Prabhas: Something very beautiful happened in my life after Baahubali
Still reeling under the success of the fantasy, Prabhas says SS Rajamouli's venture gave him more than he expected
It is in sun-drenched Los Angeles that South superstar Prabhas is currently unwinding. The filming of his trilingual thriller, Saaho, behind him, a sense of relief is evident as he reflects on his journey over the past two years. It is indeed the Shraddha Kapoor and Neil Nitin Mukesh starrer that occupied his life over the past few months, but Prabhas is still basking in the aftermath of the success of Baahubali, a venture that made him popular, not only in Bollywood, but world over. "Something very beautiful happened in my life [after Baahubali]," Prabhas says in an interview to GQ magazine for the publication's January issue. "It has given [me] something [that is] 10,000 times more than what I did before. Or, even more than that."
The mammoth success of SS Rajamouli's venture placed it among the highest-grossing Indian films of 2017. Giving tough competition to Hindi outings, the Telugu epic shook the rigid pan-Indian cinema hierarchies. Prabhas himself took home a whopping R45 crore for the dual series, finding himself a spot alongside the highest-earning Telugu actors. Yet, when the discussion around financial stability crops up, the actor doesn't fail to reflect on a past where money was often a concern. Growing up, he recalls, his father, Telugu producer Uppalapati Raju, often faced financial troubles, "like most producers do". "I went to college in buses," he says, kicking off one Manchester United slipper to cross his left leg. "[Given] my family background, that was big, you know? When I went in the bus, people [said], 'Yeah, he's from a very big family,'" he recalls, adding, "So, these things helped me work harder."
It's taken 17 films for the actor to achieve the stardom that he enjoys today. Yet, it is with utmost lucidity that he recalls watching his first film with his family on the big screen. In 2002, a doe-eyed Prabhas, then 22, was offered a role in the small-budget venture, Eeswar, which was shot on an ancient analog camera. Today, the actor describes the experience of watching himself on the 70mm screen for the first time as "surreal." "My mother and sister were sitting on [either] side of me. We were holding hands and watching [the film]... It didn't do so well, but, we didn't know until then if it's good or amazing or what... It was very emotional."
Even though he enjoys the unwavering adulation of his fans, Prabhas is uncertain about how his career will pan out. "After this, I don't know where I'm going," he says, adding, "It's frightening to make fans happy... [They] have unconditional love." While he is still comprehending his career graph, the actor has his retirement plans in order. He dreams of fishing, and when the film industry finally lets him go, he will buy a property outside Hyderabad, rope in friends, and put his learning on aquaculture to use. But, for now, he's South India's biggest star since Rajinikanth, and Tollywood would rather he stay exactly where he is.