New Delhi/Hyderabad: The producers of Baahubali budgeted 250 crore for the two-part Telugu-Tamil bilingual, billed as the most expensive movie ever made in India.

The audacious gamble by Prasad Devineni and Shobu Yarlagadda of Hyderabad-based Arka Media Works seems to have paid off.

The lavishly mounted first part of the period action drama, also dubbed in Hindi and Malayalam, is estimated to have grossed as much as 165 crore at the box office worldwide on its first three days, according to Thomas D’souza, head of programming at India’s largest film exhibitor PVR Cinemas Ltd.

To boot, the movie Baahubali: the Beginning directed by S.S. Rajamouli, his 10th, has garnered a fair share of critical acclaim for the grandeur of its visual effects, production design, narration and background score.

The Telugu version was the biggest crowd-puller, raking in 85 crore of the total box office take on the opening weekend. Typically, a hit South Indian film would gross 10-20 crore on its opening weekend. The business of the film overseas has crossed 28 crore

Devineni and Yarlagadda claim to be surprised by the numbers; the movie is still going strong at the box office, they said in a phone interview.

The movie’s dubbed version in Hindi, distributed by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, has grossed 22.35 crore. That’s considered to be good for a dubbed movie, although it’s dwarfed by the opening weekend take of Hindi films such as Happy New Year starring Shah Rukh Khan and PK starring Aamir Khan, which garnered 108 crore and 95.21 crore, respectively, in India.

“Monday morning opened as strongly as Sunday morning. The movie is showing a very good trend in Hindi and is growing day by day with word-of-mouth publicity," said Devineni, one of the producers of the film.

Based on the fight for a kingdom between two brothers, Baahubali (the strong-armed one) and Bhallaladeva, played by Telugu movie stars Prabhas and Rana Daggubati, the movie opened across 4,650 screens on Friday in its various language versions.

“When celluloid screams of Brilliance...it’s heard in every language...#BaahubaliStorm," Johar tweeted on Sunday night.

While the opening day for dubbed versions of the movie was slow, the movie picked up pace with a 40-50% jump in box office collections everyday, said D’souza of PVR Cinemas.

“Hindi and Tamil are slowly catching up with Telugu collections. Premium locations like Juhu (in Mumbai) and Select Citywalk Saket and PVR Ambience (both in New Delhi) are doing very well. Elite crowd is coming to watch the Hindi version. The scale of the film is huge. It’s a visual treat..," added D’souza.

Baahubali: The Beginning is the first installment of a two-part venture, with the second part Baahubali: The Conclusion expected to release next year.

“The Telugu opening was phenomenal with 90-100% occupancy on day one. For Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, the opening day was low but the numbers grew by 40% both on Saturday as well as Sunday each," said D’souza.

Twitter was abuzz with reactions to Rajamouli’s epic with over 170,000 tweets since Friday.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday tweeted: “I congratulate @ssrajamouli & team for creating a masterpiece like #Baahubali. He has showcased might & pride of Telugu Cinema to the world."

South Indian actor Nagarjuna Akkineni tweeted: “Spectacular visuals and dreams come alive in BAAHUBALI !!we salute you rajamouli."

PVR’s D’souza also added that the movie will stay in theatres next weekend even as the hugely anticipated Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan releases on 17 July.

“That movie will have a space of its own but for us Bahubali will still be in screens," he added,

Trade analyst Komal Nahta described the film’s performance so far as a “benchmark" and called Rajamouli a “genius".

“It’s an experiment that has worked. From content to special effects, everything has worked. One could expect Bollywood filmmakers to use special effects more freely now," added Nahta.

The movie ends on an open-ended note; Baahubali is dead, we know—killed treacherously. Viewers will have to wait for the second part to release next year to know how exactly he died and how his son avenges his death.

That’s how confident Rajamouli and the producers were that the gamble they were taking in investing an unheard-of amount on an Indian production would pay off. Had the first part come a cropper at the box office, it may have been impossible to make part two.

Guardian film critic Mike McCahill called part 1 “fantastic bang for your buck", and “the kind of peppy serial that would have graced the multiplex in the days before product-placement, billion-dollar PR campaigns and obligation 3D, when the sole components required for a blockbuster were a hero, a villain, a few fights, a few songs, and a happy ending."

“Rajamouli defers on the latter for now, but his skilful choreography of these elements shucks off any cynicism one might carry into Screen 1: wide-eyed and wondrous, his film could be a blockbuster reboot, or the first blockbuster ever made, a reinvigoration of archetypes that is always entertaining, and often thrilling, to behold. Roll on 2016."

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