timing makes his death that much more gut-wrenching. Had it been any established star and the character wouldn’t have had the same effect.
The idea to make Bindu a miniature art expert is a sign that Rajamouli isn’t taking the audience’s suspension of disbelief for granted. She needs to be a miniature art expert because when there is a Rocky-esque training montage in the second half and Bindu becomes an accomplice, the audience finds it believable that this woman can help a fly build biceps and calves. Even in his most outlandish film, Rajamouli respects the audience and logic enough to sell us this crazy but thoroughly entertaining montage.
And as if to make life more challenging, Rajamouli doesn’t let the fly talk. It’s mute and at first you wonder why he chose such an arduous path. Surely a voiceover or being dubbed over by an established actor could reduce the risk inherent in the film’s premise. But then you realize he needs the fly to be mute for two of the most whistle-worthy scenes in the film – first when Nani the fly reveals to Bindhu who he really is using her tears and second during the interval sequence where the fly warns Sudeep by writing ‘I will kill you’ on his car’s windscreen . The warning from the fly is so amazing that you begin to feel sorry for the villain. That’s how epic Eega was.
It’s outrageous on paper but fully entertaining on screen. And that, to me sums up what Rajamouli’s films are about. They can be accused of many things but all of that comes from a single-minded determination to entertain the audience in a theatre. And he will do anything for that.
Even make a fly the champion of mass and masala.