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Opinion: Has Radhe Shyam actor Prabhas' stardom post Baahubali come at a price?

We take a look at Prabhas' career before Baahubali and what about him we miss the most in Saaho and Radhe Shyam

Opinion: Has Radhe Shyam actor Prabhas' stardom post Baahubali come at a price?
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 07.16 PM, Mar 11, 2022


There was something very magnetic about Prabhas' on-screen presence in his career before and even till the Baahubali series. He was effortless, spontaneous and most importantly, having fun when he was on the screen. He wasn't trying hard to be cool, had a personality he could call his own and an identity unique to him. Switching from his casual humour to trademark sarcasm to his intensity in action, audiences got to witness many dimensions of the star in his career before Baahubali. 

While Varsham was his first major commercial success, it was Chatrapathi that established him as a force to reckon with. For every Billa that Prabhas did, there was a Bujjigadu where he unleashed the mass entertainer in him, the energy and enthusiasm were just unmistakable. Pournami and Chakram too, despite their commercial failures, proved that there was a serious performer beneath the star. Darling, Mr Perfect presented the star in a lighthearted avatar and his ease in pulling off the vibe needed for rom-coms. 

If we were to name one film that presented Prabhas' strengths as an actor like a complete package, it's hard to go beyond Mirchi. Writer, director Koratala Siva may not have reinvented the wheel with the story of Mirchi though he knew everything about exploiting the best-possible dimensions of his male lead. Prabhas is at his charming best in a masala potboiler like Mirchi that's tailormade for him. Right from his humour to dance to his understanding of emotions, every memory of Prabhas in Mirchi is sure to bring a smile to the face of his fans.

Director SS Rajamouli, with Baahubali, gave Prabhas the wings to fly yet again after Chatrapathi. It takes a lot of conviction for an actor to not sign any film for five years straight and submit himself to his master like a sincere disciple. The results showed in both the parts of the Baahubali franchise, more so in the second one, that showcased his sensitive side beyond his bravura with the larger-than-life action sequences. The horizons for the actor just expanded to a different level with the global success of the actioner.

For an actor content with entertaining his home base (Telugu audiences and knew their pulse to the T), the post-Baahubali phase, the national star-image must have felt like a pedestal he may not have been ready for. Make no mistake, the global fame of the actor is a badge that a lot of fans continue to wear with an element of pride. Yet, there's a reason why it's time and again proved that success is more difficult to handle than failure.

Every major star in Indian cinema has faced the dilemma of choosing the right projects after a massive success. Chiranjeevi experienced it in the 90s post the Gangleader phase, Pawan Kalyan had to go through the same after Khushi and so did Mahesh Babu after Pokiri. Yet in these cases, the stars were mostly focused on doing Telugu films alone. With Prabhas, the additional challenge of striking a chord with the Hindi-speaking belt added to the pressure. 

Moving beyond his strengths in home terrain and trying to unlock the myth behind his success wouldn't have been easy for Prabhas after Baahubali. There's no doubt that Saaho would've been a much better film if the main target was to reach out to Telugu audiences alone. Yet it was made to cater to the sensibilities of a wider audience. Therein lies the dilemma. What are their tastes like? Whether it's safe to break away from an image or try something new? Pushing your boundaries beyond one industry comes with a price.

Surprisingly enough, Saaho commercially performed better in the Hindi version than in Telugu or all other languages put together. What did Prabhas make of this? It's hard to know. Many fingers were pointed at how it wasn't the right choice to rope in a one-film old director like Sujeeth and bring actors from various industries without really offering them anything meaty. Yet, one needs to understand that it's humanly impossible for an actor to please all audiences after a monster like Baahubali. Saaho, despite its faults, was also a victim of hype and excessive expectation.

Prabhas was clear that he had to break away from his action image for the time being and unveil the romantic in him for a wider audience. The choice was always going to be a gamble given his mass image but those who know what he did with Mr Perfect, Darling and Mirchi remained confident. Yet again a budget of over Rs 300 crore and another one-film old Radha Krishna Kumar, Prabhas placed his bet on Radhe Shyam. And the result wasn't flattering, to say the least.

Even the most loyal of Prabhas fans will agree that the star was no longer at his agile best in Saaho and Radhe Shyam. He looked tired, as if suggesting that the stardom was turning out to be a heavy cross to bear. This has affected his acting considerably and most visibly, his dialogue delivery. The joi de vivre in his screen presence was amiss and one couldn't call Prabhas a charmer anymore. What is even harder for the star and fans is that he had invested over 6 years in both films.

Given the pace at which he's been signing films after Radhe Shyam shows that he's seeking a change. He's wrapped up shooting for Adipurush, Salaar and is already shooting for Project K with Nag Ashwin. He has also signed a film with Sandeep Reddy Vanga that's due to begin in 2023. He had okayed Maruthi's horror-comedy recently too. Each of the films belongs to a different genre and Prabhas' aggressive approach proves he is no longer waiting for things to happen. One can't wait to see how he moves past this tricky passage in his career.