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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Rana Daggubati: “We Don’t Choose The Stories, The Stories Choose Us”

Rana Daggubati is Telugu film royalty. Having begun his career behind the scenes, he has forayed into taking centre stage through various roles and genres.

After making his debut in Leader, he has gone on to impress us with some remarkable performances in movies like Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum, Bangalore Naatkal, Dum Maaro Dum and Baby.

However, playing the central protagonist Bhallaladev in the super-successful Baahubali franchise further broke the glass ceiling for Daggubati.

Over time, he has proved his mettle through managing various roles in life and has since created a successful identity across multilingual film industries.

In a special interview with Filme Shilmy at Royal Albert Hall, Rana Daggubati opens up on Baahubali Live, his Pan-Asian appeal and Housefull 4. 

Baahubali has raised eyeballs from global audiences towards Indian regional cinema. How much of a long-time coming is this sudden interest?

India is unlike the West or other filmmaking countries. We have multiple languages and 5/6 different industries churning out big-scale movies every year.

So, it’s quite diverse in that sense inside of the country. There are a few films crossover within the country itself – breaking regional boundaries.

Baahubali was one such film which happened. It was truly Indian but at the scale of what global cinema was.

It was a spectacle, large and felt like Indian mythology. So I guess one wants to be involved with it.

With doing such roles, there are parts of the character that will always live with you. There is a piece of me inside that film.

You’re amongst the most popular actors in the Telugu film industry, who essays various roles in different languages. Has diversity always been the key focus for you?

The reason I chose to pursue a career in films is that you get to do many fun things. The fact that you wake up to be different people, playing characters.

It’s been 10/11 years since I’ve been acting and there’s a part of each character which is very strong and stays with you. Somehow, it makes you the person you are.

I think Baahubali takes the limelight of that. 

Aside from an actor, you’re also a producer and own a technology company. Does it ever become a challenge in balancing these tasks?

To me, it doesn’t seem like different tasks. See, I grew up in the movies. I started my career as a visual effects supervisor and worked there for about 7/8 years before I became an actor.

I am fascinated with cinema as a whole, thus it doesn’t matter what part of the job I’m doing.

It’s ultimately about narrating the story better. 

Plus, I carry out different tasks at different times. So it’s not like I’m doing everything all at once.

South Indian cinema is more courageous and creatively liberal in comparison to Hindi cinema. Why do you feel this is the case?

Ultimately, it is the people who make any industry. Every time, there was a culture of independent cinema that broke in, there was that cinema which flourished.

You see a lot of it Tamil cinema, with very independent filmmakers, nothing of the mainstream and that has been culturally rooted in that industry for a very long time.

Telugu had a similar phase many years ago, but after that, there were slightly bigger commercial films, which were experimented with.

Somewhere, people have started to move away from the theatres and not coming as frequently to the cinema, they prefer OTT platforms.

Now, to get people back into the cinemas, you want to offer them something which the TV/Mobile doesn’t.

Audiences want to witness something big and immersed in the experience.

Baahubali, in that sense, is beyond a film. You’re always in that world.

There are so many Hindi remakes of South films happening…

But that’s the fun part about India.

If you tell a story in Telugu and it works for a certain audience, you can actually make that film again because another bunch of people haven’t watched it.

Internationally, this style is very popular. Recently, there was a Telugu film which was produced which was an adaptation of a Korean film.

We realised that the movie has been made over 18 times in different parts of the world.

That’s the power of a story… It transcends. It’s not solely reliant on the cast and crew.

How do you feel about this being a lack of creativity in the industry?

India makes movies four times more than Hollywood, so given the mass size, one knows that there is also more cinema being produced.

Clearly, on that aspect, there is no lack of creativity. It’s about finding great stories.

It would be foolish if we assume we are the ones picking the story… It’s the story that chooses us.

For instance, a writer in Madhurai somewhere lands up in Hyderabad at a director’s desk, picks up some actors from different parts of the country, makes it into one language and becomes successful.

Then someone else picks it up. So, the story is still travelling. You don’t know when it’s going to stop, hence that’s the power of cinema.

Maybe the success of Kabir Singh shows that there is always an audience for remakes?

Of course. India and the world are diverse and skewed. Things that you and I like, might be hated by others.

There are different kinds of cinema for everyone and India itself has a population of a billion, so that’s the biggest diaspora anyone’s ever going to get.

With a billion people speaking 100+ different languages, that’s not something which audiences in other countries would get.

Your next Bollywood film Housefull 4, has been in the headlines. How did the repercussions of Nana Patekar’s exit impact you?

It is a negative role, but Housefull 4 is the funniest and craziest thing I’ve done as an actor.

Usually, that’s a genre nobody comes to me for either. I first got a call from Sajid and that’s how we connected.

There has been a lot of on-going news about Nana Patekar and Sajid Khan’s exit, so I hadn’t met any of those people.

I knew of the film happening but wasn’t sure about everything. Then Farhad approached me where I was told that the part was re-written as Nana and I are of different ages.

When I read it, I thought that the part, it was the funniest role I’ve ever heard. 

It is when you laugh at stupid stuff, that’s what Housefull is. Since I had never done something like this and had some time off, I thought I’d go ahead with it.

Listen to our interview with Rana Daggubati here:


Rana Daggubati is undoubtedly the empire of his own kingdom and we wish him further success in the future.

Baahubali was shown at the Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by a full symphony orchestra performing MM Keeravani’s epic score.

It was the first Non-English film to be screened at the prestigious and iconic venue in London. 

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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