Eega turns 12: Revisiting the tale of heroism and a housefly

During the Oscar campaign for 'RRR' in 2022, 'Eega' received a standing ovation after its screening at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles.

ByS Subhakeerthana

Published Jul 06, 2024 | 11:18 AM Updated Jul 06, 2024 | 12:11 PM

SS Rajamouli's Eega was a sensation upon its release in 2012

There is a housefly that desires the blood of this man. By constantly buzzing around, disrupting his sleep, distracting him on the road, and ultimately disturbing his peace of mind, he annoys this human being.

The housefly isn’t just an ordinary insect; but SS Rajamouli’s superhero!

The initial excitement surrounding the film—focused on a housefly—persisted throughout its year-long production. Upon the release of Eega (2012), few could have imagined that a reincarnated housefly would generate such a buzz, quite literally. The film takes the audience on an exciting journey of humour and revenge.

It’s fair to say that Eega set a new standard for visual effects and animation in Indian cinema.

The Telugu movie showcased to urban Indian viewers that Indian filmmakers and production houses can achieve impressive visual appeal and advanced computer graphics—even with budgets much lower than those typically seen in Hollywood—despite their regular exposure to Hollywood films.

Narrated as a bedtime story, Eega revolves around Nani (played by Nani), who loves his neighbour Bindu (Samantha). After being murdered by wealthy industrialist Sudeep (Kichcha Sudeep), who also desires Bindu, Nani is reincarnated as a housefly.

Discovering his past love for Bindu, Nani seeks revenge and aims to protect her from the obsessive Sudeep.

An extraordinary housefly

Kichcha Sudeep played an antagonist in the blockbuster film

Kichcha Sudeep played an antagonist in the blockbuster film. (X)

Here, the protagonist is a housefly. He’s unstoppable. A powerful force to reckon with. It’s remarkable how we cheer for the housefly just like we root for our favourite cricketer in a match. Rajamouli achieves this consistently, ensuring there’s never a dull moment in the film.

We feel a range of emotions with the housefly. Once it gains human qualities, we enter a realm of fantasy, free from realism.

Even today, when Eega is aired on television, it immerses you in such a profound experience that nothing else seems to count.

A good film should do the same magic everywhere, whether it’s viewed on a large cinema screen or a smartphone. Eega fits perfectly into this category. It’s not just about the grand spectacle but the subtleties of storytelling.

This extraordinary fly far surpasses the expectations of an ordinary one. He exercises; engages in conversations with Samantha’s character at a café; menacingly writes “I will kill you” on a windshield, and touchingly inscribes “Nenu Nani” in Telugu on a dining table using the heroine’s tears. Who wouldn’t be charmed by this adorable little fellow?

We have Nani’s tragic love story on one side and action comedy on the other. Rajamouli crafts Sudeep as Eega’s perfect adversary with a mad twist. The fly even cools off in a glass of iced tea, mind you!

Each time the housefly is knocked down, he rises stronger, like a phoenix. It is incredible how Rajamouli masterfully blends the visceral excitement of a video game with the heart of a love story, presenting it as a bedtime fable in cinematic language.

Also Read: Prithviraj to play antagonist in Rajamouli-Mahesh Babu’s SSMB29?

A magical fantasy from Rajamouli

Kichcha Sudeep, Nani, and SS Rajamouli on the sets of Eega

Kichcha Sudeep, Nani, and SS Rajamouli on the sets of ‘Eega’. (X)

Eega distinguishes itself with its unique take on the reincarnation theme. It’s perhaps the only film where the protagonist dies early on and is reborn into a character who seamlessly picks up the story right where it left off chronologically.

With Rajamouli, mythology is inevitable. Like Ravana abducting Sita in the Ramayana, Sudeep’s character attempts to abduct Bindu. In the same epic, Hanuman protects Sita. In Eega, the fly takes on Hanuman’s role, protecting Bindu from the villain Sudeep.

Eega can be easily considered a homegrown Disney-like production. In contrast to other CGI-heavy films, where actors typically dominate the foreground and CGI effects are in the background, Eega reversed this dynamic. For instance, filming required special lenses capable of focusing closely on a fly, as even a chair could appear mammoth compared to a tiny insect.

Cinematographer KK Senthilkumar, who has worked with Rajamouli on numerous films over two decades, mentioned that shooting for Eega presented him with his greatest challenge yet.

In an interview, he mentioned that filming Eega presented more difficulties for him than RRR (2022). “We lacked reference material. No one had tried this before. I looked to A Bug’s Life (1998) for inspiration, but our approach was significantly different. Creating the protagonist, a fly, was the most challenging aspect of the film.”

The makers studied houseflies by capturing and freezing them and then taking close-up photographs using macro lenses. This approach enabled the graphics team to create a visually striking fly for the film.

“We studied flies closely. We found that when exposed to cold temperatures for a minute or two, they become unconscious but quickly regain consciousness and fly away. After closely studying their varied appearances, we collaborated with numerous artists to create a custom-designed fly, which became our hero,” KK Senthilkumar recalled.

