A Fascinating Perception of Product Development from Baahubali

“Baahubali 2 – The conclusion” was probably the most anticipated movie in Indian history. With projected box office collections of Rs.1000 crores, this movie’s success is a pinnacle in the history of Indian cinema. If we see movies as products, we can draw lessons for product owners/creators. Baahubali was the product of quite a few million man hours of teamwork and dedication that went behind the scenes to bring an epic story to life. So, let’s look at the key takeaways from the making of the movie through the lens of product development.

Production Design (Product Design)

The most important aspect of a successful movie is solid production design, which is all about making the viewer become a part of the journey by empathising with the characters. Good production design ensures the story is told to the best possible effect. Even though Baahubali is a larger than life fictional story, it could not have succeeded without viewers building an emotional connection with the characters.

In Baahubali 2, the production design aspect is showcased best in the scene where they crown Ballaladeva as the king and the scenes which build up to it. What goes over and beyond the grandeur of the scene was the fact that the viewers formed a strong emotional connection with Baahubali’s virtues, that particular aspect had, a lot more impact on those scenes.

Good Products/Apps similarly have to be designed with the user experience at the forefront. A fully functional product with poor design could not be successful. Designers have to put considerable thought into what elements are required in each screen/component much like the movie makers pay attention to each frame in a movie.

Planning (Post Production work)

A movie is not final until the movie is edited and made ready for public launch. Same goes for a product. There could be a million features added to the product, but not all are important and critical for impact on the viewer. So even though the bosses/investors are interested in adding features they consider will be good value-adds, it is the product owner’s role to include only the best features in the product and package it in the most presentable format. Like some movies do, deleted scenes can be released later as add-on features. For movies, we can release a director’s cut, but for products, it is just one cut, and you can’t afford to fail at that.

Also, it is not just editing that matters; it is the enhancements that make a movie stand out. In Baahubali’s case, post-production work had a lot of visual effects (especially in the battle scenes) which played a vital role in its success.

In Baahubali 2, the song sequence where Amarendra brings Devasena from her kingdom to Mahishmati in a ship could have been depicted as a simple scene with dialogues. But the enhancements made it even more appealing and influenced the viewer’s belief that Amarendra Baahubali is totally on Devasena’s side the entire time.

For products, animation effects go a long way in adding appeal to the interface and making them stand out, a class apart. It is important to make these animations relevant to the use case and at the same time catchy enough to leave an impact while ensuring it is not too over the top. Just like movie makers hire experts for VFX, if animations are not the USP of a company, they should be open to outsourcing the work provided budget is available.

Product Launch (Movie Release work)

A good product/movie (however great it might be) still needs some level of promotion. Baahubali’s director, S.S.Rajamouli himself realised that marketing is important for a film, after the sheer stardom Eega cast on him. His earlier films despite being really well-made they did not fare well at the box office due to lack of marketing. Although he made a high budget movie, Rajamouli did not splurge much money on marketing; rather he opted to spend the right amount in the right areas. The marketing strategies were cost-effective and focused mainly on social media and generating the right amount of hype required for such a film. Digital marketing campaigns set the expectation for the movie and ensured that audiences came flooding in when it was finally launched.

For Baahubali 2, the producers didn’t have to spend a crazy amount of money on advertising. All brands jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Baahubali bandwagon – McDonald’s, Oppo, Karbonn, Nestle, Britannia and what not. Even Amazon Prime has tied up with the production house to launch an animated series “Baahubali: The Lost Legends”.

Product managers could take a leaf out of Rajamouli’s book to promote their product to the right audiences through the various selective targeting mechanisms available online these days through Facebook/Google and other advertising companies.

User retention (Sequel anticipation)

“Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?” built so much anticipation and hype so that anybody who watched the first movie would not dare miss out on the second instalment. Such was the power of the storyline and narrative. Likewise, a good product has to do its part in keeping the user engaged and immersed in the product. Every time the user sees/uses the product, he/she should crave a bit more for the product. Though in Baahubali’s case, the retention was required only till the sequel, product developers need to think about keeping their users engaged continually, not till the next update, but concentrate on retaining a user’s attention beyond that update, and forever.

Though Baahubali 2 answered the question, ““Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?” there were still some unanswered questions like “Who was Ballala Deva’s wife?”, “What did his son do?”, “What does Mahendra Baahubali’s son become?”. In fact the movie has attained such cult status that a future sequel/prequel can’t be discounted.

There should always be an element which keeps the users glued to the product. If it is a gaming product, imagine each level being a luring enough target which not only sustains a user but also makes them strive for more. Hence, gamification is an essential aspect in products of this age that makes the product stickier. Always keep your users on their toes about future feature releases (provided you are confident of the success☺)

Finally, to sum up, it is great teamwork in synchrony with the creator’s vision that led to the stupendous success of the Baahubali movies. Any product to be successful has to be a coordinated effort from all the teams involved. A captain cannot lead a ship without substantial support from the crew running it.

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