Rana Daggubati Curated
CURATED BY : +44 others
After the success of Bahubali, didn’t you feel the need to make your social media profiles look more glamorous?
What is your view on the #MeToo movement on social media?
What did you experience after visiting Japan?
Does it bother you that you’re constantly identified as Bhallaldeva from ‘Baahubali’?
Firstly, it’s very difficult to look like that fellow again because he’s quite bulky. But there’s no pressure to continue to be that way. In fact, I think the fun part about my job is that none of my characters look the same. I don’t like that I have to wake up as the same person and go to work. Which is why I’m not working in an office. So as soon as I finished ‘Baahubali’, the next role that I did was a biopic about NTR where I played Chandrababu Naidu. The roles and the looks were so different. Even the other film that I have been shooting for two years now, called ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ in Hindi, ‘Kaadan’ in Tamil and ‘Aranya’ in Telugu, has me at half the size I am now and sporting a beard that’s as long as my chest. But I don’t select roles for its look; it’s about finding the right content. If I'm going to go back to do another war film, I will be typecast. So if you can find a new story to tell soon, the tag of Bhallaldeva will go away. Regardless of that, it's always fun to be remembered for the good stuff.
You seem to pick a lot of long-drawn projects. Is that intentional?
In my first couple of years, I acted in about five to six films. Then came ‘Baahubali’ which took about five years and then ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ took two and a half years. It’s not intentional — it just takes a long time to finish a project. I keep doing some character roles in between like I did for ‘Housefull 4’. I do like to get out of the prolonged projects; being stuck in a role for over two years is not that great. This year, I'll probably have two releases.
You’re involved in multiple aspects of the film industry but you’ve not ventured into direction yet…
I was a visual effects producer and a line producer before. It’s been a decade since I’ve been an actor and I’ve also ventured into production. I think directing brings out a very personal voice which is foreign to me. I haven’t chosen any of the films I’ve worked in, the films chose me. In fact, my debut role in ‘Leader’ was written for someone else. I believe that a story finds you. So, if a story pushes me into directing then nothing can stop me.
What are your thoughts on Indian film industry and technology?
When we were making ‘Baahubali’, we had to create a lot from scratch. I used to keep seeing Rajamouli and the VFX supervisors breaking their heads to get things done. Invention happens only when there is a pressing need here. It’s not constant. So, when I got back into tech, I didn’t want to get into a service-based business. I wanted to start understanding which fields needed innovation. Now, we have people in AI, VR, and in anything that is going to help a story be told efficiently.
But do you feel that it’s not enough in the industry?
Tech is very, very heavy in India, but not the entertainment industry. It’s not that we don’t have filmmakers or artistes to work with, it's just that there are other parts to this business that haven’t come together yet. Currently, only artistes are figuring things out and that's not the way it should be. We need more tech people to join this partnership. Unless there’s somebody shouting out loud that a tech person or someone who knows AI is needed, they don’t think they have a place in the industry. I’m hoping to bridge that gap.
Is there pressure to stay relevant?
When you’re young, you tend to aim to just get that first film made or get your first big break. That’s not what it should be about. It should be about making good timeless content. I'm relevant today because ‘Leader’ is relevant today. It’s also about having a sustained career. You want to be able to do this as a lifestyle and not just as a job. I work about 12 to 13-hours a day and I have a blast doing what I do. That’s what is important.
Q: You've always been calculative about the scripts you chose. What were your primary thoughts when Kaadaan, a trilingual, came along?
It's not a calculation, actually. I ask myself, why should people hear this story? Then, if it is relevant today. The audience seems to prefer watching a hero’s journey. Right from my first film Leader, these are things I look for before selecting a film. Kaadan has all of this, too. Kaadan is also very relevant today. We are at the brink of destroying the environment. People are aware of it and are doing things to change it. So, Kaadan fits right in. In addition, Kaadan is very unique. This is the first time this kind of visual is put in films. The material is original. I’ve never been in a jungle so deep but my father (Suresh Babu), who knows about the jungle much more, had a good vibe about the newness in the script. After Baahubali, you’d expect directors to narrate action or commercial scripts to you. Suddenly, Prabhu Solomon comes to me with this story and I was like wow. I am offered a lot of cop films. They are good, but political stories are already a part of the system. As an actor, I want to do something new constantly. So when something like Kaadan comes along, I can’t let go of it.
