'Baahubali': 5 Things to Know About India's Record-Breaking Blockbuster

Bahubali Baahubali 1 H 2015

The country's most expensive film ever recorded the highest opening-weekend performance for an Indian film at the U.S. box office.

Indian epic Baahubali (The One With Strong Arms) has set box-office records both at home and abroad. 

Touted as India's most expensive film ever with an estimated $40 million budget, the first part of a planned two-part epic has become the fastest Indian film to cross the 1 billion rupee ($16 million) mark, the local standard for a strong box-office performer. According to the producers, the film's opening weekend box-office revenue reached almost $25 million (1.63 billion rupees), considered the highest for any Indian film ever. The film opened across 4,650 screens worldwide.

Baahubali also recorded the highest opening weekend ever for an Indian film at the U.S. box office, collecting $3 million, according to Rentrak, landing in the 11th spot. According to the producers, Baahubali also picked up another $1.4 million from Thursday preview shows.

Hailed as India's “biggest” film in its posters, here are five things to know about Baahubali, which The Hollywood Reporter review described as "epic entertainment for those with a taste for swords, sandals and saris."

1. The Movie Puts the Spotlight on South India's Film Industry
While most attention from people abroad typically goes to Bollywood, or the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai, the South Indian film industry based in Chennai and Hyderabad is quite dynamic and has its fair share of stars. Baahubali's success has put the spotlight on talent from this region as the film was shot at Hyderabad's Ramoji Studios.

A well-known name in the Telegu language industry, Baahubali director S.S. Rajamouli has previously delivered award-winning blockbusters in the form of 2009's Magadheera and 2012's Eega. Baahubali's success has also put the spotlight on the film's cast featuring actors Rana Daggubati and Prabhas, and actresses Anushka Shetty and Tamannaah Bhatia.

Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur, who started out directing acclaimed Bollywood titles such as 1987's Mr India, praised Baahubali in a tweet. "Film makers from South India are showing far more courage than the North," he said. "Where are the courageous film makers like @ssrajamouli in Mumbai?"
2. It Showcases VFX Prowess
South Indian films are also known to push the envelope in terms of visual effects, and Baahubali is seen as a game changer, raising the bar for Indian films.

Baahubali's lead VFX supervisor V. Srinivas Mohan is a three-time national award winner with credits including Tamil director Shankar's hits I and Enthiran (Robot).

The production was farmed out between 17 VFX companies and other individual artists. Hyderabad-based Makuta VFX and Firefly Visual Effects handled the film's key sequences. Overseas VFX companies included Los Angeles-based Tau Films, China's Dancing Digital and Part 3 and South Korea's Macro Graph, which worked on a majority of the movie's war sequences.

Some local reports claimed that the production also involved VFX technicians who worked on Jurassic World. But Baahubali producer Shobu Yarlagadda tells The Hollywood Reporter that "these are just some Internet rumors."

3. There Has Been Debate About When and Where the Story Is Set
Given that the film is an epic that Rajamouli has described as a tribute to the Mahabharata, one of two primary sanskrit texts of ancient India, one of the obvious questions raised by some critics is in which time period the story is set. Like the Mahabharata, Baahubali also revolves around the story of a dynastic struggle. 

Yarlagadda tells THR: "It is set in a completely fictitious kingdom and era. But for reference, we looked at the period before the invention of gunpowder or fire power."

A bit of Googling indicates that the invention of gunpowder is usually attributed to China and that it was probably invented during the Tang Dynasty in the ninth century.

4. Baahubali Invents a New Language
In what is another first for an Indian film, an original language was invented for Baahubali, like those created for the Dothraki in Game of Thrones or the Elvish language from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Baahubali's language, Kiliki, was invented by the film's writer-lyricist Madhan Karky and is said to be made up of about 750 words with its own set of 40 grammar rules.

The language was invented for the film's terrifying warrior tribe, the Kalakeya.

5. Baahubali Is Expected to Get a Film Museum
Baahubali is scheduled to have a film museum showcasing the film's sets, weapons, artillery, costumes and props. That would also be a first for India.

"We are in discussion with Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, where most of the film was shot, to create a museum and also convert one of the major sets that was erected there into a tourism attraction," Yarlagadda tells THR.

He adds: "This could be ready before or just after the release of Baahubali's sequel [scheduled for 2016]."