Before the phenomenal success of the Baahubali franchise, Telugu superstar Prabhas had a 15-year-long career. He has a variety of characters to his name. He’s played the soft romantic lead in films like Mr Perfect and Darling, an action hero in Mirchi and Rebel, and then, for five straight years, he immersed himself in SS Rajamouli’s epic. From learning sword-fighting and horse-riding to convincing audiences that he could wrestle bulls with his bare hands and scale elephant trunks, the actor lived the character. With the kind of films Prabhas has done in the recent past, he has established himself as one of the most sought-after actors in India.

His latest film Radhe Shyam, directed by Radha Krishna Kumar, released in theatres on March 11. In the film, he is playing a palmist Vikramaditya who falls in love with Prerna (Pooja Hegde) and fights against destiny to safeguard her. In an exclusive interview with Man’s World, Prabhas talks about pan-India films, his recent release, life after Baahubali, and more. Excerpts from the interview: 

How difficult was it to complete Radhe Shyam during the pandemic?

It was like a small-scale war. Because it is a retro film, a period drama, of the kind we had never shot before, we had to recreate different eras in different countries. We had to run to different countries three times and stop the shoot, come back run back again to India. Then when the pandemic receded, we went back. But had to come back midway, then go back again. So, like I said it was like going through a whole war.  I am thankful to the Italian government and especially the people of Georgia. They really helped us.

What were your expectations from Radhe Shyam?

I wanted this love story to be a hit as that encourages me to again try something different. I know the audience wants lots of action from me.

You play a diehard romantic in the movie. Are you a romantic in real life?

I think I am romantic (laughs). I think others who know me would be a better judge of whether I am a romantic or not. As far as Radhe Shyam is concerned, the director Radha Krishna Kumar designed the film as such that every frame creates romance. Love is everything for me, especially the love of my fans.

You and the producers of Radhe Shyam were determined to wait it out and release the film in theatres, no matter how long it took. Were you confident to get the numbers of Baahubali this time?

No no. Baahubali was a much bigger film in size, scale, and budget and it was in two parts. Even now, the magic of Baahubali lingers. Radhe Shyam is just a love story. I don’t aim to beat the records of Baahubali or anything. I just want the audience to come and have fun.

Do you think Baahubali has become a hard-to-beat benchmark in your career?

It changed my life and career completely and I am really thankful for that. My family and fans are also very happy about Baahubali. Yes, it’s a benchmark. But I can’t do that again. I am just trying to make films that would entertain and hopefully not disappoint the audience.

We’re going towards a direction where pan-India films are being loved by the audience. Do you feel there’s more pressure and competition now? How are you planning to go about it?

Yes, it’s a lot of pressure. When you have a big budget film or have big directors to back the film, it’s still better but I like taking risks, exploring new things. Working on commercial films is always a better option but I don’t want to restrict myself. I get excited when I am doing something new. After Baahubali, it’s a lot of responsibility to reach the audience across the globe. It’s taking time for people to accept me riding a bike in a leather jacket.

It’s been five years since Baahubali’s release but it still defines you. Do you think that’s an added responsibility and does that bother you in any way?

Something magical happened after Baahubali and it was like a dream come true. The film has set a benchmark. It changed my life and career completely and I am really thankful for that. It’s a big responsibility now and I don’t want to disappoint my audience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a film. I now want people to experience something new and entertain the audience. I am just trying to make films that would entertain and hopefully not disappoint the audience. Actors don’t always have to make Rs 500 crore and that’s alright. 

Do you think we are ready for many Pan-India films?

It’s hard. We are still experimenting and making a lot of Indian films. Maybe after a few years, we’ll understand how to do it. When it comes to Pan-India films, it’s a mix of script, actors, publicity, directors, songs, and we are still understanding things. 

What are your other projects?

I am doing Adipurush which will release on January 12, 2023. Then Salaar and Project K. I have Sandeep Vanga’s Spirit. I am also going to announce a comedy soon. I will be announcing one more film after that.

All your co-actors keep talking about the food that you bring to the sets. Are you a foodie in real life?

I am a foodie. But since I am in this profession, I have watched my diet. I became a vegan which my mother didn’t like. But what to do? If I get a chance to play a character who is a foodie, I will grab it with both hands.