With the benchmarks set so high, the South superstar was naturally nervous about his latest release Saaho. While the critics failed to be lured by the actioner, the film’s worldwide gross collection crossed 400 crores, riding solely on Prabhas’ charisma. Directed by Sujeeth, Saaho released in four languages including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi, bugled Prabhas’ debut in B-town. Tell him that he’s at par with the box-office might of the Khans and he dismisses the comparison. “No, no. I haven’t given anyone competition. It’s just that my film worked. But remember, Tendulkar will always be Tendulkar. No matter who comes after him,” he says modestly. “Sometimes, a film works wonders at the box-office. It doesn’t mean that you’re overpowering the big stars. If that was the idea, the producers wouldn’t have spent so much on the film,” he says about the UV Creations’ lavish production, Saaho, shot in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He adds, “The connect a film establishes with the audience is bigger than any star.”
The film marks Shraddha’s debut in the South industry. And the actor has only good things to say about her. “Shraddha’s a beautiful girl. She’s been so good in intense films like Aashiqui. But the intensity of drama is different from that of action. I was impressed with her action scenes. She excelled in the stunts,” he praises his co-star.
While he agrees that Baahubali was more challenging, Saaho a contemporary film had stylised action. Experts from all over the world were hired to lend authenticity to the proceedings. Reportedly, Prabhas took only 20 per cent of his share for Saaho. Ask him about it and he affirms, “Yes, because that amount can instead be used to make the film. These films require a huge budget and much research. I didn’t want to burden them with my share.” While his fans find it difficult to look away once Prabhas is on screen, the superstar himself is surprisingly shy as a person. That explains why despite being the son of famous producer, Uppalapati Surya Narayana Raju and nephew of actor/politician Krishnam Raju Uppalapati, films were never on his mind. “Given my inhibitions, my parents too feared it wouldn’t work,” he grins. His genetic predilection somehow pulled Prabhas towards the arc-lights. He debuted with the Telugu film Eeshwar in 2002. He went on to do films like Raghavendra, Barish: The Season of Love, Varsham, Chatrapathi, Yogi, Rebel and Pournami, establishing himself in the South industry.
He recalls how he had to overcome his reserve to promote the massively mounted Baahubali movies. “When it came to promoting Baahubali, I didn’t have a choice actually. People across India didn’t even know my face. I needed to show them my face,” he confides. “Basically, I’m not a good speaker. The first day we landed in Mumbai to promote Baahubali, I thought I’d get a heart attack seeing so much press. I wondered how I’d cope. It was stressful,” he chuckles adding, “I became relaxed while promoting the sequel as the previous film was a hit.”
After Saaho, Prabhas is doing a romantic film, apparently titled Jaan opposite Pooja Hegde in which he plays a palmist. Ask him if he’ll give as much to Jaan as he did to Baahubali and Saaho and he shakes his head saying, “I’m not scared of age passing me by. But it will be too much to give another four years to a big film. Even if I attempt a big film, I’ll do something else simultaneously because I have few years to play lead roles,” says the 40-year-old actor.
Prabhas has largely been associated with action.
“I did Chatrapathi (2005) with Rajamouli, an out-and-out action film. Then Bujjigadu (2008) had both action and entertainment. Darling (2010) was just a boy-girl story. We added action because the audience was used to seeing me doing it. “But in Mr Perfect (2011), I played a loser. The character was not heroic. I want to play an underdog, a common man in the future as well,” he underlines. He believes an actor must attempt all kind of genres. “Different kinds of films appeal to different audiences. If for 10 years, you do only realistic films, audiences will get bored. In Hollywood, too, they have realistic, commercial and fantasy films. But finally, it boils down to entertainment.”
Focus on his personal life then. There’s curiosity galore about his love life. Rumours of his link-up with Baahubali co-star, Anushka Shetty, have kept his fans guessing. In fact, there were reports of an impending marriage as well. “Rumours are bound to float. A few months ago, things had died down. Now, they’ve begun again,” he says shaking his head. “Anushka and I have been friends for 11 years. If there was anything between us, why would we hide it?” he retorts adding, “Until one of us gets married, I guess the rumours are not going to stop.” He can’t help praising his leading lady though. “Anushka is one of the most beautiful girls. She played Devasena. Audiences see Baahubali and her as a pair. So I don’t know how to stop these rumours.” He reasons, “If I work with Shraddha again, I’ll get linked with her as well.” He’s not averse to the idea of marriage though. “I’d like to get married someday. I had given a thought to it earlier but then I got stuck with the biggest film. But yes, I’ll definitely get married.”
Considering his cross-country popularity, he’d make for a magnetic political leader, given the precedent in the South of megastars taking that route. He refutes the possibility saying, “My uncle is a politician. For around 17 years, we’ve been part of his campaigns. I’ve seen it all closely. I’ve not enjoyed a second of it. Politics is not me.” He repeats he’s not the filmi kind either. “I enjoy being with friends and family in my comfort zone.” The reticent Prabhas is however not a reluctant star. He may be shy but he doesn’t shun the limelight. “I want people to love me,” he asserts. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have worked so hard. The idea is to impress people. Or else why would I give four years to Baahubali? Or two years to Saaho.
I want to be part of every industry, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi… Bollywood is after all the biggest.”