We all have grown up reading larger than life stories of kings and queens, princes and princesses, gods and goddesses and so, on through fairy tales, Amar ChitraKatha comics or purely through word of mouth stories being passed around for generations from our great grandparents to our generation. Why just in India, a good fairy tale or a historical tale set in the golden days gone past evokes an eager audience everywhere in the world as the child in us still seeks a fascinating story of victory of good over evil or about a monarch or queen who hascaught our imagination through their riches, wealth, kingdom and lavish lifestyles. Think Cleopatra or Elizabeth or Braveheart in Hollywood or Mughal-e-Azam, Bahubali, Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani or even the recent dud Mohen-jo-daro closer home in Bollywood.
With the Bahubali II trailer having just being released, audience excitement mounts and the anticipation to discover as to why Katappa killed Bahubali is on full brim. The 2015 release, marketed under Karan Johar’sgrand Dharma banner was made at a budget of Rs 120 crore (1.2 billion), and went on to become the highest grossing Indian film within India, besides earning the title of third highest grossing Indian film globally. Actually, it was the first and only South Indian film directed by S. S. Rajamouli to gross over Rs 650 crore (6.5 billion) worldwide. So much is the frenzy around the sequel that a three-part book, entitled ‘Bahubali: The Untold Story’ has already been released for those curious to read the story in its entirety. Fans have gone on to compare it to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies and just cannot wait to see part two!
Of course Bollywood is known for its period dramas right from the K Asif directed Mughal-e-Azam starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor. Conceievd in 1944, the film took more than 15 years in making and was eventually released only in 1960. Narrating the doomed love story of Mughal Prince Saleem (Dilip Kumar), who falls in love with a courtesan (Madhubala), only to be strongly opposed by Saleem’sfather Emperor Akbar, the lavishly mounted sets in those days, particularly the Sheesh Mahal created for the Pyarkiya to darna kya song, literally drew thunderous applause from audience whenever it was played on screen.
Recent years have seen a revival of period based movies in Bollywood after a lull. Ashutosh Gawarikar directed Jodhaa Akbar in 2008 was amongst the fairly successful period dramas that depicted the love story and marital life of King Akbar and his Rajput queen Jodhaa. The main protagonists were played by the Adonis-like HritikRoshan and the queen by the stunning Aishwarya Rai Bachchan whose chemistry left cinegoers enthralled, not to forget the grand sets, stupendous war scenes, and aw-inspiring expensive jewels and costumes and plenty of arms and armour that were especially crafted to lend authenticity to the film. Deemed as a moderate hit, the movie had its cult following amongst those who loved its Sufi music and story.
And then came Bajirao Mastaani, Sanjay LeelaBhansali’s magnum opus in 2015 which became one of the highest grossers of all times, with collections touching some Rs 350 crores. What started as a dream project after his Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam became a huge hit in 1999, his original lead pair of Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai fell through owing to personal reasons and the film got stalled. Until 2014, when Bhansali cast Ranveer Singh as Bajirao, the luminous beauty Deepika Padukone as his Mastaani and Priyanka Chopra as Kashiba, Bajirao’s first wife. Ranveer’s killer physique and Deepika’s grace, costumes and mesmerizing beauty, besides her near-perfect portrayal of Mastani made the movie rake up a frenzy. Truly, the period drama had been revived and on a scale that had been unimaginable a few decades ago.
The same year also saw Bahubali leaving audiences spellbound, not just in India, but all over the world. A good story enacted by actors and actresses with perfectly toned and well-maintained physiques and with so much thought, planning and detailing going into every aspect of filming has made this genre much sought-after.
With Bahubali 2 around the corner and ‘Padmavati’ in the making one thing is almost certain that period films are here to stay.