Rana Daggubati: Baahubali 2 is going to be bigger, more dramatic than the original
Rana Daggubati is enjoying the unprecedented success of Baahubali: The Beginning followed by The Ghazi Attack. The actor-producer is looking forward to a packed 2017. In an exclusive chat with Firstpost from Hyderabad, Daggubati spoke about Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, his career in Bollywood, and how it feels to be on the 'most desirable' list. Excerpts:
The Ghazi Attack has received rave reviews for pulling off a first-of-its-kind war drama set in the sea...
Yes, a lot of accolades have been pouring in from many different parts of the world. There is a sense of respect as it is not the usual, run-of-the-mill film but a war film — and I am happy and proud because it gives a kind of strength to make many more films of this kind. It is very encouraging. While complimenting Ghazi, a Telugu filmmaker who is into mainstream cinema, said it was surprising and commendable that the film worked without action or a love story and that he wants to watch my movies. I feel very happy about everything that is coming our way. Sadly, the way things work is that the box office decides what genres are made. So it’s been very good because now that one film has worked, it gives confidence to the actors and makers to make more such films. This has proved that new content is accepted. As film-makers, we have that limitation, we want to be safe and correct all the time. But now many more doors have opened up.
You've been titled the 'war star'!
[Laughs] Yes, it started with Ghazi, and after this will be Baahubali 2. All my films and looks are very different from each other and that requires a lot of physical transformation. I don’t find the procedure all that complicated, it just requires the right kind of diet and training. I have two more films coming up, one is a political drama and the other is a period film, a fictional one, in Tamil — Madai Thiranthu 1945. I play a soldier in this war film set in British India. It is about a soldier who fought with Subhash Chandra Bose — so that’s yet another war tale. Both the films are very different from each other. I guess I look like I’m made for war films and I really enjoy doing them. These are all episodes that we might have studied in History books. To be able to recreate such important instances and transport the audience into a certain world which existed many years ago is really great and a lot of fun.
You've given the majority of your acting life to Baahubali! Isn’t it difficult to give so much time to one film?
Yes, out of the seven years of my acting career, I have given four years to Baahubali and that is pretty much the majority of my acting life. But look at the results! For certain kinds of content, you have to give it all. If you believe in something and everything falls in place, then to deliver such ideas it needs time. A film like that has opened up so many opportunities... It was a regional film which became a national hit. That’s when you can see that language is no barrier. It’s only the content which works. It’s given me a lot of strength and confidence to make newer content. Because of it, I knew that — if done right — there is an audience for new ideas. Ghazi is actually a film born out of that. I don’t know if Ghazi would have happened if there was no Baahubali...
And no, it’s not difficult to give so much time to one film because I did other films as well during that time. And films live forever. It’s very few times that we get a chance to be part of a film like Baahubali which is so big and recreate a world (of) that size. So as an actor and also a film maker who is trying to make new content, this film has really opened up so many avenues.
What can we expect from Baahubali 2?
We didn’t know what response we were going to get. We knew that we were making the biggest film this country had ever seen. And that’s what we achieved. The film was so successful that it became a brand. Now, in part two, you can expect something much larger and more massive than part one, something that you haven’t seen before. It is bigger, more dramatic and stunning, also more emotionally gripping than Baahubali 1. For all of us, part two was always going to be bigger than part one, because part one introduces the characters and the drama happens in part two. So for us it was always the more exciting film and finally it’s coming close.
You haven’t played a 'glamorous hero' so far but you have regularly been ranked among the most desirable actors. How does that feel?
I feel blessed and humbled by that because when I was doing visual effects you will be surprised to know that I used to be a very fat guy sitting at a desk and operating a computer. That was who I was before. To go from that to now, I’ve had a lot of support. I also don’t do cinema which is normal. I don’t have glamorous roles or songs — I don’t play a hero. I play a character. I played a politician, warrior, Navy officer. I’m happy that even though I’m doing cinema which is out of the box, I’m recognised in the glamour world. People like characters and I believe in story-telling rather than just playing a glamorous hero. Also, from my side there is no conscious effort to play this or that, stories are coming to me, stories tend to find me.
Quite often, here in Bollywood we find paparazzi chasing stars and clicking their pictures when they are out on a date or something. It becomes a big thing and these pictures are flashed everywhere. Does that happen down South as well?
Not at all [laughs]. It only happens in Bollywood. It keeps happening with me, too, whenever I am in Mumbai. Photographers click pictures when I am out in a restaurant with a friend, or even at the airport, and I don’t understand why. It’s so strange.
Earlier, you ran a VFX studio and produced films before you became an actor, tell us a bit about that.
I still produce films but I don’t run VFX studio anymore. I grew up with cinema. I started working in the industry when I was 19 years old. I understand different aspects. For example, I’ve worked in VFX for eight years of my life and did 80 films so I had the knowledge to make a film like Ghazi. There’s a lot of other technical knowledge I have which I learnt before I became an actor. I equally enjoy all aspects because for me it’s all cinema. It came as a natural course, a natural transition.
You belong to a family of film legends, does that help or is it detrimental?
It’s of course beneficial because growing up with top filmmakers and actors gave me so much exposure in cinema world even while staying at home. Without going to any film school, I gained so much knowledge which is a blessing. Right from my childhood I was surrounded by so much cinema knowledge...something that would take other people years to catch up on. I knew how to edit when I was in Class Six and I could mix sound by Class 10. All that was because I was from a film family. Also, my granddad worked on different kinds of films, my father did different things and my uncle did something else. Now that I have come in, I’m doing totally different things. So we are all learning and getting better — the idea is to get better at cinema and do newer things.
So far your Hindi film career hasn’t really shaped up in the best way possible. Is there a desire to make inroads into Bollywood in a big way? Which are the directors and actors you would like to work with?
There are so many fine and talented people in Bollywood but ultimately it is all about good content. It is the story and the script that drives and pulls of the entire project and that is what defines the kind of people you work with. It’s not even the language. That is how I operate. It can be any language but if the content is solid then everything falls into place. Be it Ghazi, or the political drama I am working on, language or place doesn’t matter, it is the film and its content that matters more to me.
We have often compared the professionalism in Bollywood vis-a-vis the South film industry. What are your thoughts since these days you have been spending a lot of time in Mumbai?
I am the only guy who works in both places. I live in Hyderabad and for last few years I have been bringing my films to Mumbai, and it isn't very different. All that is a myth. It’s the same. The language is different, but as an industry, we have different genres and filmmakers. The madness of making movies is pretty much the same, wherever you are in the world. Each industry has its own style of making films, they have their own ideas and ideologies, it definitely can’t be compared.
What are your plans for this year?
Right now I’ve got Ghazi in the theatres, Baahubali 2 is getting ready to come out. I’m also shooting for two other films. One is a political drama in Telugu with Teja and it is a home production. Then there is the period war film. These two will take up much of my time this year. I’m bringing out one more which I have commissioned with director Ravikanth Perepu who did Kshanam. I’m producing it and it will star newcomers so I’m looking forward to that as well.
Finally, any chance of you breaking the suspense on why Katappa killed Baahubali?
[Laughs] It will get answered on 28 April 2017 when Baahubali 2 will hit the screens.