SS Rajamouli's Sight and Sound list shows his love for populist cinema

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaMar 22, 2023 | 15:39

SS Rajamouli's Sight and Sound list shows his love for populist cinema

Rajamouli doesn't just make larger-than-life cinema. He even loves and idolises larger-than-life cinema. (photo-DailyO)

Sight and Sound, the monthly magazine by British Film Institute (BFI), is often considered a bible for many cinephiles (or anyone who spends too much time on Letterboxd or MUBI). In particular, many are fascinated with the many top 10 lists Sight and Sound comes out with. 


What is the hype around Sight and Sound’s lists? 

Every year, the magazine ranks the greatest 100 films of all time, a list that keeps getting revised every decade. Two lists come out every ten years, one voted by a collective of global critics and the other inviting global filmmakers as the voters. The British monthly even asks critics and directors to share their own personal top 10 lists. 

Alternate covers of the 2022 year-ender Sight and Sound edition that summed up the greatest films of all time. The last time this list was published in 2012. (photo-Sight and Sound)
Alternate covers of the 2022 year-ender Sight and Sound edition that summed up the greatest films of all time. The last time this list was published in 2012. (photo-Sight and Sound)

So, obviously, it was exciting news for Indian film-buffs when RRR and Baahubali director SS Rajamouli revealed his picks for “The Greatest Films of All Time”.

How did people react to Rajamouli’s list? 

Even though the list was made public on December 3, 2022, Rajamouli’s picks continue to be debated among global and Indian cinephiles. RRR’s recent win at the Oscars has only kept the conversation around Rajamouli more alive. 

(photo-Sight and Sound)
(photo-Sight and Sound)

A few judgmental audiences probably fed only on arthouse cinema have been quick to dismiss his list as one with too many “populist” picks. However, fans of Rajamouli’s over-the-top filmography have also spoken in support of the RRR director bringing out universally-loved entertainers. The man who had earlier stated that he "slept through" Parasite is bound to enjoy a Top Gun: Maverick or an Avatar more than ultra-realistic cinema! 



The Greatest Films of All Time (according to SS Rajamouli) 

We revisit Rajamouli’s top 10 picks along with the director’s personal comments and possible theories on why he might be so drawn to them. 

1- Forrest Gump (1994)

Tom Hanks makes for a lovable hero as Forrest Gump but the 90s classic hasn’t aged well with its flawed portrayal of disabilities and its Oscar Best Picture win over Shawshank Redemption. Yet, many continue to be wooed over its message of universal love. Aamir Khan was drawn towards the heartwarming nature of Forrest Gump to the point of acting in the commercial dud Laal Singh Chadha


The emotional parts got to Rajamouli too as he told Sight and Sound,  “This exercise in heart-touching perfectly blends love, pain & agony and inspires the audience to not give up when life throws curveballs.”

2- Maya Bazaar (1957)

The only Indian film in Rajamouli’s list, Maya Bazaar is a Telegu-Tamil mythological epic based on a tale from Hindu mythology. Directed by visionary filmmaker KV Reddy, Maya Bazaar continues to be renowned for its grand production scale and vibrant costumes. It is obvious that such epics would have inspired Rajamouli’s own period action flicks Maghadeera and Baahubali

To quote Rajamouli himself, “Mayabazar's technical marvels and visual effects are praiseworthy. It's a timeless classic! I remember watching it 100 times as a child.”


3- Raiders of the Lost Ark 

Given Steven Spielberg’s iconic status in the world of film, it is no surprise that a Spielgerg film or two will show up in a list by an imaginative filmmaker like Rajamouli. The first Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Ark is Rajamouli’s favourite in the franchise (thankfully, he didn’t mention Temple of Doom which is filled with some questionable depictions of Indians). 

“Indiana Jones is unapologetically true to himself and a true-blue hero. He has a captivating character arc as well. The film revolutionised the adventure genre.”

4- Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Rajamouli seems to be at his random best with even Kung Fu Panda joining his list. The animated comedy might not be as emotionally profound as Disney Pixar films of the 2000s but Jack Black’s infectious energy as Po the Panda and the film’s own exciting animal-based take on kung fu cinema makes it a cult classic. 

Kung Fu Panda teaches life lessons in a humorous and relatable way. It inspires audiences to pursue soul-searching and makes the viewer feel better as well!” Will Rajamouli also direct an animated movie? Imagine an RRR anime or a Baahubali animated series. The possibilities can be endless!

5- Aladdin (1992)

Kung Fu Panda wasn’t the only animated film in Rajamouli’s list with the director professing to be a big fan of Aladdin’s magical world. Rajamouli himself being a man of wild imagination (the man made Eega which was about a man reincarnated as a fly to seek revenge), it’s no surprise that the magic of Disney has impressed him. 

Aladdin is a film that will never get old! I love how the film creates a world of its own and uses magic and other elements to narrate its story. More importantly, the audience buys into it as well!”

6- Braveheart (1995)

Mel Gibson fans love Braveheart. Some hail it as a great Oscar Best Picture winner. But history nerds will definitely hate it! A biographical epic on the life of Scottish revolutionary William Wallace, Braveheart (written, directed by, and starring Mel Gibson) is mocked for its historical inaccuracies (13th century men spotted wearing Nikes!) but it also serves as lesson in making a grand, period drama that might definitely charm directors like Rajamouli, Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Padmaavat), or even Ashutosh Govariker (Jodha Akbar). 

Braveheart is a clever film that brilliantly alludes to historical events. It beautifully integrates human emotions amid social and political drama.”

7- Apocalypto (2006)

Indian Gen-Z-ers might remember a more santised and censored version of Apocalypto airing on Sony PIX but the movie (yet again written and directed by Mel Gibson) is filled with hyperviolent action and all other sorts of “iffy” content. Apocalypto is definitely a well-shot film as it follows a man’s journey of survival in the wilderness of the Mayan civilisation. But in its inaccurate portrayal of Mayans (the characters retaining Aztec features instead of the Mayan), the film again becomes a major subject of debate among movie-watchers. 

Rajamouli himself loves playing around with  history and culture as seen in RRR so clearly, the creative liberties worked for him and he could enjoy Apocalypto solely on its entertainment value. “One of my favourite movies of all time. Everything about the film is perfect! Its engaging and intriguing storyline captivates the audience from start to finish.”

8- Ben-Hur (1959)

An epic of Biblical proportions (quite literally, Jesus is in it), Ben-Hur is remembered today more for its big-budget filmmaking and intricate set pieces. The revenge-seeking saga of the titular hero is exciting if not dated but scenes like the historic chariot races continue to impress filmmakers, especially the ones with a fascination for over-the-top entertainment like Rajamouli. 

“A classic example of out-and-out entertainment! It's a grand spectacle that neatly blends action and drama and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.”

9- Django Unchained (2012)

While some have condemned Quentin Tarantino’s (a white man) depiction of black slavery to be too excessive, many hail Django Unchained as one of his finest works. With healthy doses of engaging blood-stained action, witty satire-heavy comedy, and memorable performances by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo Di Caprio, Django Unchained is quite the package. 

Rajamouli specifically loved Tarantino’s writing. “I've always loved Quentin Tarantino's films. Django Unchained is a bold masterpiece with a raw screenplay.”

10- The Lion King

First Aladdin, now this. Yes, Rajamouli really loves his Disney classics. This list just proves that. Who knows if Katappa killing Baahubali was inspired by Scar killing Mufasa? 

The Lion King is arguably the most popular and loved animated film in the history of cinema! It gets the audience, children AND adults, dancing, laughing and crying. The film's iconic dialogues are now common lingo. It's become a part of our culture.”

Last updated: March 22, 2023 | 15:39
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