Rana, beyond regional barriers...

confident star

Rana, beyond regional barriers...
Rana Daggubati became a household name in India when he appeared on screen as the handsome King Bhallala Deva in Baahubali. P

Though he’s part of one of the most well-known film families in Hyderabad, Rana has become a pan-Indian star for whom regional barriers are passé. The 6’ 4” star is not just brimming with talent but confidence too, as he wants to push the envelope where his career is concerned. In an exclusive chat with Deccan Herald, the Baahubali star talks about his films and more:

Tell us about The Ghazi Attack...

This is the first war-at-sea submarine film in India (based on PNS Ghazi) and we are happy that we are the first ones to make this film. This is also the first time that a Hindi-Telugu bilingual film has been made. Very few stories lend themselves to being into Hindi and Telugu — this is a tale that happened outside Vishakapatnam, so it’s a regional story. But it’s an India-Pakistan (1971) issue, so it’s a national story in that sense. Everything worked well for us. We had the right partners in Karan Johan and Anil Thadani releasing the Hindi version of the film. It’s a new genre of film and when we have had trial shows, the feedback has been very good. The movie is also releasing in Tamil.

How is Karan Johar involved in this project?

We worked together on Baahubali first. In Mumbai, promotions are far bigger for a film than what it is in South India. It’s a country out there that you need to reach out to, not a state, and we obviously don’t have the kind of budget required. Whether for Baahubali or Ghazi..., we needed the right presenters for the film in Hindi. The partnership with Karan Johar worked out very well for Baahubali. When I told Karan Johar and Anil Thadani about Ghazi..., they liked the idea and wanted to see the film when it was done. They liked it and picked it up. I had a lot of support from big names like Amitabh Bachchan, who did the voice-over (which sets the tone) for the film in Hindi, Chiranjeevi in Telugu, and Suriya in Tamil.

Is Karan Johar a good friend today?

A 100%. He’s an ace filmmaker and a great friend. We need a good check for the kind of cinema that we are doing. We are trying to make films which are not out of Mumbai. To understand the market there is not easy. Karan and Anil have been great support structures for me — Karan on the production and creative side, and Anil on the distribution side. Both for Baahubali and Ghazi..., the Dharma Group and Anil have been solid in their support in positioning the films well.

Are more producers looking at pan-Indian scripts versus purely regional nowadays?

I think it’s a must and a good trend as well. I must credit this to Baahubali, its producers and director (S S Rajamouli) who gave us the dream and vision to go beyond regional barriers. How many of us would have ever thought that if we make a Telugu or Tamil film that there would be an entire country out there who’d watch it like their own? Today, Baahubali is a straight big Hindi or Tamil film when it releases. It shows filmmakers that if you make the right product, which is unique and not just star-driven, there’s a country out there to watch it. I’d like to put Ghazi in that space – it’s a Hindi film made in Hyderabad.

You’ve been part of two such pan-Indian productions...

I have been really blessed — I did the first medieval war film and I did the first underwater war film. Ghazi... is the first submarine film ever in India. That’s very exciting
because as an actor you want to constantly do films that haven’t been done before.

How did you end up with a good footprint in the Telugu, Hindi and Tamil film industries?

My career started by doing a Telugu film and moving to Hindi and Tamil cinema. I grew up in Chennai, so I have a connect there as well. My family worked in Tamil cinema and then Telugu, and I moved to Hindi. All these industries are part of me and what has made me. Baahubali opened a lot of new doors for me — trying to find new films, new filmmakers and so on. Ghazi... is the first of that exercise and I hope the audience likes it.

‘Baahubali – The Conclusion’ is releasing soon. Are you nervous as the expectations are sky-high?

Baahubali is only excitement and more excitement. You’re excited when you’re shooting and excited for the release as well. Expectations are high for sure. When we made Part I of the film, we were making it for the first time and didn’t know what the product would look like, and we were also learning. But this time, we’ve used better technicians, and the result is simply superb.

What’s 2017 looking like for you?

This year is completely packed for me. I just had Ghazi... released, and Baahubali The Conclusion in April. Then I’m shooting for a political thriller in Telugu with director Teja, and a Tamil film directed by Sathyasiva, which is set in British India.

You seem to be doing a lot of period films...

Well, they are nicer stories to tell.

Are you tired of doing the running-around-trees kind of films?

When there are enough people doing that, why should I also do it? There’s also an interest in recreating a certain time, a certain era. None of us lived at that time, but through cinema we can make the audience feel that era. When making Ghazi... that was the main high. It was a piece of history and a story we had all heard about. We have seen films about the army and police officers, but never a film that gloried the navy. India has the world’s fifth largest navy and it’s rightfully due that we give that film to them.

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