Prabhas: The rise and decline of the ‘Baahubali’ star

Here’s an overview of how Rebel Star Prabhas has gone from a strong force to a pale shadow of himself, post-‘Baahubali’.

Prabhas made his debut with Jayanth C Paranjee’s Eeswar in 2002. He has been part of over 20 films to date. His most famous projects include Varsham (2004), Chatrapathi (2005), Darling (2010), Mr Perfect (2011), Mirchi (2013), and of course the Baahubali (2015 & 2017) films.

Of the 20-plus films, only eight are hits at the box office. The rest of them have either done average business like his first film Eeswar or have been complete disasters like Munna, Yogi, and Rebel.

So, it is not that Prabhas hasn’t seen flops before, but his once magnetic screen presence has seen a total dip after the world-famous Baahubali. Also, the actor has become too macho leaving little or no space for other emotions like vulnerability.

Machoism and sentiment

His debut film Eeswar was a typical “rich girl loves poor boy” story filled with all the clichés that we associate with the genre. Despite this, he made an impressive debut, for there was certain ease in his acting.

There was a time when Prabhas made efforts to cater equally to both masses and classes. For example, SS Rajamouli’s action-drama Chatrapathi was meant to make him the darling of the masses.

The director presented him as macho, but there were also some solid emotional moments beneath all that action. Prabhas more than stood his own, even opposite a senior actress like Bhanupriya. His scenes with over-the-top Shafi also showed a different side of the actor.

Romance and action

In Varsham and Mirchi, the Rebel Star struck a perfect balance between a romantic and an action hero. His romantic scenes with both Trisha and Anushka Shetty respectively had many adorable moments.

In between, he also tried his hand with a classy period film like Pournami (2006).  Of course, it also had its share of action scenes. But there is also a hugely vulnerable side of Prabhas, especially in his scenes with Trisha.

Pournami wasn’t a blockbuster when it was released but it continues to be a film that is remembered fondly by the class audiences.

The likes of Mr Perfect and Darling, on the other hand, established Prabhas as an out-and-out lover boy. Contrary to the title Mr Perfect, his character Vicky isn’t flawless. There are times when he comes across as too selfish. But Prabhas managed well to balance the different shades of his character.

The Baahubali films directed by Rajamouli, of course, took the stardom of Prabhas to a different level. Baahubali 1&2 allowed him to portray different shades — a fierce warrior, a righteous prince who stands up for his beliefs, a loving husband, etc.

But, since then, things are on downhill with Saaho (2019), Radhe Shyam (2022) and the latest Adipurush (2023). There could be multiple reasons for these disasters, but the chief reason is they did not match up to the expectations after Baahubali.

In the case of Saaho, director Sujeeth made a mess of what was essentially a revenge drama with an underworld background. The plot was convoluted unnecessarily with too many characters.

Sujeeth tried to show some 50 shades of Prabhas. But in the process, the style took over substance. Chunky Pandey as Devraj was the only actor in the supporting cast who made any impression.

As for the Baahubali-star, he comes across as rather bored for most of the movie. There is a lazy attitude that we see in the actor and this makes Sahoo even worse. The close-up shots did not exactly help either.

Radhe Shyam: Another debacle

Radhe Shyam directed by Radha Krishna Kumar was an interesting attempt given that it is a love story where there are no human villains. You don’t have any action scenes where Prabhas takes on the baddies. Here, it is fate that plays spoilsport.

And the conflicts arise from his destiny, not his fellow human beings. Though Radhe Shyam was a complete departure from Saaho in many ways, the box office result was the same.

To the credit of Prabhas, he did put in a sincere performance. But the romantic side wasn’t as convincing as in Mr Perfect. He did try to rise above the muddled script.

The biggest reason behind Radhe Shyam’s failure was the lack of clarity on the part of director Radha Krishna Kumar. It was not clear at any point whether he was supporting science or astrology. It also didn’t help that Prabhas and Pooja Hedge’s chemistry was far from convincing.

Adipurush: More of a video game

Now to the latest Adipurush. Om Raut’s take on the Ramayana is something that writer Valmiki would cringe at. With the weird tonality that the director adopted Adipurush became more of a video game than the story of Lord Rama.

Apart from the lapses in the story, the performance of Prabhas was also rather laboured. There was no attempt on his part to get into the headspace of Rama. The actor treated it as any other mainstream character.

The magnetic presence associated with the actor is also completely missing in this film. His broad frame did not help in any way. Forget about NT Rama Rao, even others who acted as Rama fared much better.

