Rana Daggubati on playing Chandrababu Naidu in NTR biopic: Would have agreed to be present in even one shot

TS Sudhir

September 14, 2018 15:42:54 IST

For the better part of August and September, Rana Daggubati was Nara Chandrababu Naidu. The actor wrapped up a month-long schedule, shooting his part of the present chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in the NTR biopic, which chronicles the cinematic and political journey of the legendary NT Rama Rao. The movie is due for release in January 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and elections to the Andhra Pradesh assembly.

Rana, who famously played the antagonist Bhallaladeva in SS Rajamouli's Baahubali, has created a social media storm after he released two stills of the reel Chandrababu Naidu this week. The reactions have been overwhelming, complimenting him for having nailed the Naidu look of the 1980s.

The second picture released on Vinayaka Chaturthi showed NTR, played by his son, Nandamuri Balakrishna speaking to Rana Daggubati as a young Naidu, with his hand on his shoulder. To underline how close the shot was to real life, Naidu's son Nara Lokesh who is IT minister in the Andhra Pradesh government, tweeted a photograph of the real NTR similarly standing with his hand on Chandrababu's shoulder.

"Naidu has been a part of our growing up years, I have seen him as CM of united Andhra Pradesh, a decade in the opposition and now again as CM. Besides this, I went through lots of photographs of Naidu, who became an MLA and cinematography minister at the age of 28, in 1978. I think I have more photographs of Naidu than the CM himself,'' says Rana Daggubati.

The process to become Naidu began with a 4-day workshop during which Rana tried to understand Chandrababu's pace, body language and the tone, and manner of his speaking. He also met Naidu along with Balakrishna and director Krish to get a closer peek into his personality and the CM spent 2 and a half hours going down memory lane with the film crew.

"What I have done is not an imitation, it is a younger version of the CM as we see him today. As far as the language was concerned, he hails from Chittoor district so there is a certain Chittoor slang in how he speaks both Telugu and English,'' says Rana.

The actor's family has been associated with the Telugu Desam in the past. Rana's grandfather, the late D Rama Naidu was a TDP MP from Bapatla from 1999 to 2004. But Rana says he did not seek out either his father, producer Suresh Babu or uncle, actor Venkatesh for tips on how to approach this role.

"The intention was to remove my opinion about his politics and understanding his world of politics. What I think of his politics was irrelevant to how I played him. It was about recreating that journey, his thought process at that time,'' explains Rana.

NTR is the story of NT Rama Rao, the actor and his advent into politics in 1982. It reportedly ends with how NTR was reinstated after the 1984 coup and those who have followed the politics of that time know that Chandrababu Naidu's role in ensuring his father-in-law was back in the saddle, was critical. An interesting sidelight is that Rana who has spent the last four weeks reprising the politically tense 1984, was born the same year. It also helped that Rana, now 33, is playing Naidu who was in the early 30s at that time.

Given how relations between NTR and Naidu later soured after the latter dislodged him in August 1995 and took over the party he had founded, it is unlikely that Balakrishna, who is the movie's producer as well as Lokesh's father-in-law, would have included that episode in NTR. Also the idea is to celebrate NTR and exploit his appeal electorally, so ending the movie with the thespian as a heartbroken man and his demise in 1996, would not make political sense.

"It is the story of the greatest Telugu man who lived and there is a great sense of pride in saying it,'' says Rana, adding, "Forget playing Chandrababu Naidu, I would have agreed to be present in even one shot in the film.''

Rana avoids getting typecast and constantly experiments with film roles. Getting into the skin of Chandrababu's character meant he had to first get the body type right. Naidu has a lean frame which meant Rana had to drop his muscle size and alter his diet to get the Chandrababu look. The actor will now move to his next project, the trilingual Haathi Mere Saathi, the story of a man who has spent 25 years in the forest. The floods in Kerala forced the crew to change their shooting schedule.

Literally and metaphorically, there will be two jumbo movies in the first half of 2019 from the Rana Daggubati stable.

Updated Date: Sep 14, 2018 15:42 PM