Adipurush,” one of the most anticipated Indian films of 2023, unites the talents of Prabhas (the Baahubali franchise) and Om Raut, who directed Ajay Devgn-starring “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior,” the biggest Indian box office hit of 2020 with a $50 million gross.

“Adipurush” is Raut’s take on Indian mythological epic “Ramayana,” by Valmiki, where Rama, the king of Ayodhya, travels to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, who has been abducted by the king Ravana. “Adipurush” is set 7,000 years ago and in the film, Prabhas’ character is not called Rama, he is Raghav, another name for Rama. Sita, played by Kriti Sanon, is called Janaki, while Saif Ali Khan’s Ravana is Lankesh, also derivatives of their “Ramayana” names. Adipurush literally means “first man,” but here the interpretation is that of “best man.”

Post “Tanhaji,” Raut could have called any Indian A-lister for his next film but he chose Prabhas. “I always had Prabhas in my mind when I was writing Raghav’s character – it became so compelling for me,” Raut told Variety. “If it was not him, I would have not made the film.”

Raut made it to Hyderabad from Mumbai in the middle of India’s first COVID-19 lockdown to discuss the film with Prabhas in person. The actor describes the meeting as a “super exciting day.”

“After three days, I got a little stressed because I thought it’s the most precious film for the country – can I do it?,” Prabhas told Variety. “Om said not to worry and so it was a beautiful thing that happened. And I think it’s the most prestigious film in my life.”

Prabhas says that he signed on because of Raut’s intriguing screenplay and how it integrates the history and culture of India. “The way he designed the film was amazing, huge. And I think he made it very well,” said Prabhas.

Raut says that he worked to move beyond the “Prabhas persona” of the actor who he also describes as the “quintessential superstar” to get the character of Raghav right, including focusing on his emotive eyes.

“The way he has played it is divine. It’s extremely spiritual on many levels, yet at the same time, it’s a commercial flick,” says Raut. “So, it has that crazy balance of playing to the gallery, obviously, like everybody does, but at the same time, we had to maintain the sanctity and purity of the character and stay within that boundary and try to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Though the subject matter is set seven millennia ago, the storytelling is contemporary. “Om designed the film for the present generation and wanted a swagger, which no other director could think of Adipurush like that,” says Prabhas.

“Om designed it for the kids and families,” adds Prabhas. “Even women love my action, so there’s a lot of action. And, he designed it in a commercial way, so I think it’s very happy news for the fans.”

“Adipurush,” produced by T-Series and Retrophiles, is filmed in the Hindi and Telugu languages. It is due a theatrical release on Jan. 12, 2023, and will also be available in dubbed Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada-language versions. Raut is in “serious conversation” with a Los Angeles-based studio for a wider release beyond the Indian disapora in non-Indian languages.

“We will make our best efforts to make a Prabhas film come onto the global map,” says Raut.

After “Adipurush,” next up for Prabhas is “Salaar” from K.G.F franchise filmmaker Prashanth Neel, “Project K,” alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone by “Mahanati” director Ashwin Nag, and “Spirit” by Sandeep Reddy Vanga (“Kabir Singh”).

The first teaser for “Adipurush” was released at a ceremony in Ayodhya on Oct. 2, 2022. Watch it here: