That Baahubali was a landmark film for Indian cinema goes without saying. The sprawling budget, lavish scale, revolutionary VFX, overwhelming sets, period costumes, and breathtaking battle scenes were unprecedented in Indian cinema. In short, the film could easily hold its own among the best in the world in the epic genre.
However, though Baahubali may have raised the bar for epic films in India, it certainly wasn’t the first of its kind. There have been a small bunch of such movies long before S.S. Rajamouli’s masterpiece came along, and barring the state-of-the-art effects and impeccably choreographed battle scenes the wizardry of which our filmmakers didn’t have access to in those time many of those films could rub shoulders with Baahubali in every other department.
We list you ten such milestone films of Indian cinema that were truly epic in every sense of the term, and could actually be credited for paving the way for the tour de force that was Baahubali.
1.) Vikramaditya (1945)
Image Source: Prakash Pictures
This Hindi film, which told the story of the King of Avanti who fought the Shakas to rescue the princess of Kashmir, was India’s first-ever epic film, and starred the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor in the eponymous role.
2.) Chandralekha (1948)
Image Source: Gemini
The first-ever Tamil epic film revolved around two brothers who went to war over their father’s kingdom and the affections of the village dancer, Chandralekha. The movie is credited with popularizing Tamil cinema throughout India and was also later dubbed in English, Japanese, Danish, and several other foreign languages to be screened at various international film festivals.
3.) Vanjikkottai Valiban (1958)
Image Source: Gemini
Another landmark Tamil epic film Vanjikkottai Valiban dealt with revenge, deceit, court politics, and intense battles over two generations of rulers in a kingdom.
(Also Read: The first milestone moments of Indian cinema)
4.) Veerapandiya Kattabommani (1959)
Image Source: Padmini Pictures
This film, which centered on the final days of monarchy in Tamil Nadu as invading British forces grew in numbers, featured legendary actors like Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan, and was the first Tamil film to amass several international awards. It also won the National Award and has since gone on to achieve cult status in Tamil cinema.
5.) Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
Image Source: Sterling
Undoubtedly, the most-famous epic Indian film before Baahubali came along, Mughal-E-Azam told the tale of Prince Salim who went to war with his father, Emperor Akbar, for the love of the kingdom’s courtesan, Anarkali. It’s regarded as one of the finest films of the country.
6.) Palnati Yuddham (1966)
Based on the famed battle of Palandu in Guntur district, Palnati Yuddham won the national Award for best Telugu film and is another one to have gained cult status down the years.
7.) Dharam Veer (1977)
Image Source: R.K. Studios
This box-office monster boasted an all-star cast, including Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Zeenat Aman, neetu Singh, Pran, Jeevan, and Ranjeet. It had all the staples of a typical Bollywood potboiler like separated-and-reunited family members, revenge, good vs. evil, triumph of the underdog, and other themes; only this time, they were juxtaposed against an epic canvas.
8.) Viswanatha Nayakudu (1987)
Image Source: Padmalaya
Another film that revolves around a battle between father and son, only this time, it’s for the sake of fealty to the King of the land. This one is regard to be among Telugu cinema’s greatest films ever.
(Also Read: Famous Bollywood films based on books)
9.) Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Image Source: UTV
The last great Bollywood epic film, it had all the ingredients that made it stand out such as hitherto unseen battle sequences, riveting moments, captivating set pieces and costumes, and a brilliant performance by Hrithik Roshan.
10.) Magadheera (2009)
Image Source: Geetha Arts
Before Baahubali, there was Magadheera, Rajamouli’s first epic film that also involved fantastical elements. It narrated the yarn of reincarnated lovers, who have to once again fight their tomentor to finally be reunited.
Come to think of it, Indian cinema has not done too badly when it comes to epic films, has it?