And now, for the Baahubali actor to return to form, he needs to do two things seriously — choosing his scripts wisely and getting rid of his laziness in acting.

Let’s hope that his forthcoming Salaar and Project K would bring out the better version of the actor!

Adipurush: Prabhas’s Latest Outing Is A Misfire Of Epic Proportions

In spite of all the resources available, Om Raut has delivered an absolutely subpar film that makes a mockery of the ‘Ramayana’.

Prabahs-starrer Adipurush was one of the most keenly anticipated movies of this year. It was expected to be a mega-comeback for the actor.

However, since the release of its teaser, it has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons more often than for the right ones.

Only the songs have managed to create some buzz. Unfortunately for Prabhas, Adipurush is going to be another severe setback after Saaho (2019) and Radhe Shyam (2022).

A subpar film

In spite of all the resources available, director Om Raut has delivered an absolutely subpar film that makes a mockery of the Ramayana.

Om Raut made a smashing Bollywood debut with his first film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020). Ajay Devgn played the title role in it.

Saif Ali Khan was the chief antagonist, playing Aurangzeb’s trusted guard Udaybhan Singh Rathore.

In spite of its hyper-nationalism, Tanhaji still worked primarily because of the performances, and also the scale on which Om Raut mounted the film.

I won’t go into the story of Adipurush as Ramayana is an epic that needs no introduction. So, let’s delve straight into the analysis.

Before getting into the negatives, it is necessary to mention the few positives that Adipurush has.

To give credit where it is due, the music and the background score do manage to pump in the much-required emotions.

The movie begins with the wonderful song “Ram Siya Ram“. Manoj Muntashir’s lyrics coupled with his singing make the track an absolute winner.

Jai Shri Ram” has a robust energy which makes the audience sit up.

The background score done by Ajay-Atul and Sachet-Parampara is rousing.

A particular mention must be made of the background score whenever Saif Ali Khan’s Raavan comes on screen.

Saif as Raavan

Saif Ali Khan clearly has a ball playing Raavan and it shows in every scene. Thanks to his strong screen presence, the actor brings a certain energy that uplifts the film considerably.

Yes, the part does remind you of Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji in Padmaavat (2018) and also Saif’s own Udaybhan Singh Rathore. But still, there is no denying the impact of Saif.

Saif has always been at his best when not playing the typical hero and this thunderous performance is proof of that.

Vatsal Seth as Indrajeet deserves a mention. He makes a striking impact in spite of his limited screen time.

Too many flaws

Coming to the shortcomings, Prabhas and Kriti Sanon are easily the weakest links of Adipurush.

The success of the Baahubali films (2015 & 2017) has changed the fortunes of Prabhas, both positively and negatively.

On one hand, it has opened new doors for the actor. But the expectations have also risen many folds.

An important part of his success has always been his magnetic screen presence but that charisma was nowhere visible in both Saaho and Radhe Shyam, particularly the former.

Here, too, Prabhas comes across as rather dull. At no point does he succeed in making the audiences feel that he is Rama, the Ideal Man/God that crores of people in this country worship.

It is very clear that the actor has treated this role as any other mainstream character. At no point does he get into the headspace of Rama.

Kriti Sanon as Sita

Kriti Sanon, on the other hand, does suffer from a sketchy characterisation. She is largely absent in the second half. Even when she is there, she comes across as bland.

Much like Prabhas, Kriti has also failed to internalise her character.

The chemistry required between Prabhas and Kriti Sanon is completely absent.

Weak characterisation

The characterisations of the “Vanar Sena” also leave a lot to be desired. The accent of Devdatta Nage’s Hanuman, in particular, is rather jarring.

Om Raut has tried to give Hanuman a modern touch, but the dialogues are completely out of sync with what viewers generally expect from Hanuman.

Poor VFX

The VFX is another big disaster. Adipurush is a film that is supposed to have been made on a budget of ₹600 crore. But as viewers, you wonder where the budget went.

In spite of the flaws in the story, Brahmastra (2022) was at least a visual spectacle. But the graphics in Adipurush seems to have been designed by amateurs.

The battle scenes, in particular, are both laughable and exhausting. They test the viewers’ patience to the optimum. One wishes to see the end as quickly as possible.

Final take

A runtime of almost three hours makes things worse for Adipurush. Instead of being an epic tale, it turns out to be an epic bore.

(Views expressed are personal.)