Q: What do you want to achieve with Kaadan?
Kaadan teaches you that the environment is important. A good film is supposed to influence you and entertain you. That’s what we hope Kaandan will do. I saw the film on the big screen for the first time when we launched the teaser in Chennai. It created a peaceful atmosphere with all the sounds. Sounds that people have destroyed. You will see it evidently when you watch it on the big screen. We have done some extreme work with the sound. Right now, Resul Pookutty sir and Solomon have gone to the jungle to record ambient sounds. The idea is that we want to give you the experience of sitting in a jungle.
Q: When Prabhu Solomon narrated the story, was there any reference point? How did you get into the character?
At first, he explained the world of Kaadan, its universe. Then, he narrated the story. In terms of the character, I understood it much later when we started filming. I had to work with him for a while to understand everything. I did the first look test just after Baahubali and obviously, I was looking like a bull at that time. He had gotten people from Mumbai, set up trees and everything for the look test. At the end of the photoshoot, he said, Idhu seriya ottala’ (It doesn’t suit). I was like, huh? He felt that my body was huge and wanted me to lean down. We had two months before the shoot. I had to lose this muscle that I had built over 5 years. I turned vegetarian for some time. I stopped working out for several months and I only ran to get fit. Two months later, he liked what I was doing and asked me to grow a beard till the day of the shoot. Before starting the shoot, we had a 15-day training programme with the elephants in the jungles of Thailand. That's when I spoke to Prabhu to understand Kaadan’s relationship with the jungle and his back story. We called the make-up and costume artists and they did their bit. We then knew who Kaadan was.
Q: You lost 30 kilos for the film and it became a talking point. Did you feel people were making a big deal about your weight loss?
I didn’t care about what people thought, but what Prabhu Solomon was thinking. He didn’t want my big, bulky body, so I had to do everything in my power to change that. I was associated with the bigness because of Baahubali. Now, people will look at me differently. Breaking that mould was what Prabhu did for me.
Q: Did you have any inhibitions while doing the film?
Not really. I think this was a film that broke all my inhibitions. It was definitely a difficult film to do. It took a toll on me. But, only films like these will shape you as an actor and a person.
Q: Did you dub for Kaadan in all the three languages?
Yes. I took up Tamil first as I have never dubbed in the language before. I was always scared to dub in anything other than Telugu. I was so scared in Baahubali, especially because it was ancient Tamil and I couldn’t understand it much. Kaadan is so unique that only someone who knew what happened on the set could recreate that moment. So, I asked Prabhu Solomon to sit with me in the dubbing studio for six days to help me with the pronunciation. Then, I moved on to Hindi, followed by Telugu.
Q: How has Kaandan changed you?
The first schedule really changed me as a person. When you spend so much time with the elephants in their habitat, you realise how much more they are and how less you are on the Earth. Whether it’s an elephant or an insect or a plant, it’s serving a different purpose. And here we are, destroying it, day after day, minute after minute, knowingly and unknowingly.
Q: What kind of personal lifestyle changes have you implemented after Kaadan?
Just being aware. I come from the mid-generation as I am close to 35. I’ve grown up with the older way of life, where people did not care enough about the environment. Today, we understand this isn’t the right thing to do. As filmmakers and actors, we need to tell these stories so that they reach a bigger audience. We have, therefore, made Kaadan in three languages and it’s relevant in whichever language you’re making it in.
Q: Finally, can we expect to see you in more Tamil movies?
Kaadan will be my first proper release in Tamil in my entire career. I’ve always been inclined to Madras (Chennai), meeting filmmakers and listening to scripts. I am waiting for Tamil directors to come and meet me with scripts. The amount of talent here is incomparable. I used to have a house in Chennai which was rented out. Recently, I took it back because I decided this staying in a hotel thing isn’t working and since I have a house, I can sit and listen to scripts. I don’t know how to find a person like Prabhu Solomon in any other part of the country. Kaadan needed a man from Tamil Nadu, a production house from Bombay and an actor from Hyderabad to make it happen. And it worked out.
How is your experience of working with Prabhu Solomon?
