It’s being called Indian cinema’s crowning glory.
“Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” has taken $65 million in its first five days at the box office, according to independent sales monitors.
That makes it the highest-netting movie in India ever, and the film has also taken in an additional $19 million overseas and placed third in the US weekend box office.
“The first day record, the weekend record, the first extended weekend record, it has broken all possible records and it will continue to break them,” said Komal Nahta, an expert on the Indian movie industry.
Rise of the south
“Baahubali 2” is an epic fantasy that follows a prince who discovers his royal heritage and sets out to reclaim his kingdom. It features lavish costumes, huge sets and extensively choreographed fight scenes.
But while it might seem to have all the markers, “Baahubali 2” is not a Bollywood movie.
The movie is a production of the Southern India-based film industry centered on the Telugu language known as “Tollywood.” It’s being distributed in multiple other languages — Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and English.
“It basically carpet-bombed shows from north to south, east to west,” said southern Indian film industry tracker Ramesh Bala.
The sequel has already beaten records set by the original “Baahubali,” which brought in about $77 million in total.
Analysts said its dominance shows the global ascendance of the southern Indian movie industry.
There were around 830 southern Indian movies released in 2012, accounting for more than half of all films certified for release in India that year — the most recent for which statistics are available — according to the Film Federation of India.
With stars like action hero Rajinikanth and hits under its belt, the industry is willing to invest more in bigger and bigger productions, Bala said: “They go to Hollywood and take the technicians from LA, they’re willing to spend the money.”
There are also other reasons for the increasing popularity of southern movies, where there is a strong cinema-going culture and strong fan followings, according to Bala.
“It’s about people appreciating India’s multiple industries,” he said. “People do differentiate Bollywood versus the south.”
Bringing Hollywood to India
In the past, Indian films have been known for having cheap, low-quality special effects.
But that’s starting to change. “Baahubali 2” is the most computer-graphics-intensive movie shot in India, according to film producer Shobu Yarlagadda, using about 2,500 CG shots. This made up about 85% of the movie.
The studio that created its effects has a branch in the southern city of Hyderabad.
Special effects don’t come cheap, however. The combined budget for the two Baahubali films was $75 million.
“Everyone who’s watching the film is coming out and saying that they’ve watched a Hollywood film,” said Nahta.
And that budget is due to be blown out of the water by the upcoming “Randamoozham,” a $155 million-budget fantasy epic based on the Sanskrit poem the “Mahabharata.”
At 1.8 million words and nearly 10 times the length of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” combined, the “Mahabharata” is the longest poem ever written.
“Randamoozham” is set to be India’s most expensive film ever and another sign that its film industry is reaching new heights.