In certain scenes, fake houseflies were used, but for the majority of the time, the camera crew and Kichcha Sudeep worked with empty space, with the fly being inserted later using computer graphics.

Also Read: Rajamouli talks about Baahubali: Crown of Blood animated series

Tugs at your heartstrings

Nani and Samantha in a working still

Nani and Samantha in a working still from the film. (X)

Besides the technical brilliance, it’s remarkable how the audience formed an emotional bond with the housefly. Kudos to the filmmaker for demonstrating his abilities as a novel storyteller in Telugu cinema.

We could endlessly admire the sheer genius of a visionary director who entrusted a revenge narrative entirely to a creature approximately 1,00,000 times smaller than a human. Expressing emotions, such as anger, comedy, dance, and love through a fly, was no small feat.

Eega also highlights the remarkable resilience of small creatures. The fly gets more screen time than Nani himself. What initially seemed like a Masala Telugu film suddenly shifts gears, resembling more of a whimsical animated movie for children.

When a film successfully convinces the audience to suspend disbelief, minor flaws are often forgiven or disregarded. This is a quintessential David versus Goliath struggle, where the housefly does everything possible to triumph over the baddie, Sudeep.

Further, Eega vividly portrays scenes where the fly narrowly avoids being stepped on or blown away, reminiscent of moments from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).

Generally speaking, human emotions are universal—however, they may vary according to region. Stories that strike a chord with audiences based on their content—rather than their reliance on stars or promotional efforts—tend to have a universal appeal across different locations.

Rajamouli’s cousin SS Kanchi revised the script. Janardhan Maharshi and Crazy Mohan wrote the dialogue for the Telugu and Tamil versions of Eega respectively, marking their first collaboration with the director.

Also Read: Rashmika Mandanna’s first look from ‘Kubera’ out

The story behind Eega

A working still from eega

Kichcha Sudeep and Rajamouli in a working still. (X)

In an interview, the filmmaker recalled that the concept of Eega originated from a love story his writer father V Vijayendra Prasad mentioned in the early 90s. The story involved a villain killing a boy, who then reincarnates as a housefly to torment the antagonist.

Rajamouli, initially, considered shelving Eega, after conceiving it as a “small experimental project” following Magadheera (2009). He doubted the idea, considering it “unreal”, and believed that only a niche audience would be willing to watch it in theatres.

Rajamouli already cemented his reputation as a successful director with a string of hits before Eega. However, during his work on Maryada Ramanna (2010), he revisited the concept, recognising its universal appeal and potential for significant output.

Eega eventually grew into a ₹30-crore production, completed over two years, and earned approximately ₹130 crore across its Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi versions.

Rajamouli hinted at a potential sequel, likely in 3D, revealing that after filming Eega, he found it challenging to mentally detach himself from the idea that flies were just flies while humans were humans.

Despite being suited for 3D, Eega was not produced by established studios. Instead, the makers chose newcomers and trained them in special effects.

Eega not only clinched two National Awards (Best Feature Film in Telugu and Best Special Effects) but also garnered nine other awards, such as the Most Original Film at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

It was further recognised by The Ringer, which included it among “The 25 Best Foreign Films of the Decade”.

The music, both background score and songs, significantly enhanced Eega. Keeravani faced the challenge of ensuring the music resonated universally, avoiding specific ethnic or regional tones, given the film’s themes of revenge and its housefly protagonist.

A poster of Eega

A poster of ‘Eega’. (X)

He skillfully incorporated the buzzing sound of flies into the score, adjusting its intensity to suit the emotional nuances of each scene.

It is no news that Rajamouli meticulously studies audience reactions, analysing them closely on a minute-by-minute basis.

In an interview, when discussing his passion for grand spectacles, the director admitted with a smile that he “enjoys creating explosive moments”, emphasising that the action sequences in his films are always supported by “deeper emotional layers”.

No Rajamouli film hinges on a single performance as much as Eega relies on Sudeep’s villainous portrayal.

The filmmaker recounted how Sudeep maintained a serious demeanour during the narration of Eega, leaving him uncertain initially about Sudeep’s interest in the project. However, Sudeep saw his role as an opportunity to deliver an exceptional performance, marking it as a highlight of his career at that time.

In another conversation, the Kannada star expressed gratitude towards Rajamouli for creating memorable moments in his life, underscoring how rare it is for a project to immediately interest him.

Eega was titled Naan Ee in Tamil, Makkhi in Hindi, and Eecha in Malayalam, successfully finding its audience in both languages. Further, it was the first Telugu film to be released in South Africa (after being dubbed into the Swahili language).

In 2022, during the Oscar campaign for RRR, Eega was screened at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles and received a standing ovation.

Nani attributed Eega’s success to its story of an underdog—a vulnerable hero taking on the most powerful villain. He noted that Rajamouli’s achievements back then were already remarkable, and speculated that if the director were to make the film today with modern technology, it would undoubtedly become one of the biggest films of all time. We might as well agree with Nani!

(Edited by Y Krishna Jyothi)

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