It’s been a long since I came to Chennai. I used to think if I ever would get a bigger mass film than Baahubali in my career. Prabhu Solomon sir changed that in just a week’s time. Till then I used to tell Rajamouli sir that we worked very hard for 5 years. After the Kaadan experience, I called Rajamouli and said that ‘you created a kingdom and a statue for me sir, but Prabhu sir has taken me and simply left me in a vast forest terrain (laughs),
How story line is important for a film?
I always believe that it’s not the storyteller who finds the story; it is the story that finds them. This film literally proved that. Ten years back I did a film called Leader, which was produced by AVM. I also believe in right time and right space. Kaadan story brought an actor from Telugu - me, an actor from Tamil -Vishnu Vishal, an ace filmmaker Prabhu Solomon from Tamil and a producer Eros International from Mumbai. Hence, I realised the power of the story is much bigger than all of us
What is Rana's Advice for people who wants to enter films?
“if you want to get into films, get to work right away whether it is making a short film or doing theatre”.
One of the things that Rana mentioned during the session was that the audience starts to expects a certain persona from a star and this may creatively inhibit said star. So, how does he deal with it?
“They are not able to consistently do different things because it requires them to come down from a certain number and return. Now, I have made a choice. If I don't have a story to tell, I might as well stay in office. It is a simpler job than going ahead and doing something I don't like. Between the two Baahubali films, I did a film called Ghazi which was an extremely small film. It doesn't matter what the size of the film is; if it is a story you want to tell, just go ahead and tell it. So, it is really a choice that one makes. Like the question was asked about what I consider success. You need to make that yardstick and stick to it. It doesn't matter if somebody next to me is doing X or Y. This is what you do. When the audience is watching you in the theatre, the lights are off, they are not watching anybody’s split screen. They just want to be engaged in that story. Rana adds, “In the world of arts, unless you are unique to you, you're not going to succeed. I can’t be doing what somebody else does because it's already being done. You can’t emulate success; it’s got to be your own.”
What does he think of VFX in India and whether Hollywood should be considered as setting the standard?
“There are two very fundamental differences between the West and India. We have seven or eight very successful industries within one country. Hollywood is an ecosystem that is built along with content and technology. if you see a company like Walt Disney, as much as it is a great content company, it is also a huge technology company. Here in India, convergence is very little, especially in the arts. Because as careers or culture, arts is looked down upon. It is slowly changing in the metros, but it is still not an influence of culture. Being an animator or a visual effects supervisor is still not (considered) a great career path. And the reason I am here at events like this is to kind of find that. Because there are a lot of people with an interest but they don't know the direction to head in. Since we don't have that ecosystem that is there (in Hollywood), it is important for filmmakers or for other industries to kind of come together. How is the tech in India? It’s sharp, we can build a lot of things but that technology is not being used by other industries in India. And we shy away from innovation as a culture because there is a sense that ‘okay, this works, let us use it till it works’. But what happens is today's world is not like that.”He adds, “It is not a step-by-step world anymore; it is a consistent learning world. It is a different system that has evolved in the last couple of years. I think we need to understand that as a culture and then really promote the arts. How do we get better visual effects or better concepts? When you think of school, how many of them take drawing class seriously? Take it as seriously as math. When you do, it will all change. I think that is really the culture we're trying to inculcate at a micro level.”
You're looking too sick. Are you fine?
I think there was enough speculated about it (kidney transplant), and I am tired of clarifying too that I am fine and healthy. So I think rumors on my health are now a boring topic. Whenever I leave Hyderabad, people get apprehensive, but I am thankful for the love and the concern people have been showering on me.
if he would be having a grand wedding?
"Depends on the world's situation. I found the strangest time to get married."
How Rana Dagubbati proposed Miheeka?
"She knew where I'm getting at when I called her and then she met me in person, that's it. I remember I said a bunch of things together. For me, it was serious. It was commitment. When I met her, that's the time I felt I am ready to do this. It was that simple, for real."
A BPO and a Photographer, that’s a lot of stuff you’ve done.
Was there anything, if you had to nitpick and find fault with growing up?
You’ve worked as a BPO and as well as a VFX supervisor?
You keep talking about finding cinema. What is that about?
What would “A Big Break” or “The Big Break” mean to you?
Was there a Signature Moment?
How do you pick your stories? Are you fortunate enough to have good stories come to you or do you have to sit through quite a bit?
With such success, does that affect your head somewhere?
What is your advice to someone who wants to convert their Passion into Paycheck?
How would you describe your place in the entertainment world?