Animation prelude for ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ sets high expectations

Telugu cinema embraces animation as a new storytelling frontier; thanks to 'Bujji & Bhairava' and 'Baahubali: Crown of Blood'.

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi

Published Jun 10, 2024 | 2:22 PMUpdatedJun 10, 2024 | 8:28 PM

Baahubali: Crown of Blood and Bujji & Bhairava

Baahubali’s world cannot be condensed into two films, which is why SS Rajamouli chose to make it a franchise—Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017).

Rajamouli was the first Indian filmmaker to think about storytelling beyond cinema and saw vast potential in other avenues such as comic books, action figures, and animated series, among others.

Recently, he promoted the Disney+ Hotstar animated series Baahubali: Crown of Blood (2024) in Hyderabad. In a media interaction, the filmmaker explained why he thought this animated series was the right step forward for his Baahubali franchise.

Baahubali: Crown of Blood–an animated series from the world of Baahubali–was released on Disney+Hotstar last month.

In the past, Baahubali was turned into comic books, games, and a VR film. Speaking at the press meet, Rajamouli said that he knows there’s an audience for animation.

SS Rajamouli

SS Rajamouli. (Facebook)

“As filmmakers, we need to explore all mediums and can’t restrict ourselves. There is also a good chunk of the world population that likes books, novels, games, and anime. We need to start thinking about how we take our story to them. Unfortunately, we can’t think beyond film mediums. We are still talking about the cliffhanger moments in films. That mindset needs to change.”

As the makers of Prabhas’s Kalki 2898 AD unveiled an animated prelude, B&B: Bujji & Bhairava (2024), South First spoke to trade pundits to understand if the animation will be explored as an alternate medium of storytelling going forward.

Following the grand launch of the life-size vehicle, Bujji (voiced by Keerthy Suresh) at an event in Hyderabad, the two-episode series gives audiences a glimpse into the world of Kalki and the bond that Bhairava and Bujji share.

Beyond storytelling

Trade analyst Trinath said the decision to explore animation as a medium for storytelling will entirely depend on the scale of the story. “Baahubali and Kalki 2898 AD as stories are vast, and they have so much scope to be carried forward into different story formats. Therefore, it made sense for these films to explore other avenues of storytelling.”

He further added, “It depends on the story. Both Baahubali and Kalki have elements of fantasy that could be extended into other format stories. For instance, Rajamouli sir could tomorrow make a stand-alone film or series on the character of Kattappa. You can’t think of exploring different avenues with a regular film.” Shobu Yarlagadda, producer of Baahubali films, said that when you think of getting people into your world in different ways, these kinds of ideas are born.

A poster of the series Baahubali The Crown of Blood

‘Baahubali The Crown of Blood’ poster. (X)

“We always saw the world of Baahubali as a story with multiple parts that could become one big tentpole franchise. When we think of engagement, we wanted people to come into the world of Baahubali in multiple ways.”

Another producer said exploring other avenues of storytelling would make sense when you want to tap into a newer set of audiences.

Also read: ‘Kalki 2898-AD’ is made for international audiences, says Prabhas

“When we take the biggest of our blockbusters and look at the total number of footfalls, it won’t even cross 10 crore people. Taking the world population into consideration, you can use these avenues to cater to a new set of audiences. When you turn a story into a comic book and position it well, you can tap into newer markets which you could probably never penetrate with films.”

Engaging with newer audience 

A poster of the series Bujji and Bhairava

‘Bujji and Bhairava’ poster. (X)

Quoting the example of B&B: Bujji & Bhairava, he said, “This show is like a precursor to the movie. It prepares audiences to set their expectations right. Given that Kalki 2898 AD is such a massive film, this show becomes a great marketing move to create good buzz. This is the only way you reach people and demographics that you don’t sit in a room and try to target.”

Following the launch event of B&B: Bujji & Bhairava, distributor Janardhan said that the anticipation around the release of Kalki 2898 AD has grown exponentially.

“Till about a few weeks ago, people were wondering how the team of Kalki was going to market their film. The launch event of Bujji, the futuristic car, was a smash hit. The show has served as the perfect introduction to the world of Kalki,” he said.

It stars Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Deepika Padukone, Disha Patani, and Pasupathy among others. Directed by Nag Ashwin, the film has been produced by Vyjayanthi Movies.

Bhairava works as a bounty hunter, while Bujji serves as the AI pilot of a cargo ship. Both encounter setbacks in their journeys, leading to an unexpected partnership that sets the stage for adventure. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the first two episodes of the animation series serve as a prelude to Kalki 2898 AD.

The film, produced on a massive budget of over ₹600 crore, is gearing up for release on 27 June.

Two episodes, each just over 14 minutes long, introduce viewers to the world of Kalki.

The animated series immerses viewers in a dystopian cityscape, featuring a sprawling scrapyard and the potential to construct robotic machines from scratch.

A few weeks ago, Vyjayanthi Films introduced the custom-made car, Bujji. In this introduction, we catch a glimpse of Bhairava’s creative process in designing the car powered by Bujji, as well as a sneak peek at various other characters, including one portrayed by Pasupathy.

Two additional episodes of Bujji & Bhairava will be available for streaming after the theatrical release of Kalki 2898 AD.

Also read: Prabhas unveils futuristic car Bujji from ‘Kalki 2898-AD’ in Hyderabad