Rana Daggubati: Played a man who behaves like animal 

Rana Daggubati: Played a man who behaves like an animal 

For his bilingual film ‘Aranya’, the actor travelled deep into the dense forests of Vietnam. He tells his jungle story to Nina C George

Rana Daggubati in 'Aranya'

'Aranya’ may have released a while ago, but its lead actor Rana Daggubati is still living the role. Having played Bandev, a 50-year-old man, who lives in the forest and tries to save an elephant corridor, Rana says it’s hard to forget the experiences of shooting the project.

Inspired by human encroachment of the elephant corridor in Kaziranga, Assam, director Prabhu Solomon chiselled the character of Bandev to resemble a “human being with animal-like instincts”. Rana says he had to understand sights, sounds and emotions that went into the making of a man who lived among elephants.

‘Aranya’ was a film that espoused conservation of the elephant corridor and how mindless urbanisation has destroyed the ethos of these “sacred elephant spaces”. “The role came to me when I was shooting for ‘Baahubali’ and I was of a big build then. To become Bandev, I had to be leaner to resemble a man who climbed trees and lived off vegetation. Those living in these conditions have a peculiar body shape that is caused by a lot of physical labour. I had to work towards that kind of a look,” Rana tells Showtime.

Rana and the crew lived in the forest to understand animal calls. “Bandev had to show animal-like characteristics. He’s a man from the wild who reacts more like an animal. For instance, the first time when he sees people, he first smells them and moves his head like a cheetah. He doesn’t know what it is like to live and behave like a normal human being in the city. These were just some of the details that I had to work on and master,” explains Rana.

What Rana’s character had to bring out was the negative effect humans were having on these habitats and how it contributed to groundwater depletion. “To understand details, we travelled deep into the dense forests of Vietnam, where I underwent a fortnight’s training with a herd of 15 elephants just to develop a bond with them. It is only after this that we started discussing the scenes and the character. That’s when everything fell in place,” Rana reveals. It was overwhelming just to be around these elephants. “They are big but gentle,” he adds.

‘Aranya’ was made for the big screen but the makers had to settle for an OTT release, because of the pandemic. “Stories like ‘Aranya’ show the diversity of the wild. When you are doing stories that involve a large canvas, it is best viewed on the big screen. There are portions in the film that have been shot in real jungles and its effect would have been best experienced in a theatre,” explains Rana.  

For an actor and director, theatre and OTT, offer different canvasses for their creative freedom. “If I have to narrate a pure drama then I don’t  think I can constrict those characters in just two or three hours. Here’s where OTT comes into play and gives one the luxury to stretch the sequences and make the audience fall in love with the characters. Films like ‘Aranya’ and ‘Baahubali 2’ can only be watched in the theatre because the filmmakers are not only selling you a story, but selling you an experience as well,” explains Rana.  

Rana also says that he likes to challenge himself and offer his fans something new to savour.