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!

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