Testing all new shores

Testing all new shores

Down south

Testing all new shores

Technically, Baby is his fourth Hindi film — after his debut Dum Maaro Dum, Department and a cameo in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. In Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, Rana Daggubati is less than 15 films old in 11 years, but the five awards reflect the fact that this grandson of the legendary Phalke laureate D Rama Naidu has been an all-rounder like few Indian actors have been.

Take the fact that his first trophy was for Bommalata (2004), co-produced by him, which won the National award, no less, for Best Telugu film. His second film, Sainikudu (2006), saw him as a visual effects supervisor and he won the prestigious Nandi Award in that capacity.

Filmy background
And unlike most of his counterparts in the South, Rana, raised in multi-lingual Hyderabad right in the thick of a film family (including his producer-father Suresh Babu) with Hindi as his second language in school, made his Hindi debut in Dum Maaro Dum (2010) in the same year as the Telugu hit Leader, which was his actual debut as actor.

His next venture down South, the epic Rajamouli film Baahubali Mahabali, is being filmed now. In Mumbai, Rana is also shooting designer Vikram Phadnis’s directorial debut Nia, a family drama starring his alleged girlfriend Bipasha Basu. Unfazed, he maintains that she is one of the few good friends he has in Mumbai (they worked together in Dum...) and that he is doing the film because he loved the role and story.

This was also the case with Baby. “Neeraj Pandey (the director) is a cool, chilled-out man who excels in the brief he gives to his actors, which is a vital aspect for any actor. When we met, he told me the basic idea and asked whether I liked it. When I nodded, he told me the full story and then wanted to know if I could do certain things needed, like ‘Can you jump?’ or ‘Can you do this scene?’ And that was it.”
A cherished memory Rana has is of what he imbibed from Akshay Kumar. “He’s a superstar, but so humble,” he raves. “I hope that I can practise the discipline I learnt from him — like his food and sleep habits. How many stars sleep at 9.30 pm and wake up at 4 am? He also likes to start work early, which is something I also like.”

Playing second fiddle to Abhishek Bachchan (Dum Maaro Dum), Amitabh Bachchan (Department) and now Akshay has never been an issue for Rana. “I grab roles that excite me,” he smiles. “In Dum…, I was offered the role of a Goan musician, which I would have never got in my entire life in the South! The Hindi canvas is so much bigger.”

What else would he like to do in life? “Art as a form excites me. I have been producer, actor, visual effects man, and the journey continues,” he grins. “I grew up in a household with so many film people. Growing up, we would watch many films of various genres and languages. By the time I was in my early teens, I had mastered the old process of editing with a Steinbeck machine on spools, since there was an editing room in the basement of our house and top editors like Venkatesh Marthand would work there.”

Learning curve
Walking down memory lane, Rana fills in the details. “When I was in Class 12, there was this sound studio that came up next to my house and I went and learnt that. I then went to Chennai to train in industrial photography, and I worked on products for some friends. Visual effects was just coming in and there was this small company called Pentamedia that had actually introduced it — they were only working on international films and some rare ads here. I worked with them for a while. Then I helped some friends from the National Institute of Design, and set up a VFX and Digital Intermediate place and worked for almost six years before selling it to Prime Focus.”

In between this and acting, Rana took a ‘spicy’ detour — he went into food processing and started a chilli powder plant. “My cousin runs it now,” he grins. “Then I thought, ‘What next?’ and the answer was to act. That’s when I took an entire year off and trained myself in everything from diction and dance to martial arts.”
After all, an all-rounder whose hits also include Nenu Naa Rakshasi, Naa Ishtam and Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum must be one even on screen.