Bharateeyudu (1996): Revisiting the Origins of Shankar’s Thematic Cinematic Universe.

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When we see Shankar’s earlier films, what we realise is that they were sort-of prequels to Aparichithudu (Anniyan in Tamil) and Shivaji: The Boss, etc. This makes me wonder, Shankar might have been making this recent trend of Cinematic Universe since beginning, but only thematically.

Vigilantism and fighting corruption has been Shankar’s common themes in most of his films. Bharateeyudu is about Senapathy, an Indian freedom Fighter who had fought along with Subhash Chandra Bose in India’s Independence movement. He is a frustrated vigilante killer of corrupt government officers.

Indian was produced as India’s highest budgeted movie ever. So, did the collections. Indian remained as the highest grosser in Tamil cinema making Rs. 50 Crores domestically and more than Rs. 60 Crores worldwide. Indian became a box office blockbuster beating Rajinikanth’s industry hit Baasha.

Fun fact: Indian got its international release in Canada for its Hindi version, Hindustani.

Re-visitng Indian ahead of its sequel Bharateeyudu 2 is essential to get the feel of the character, Senapathy. Bharateeyudu also had its theatrical re-release too in June, 2024.

The often case with revisiting classics is the time period in which the movie had been made (1996) and how ‘acceptable’ or works-or-not-works in the time period you are revisiting (2024). For most of the plot, the story’s arc is very root-able. But, not every character. Extremely underwritten Female characters (Urmila Matondkar and Manisha Koirala) playing the troupe of loveable glamour dolls dearing the hero is a huge drag in the three-hour movie which is essentially about the Tom-and-Jerry chase between Kamal Haasan’s older version and Nedumudi Venu and Kamal’s younger version.

Krishnaswamy played by Nedumudi Venu is an obvious reminder of Prakash Raj’s character in Aparichitudu. This makes me wonder, Shankar might have been making this recent trend of Cinematic Universe since beginning, but only thematically. And, it turned out to be true too, Shankar had already imagined a Cinematic Universe in 2008 itself.

Kamal Haasan said in a press conference that he had agreed to make Indian-2 for the sake of Indian 3. So, therefore, the acceptance and encouragement that Shankar didn’t find in 2008 can easily be a bankable idea for the current time the Indian cinema is in. So, Shankar had been rooting all his life to make an universe. The time has come for Shankar for him to experiment and explore more of his vigilante and anti-corruption themes. Let us wait and see what all the easter eggs we have hidden in Bharateeyudu 2 for Bharateeyudu 3.

Bharateeyudu is releasing in theatres on July 12th.

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