The Rana Reign

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His fans weren’t exactly pleased to see him in the one minute role in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani where he plays Deepika Padukone’s friend but Rana Daggubatti has no hang ups about it. “ Ranbir called me up and asked me to do the role and I agreed. That’s what you do for friends,” he says Clear, nonchalant and to the point and adds, “It was a Ranbir Kapoor film all the way.” In Dubai to be part of an awards function, he wears his hair long because he is shooting for his next film Baahubali where he plays a warrior. The dashing actor speaks to Manju Ramanan on the blurring lines between South and North Indian cinema.

You have a fascination for action roles. Tell us about Baahubali and your new home production ?

Baahubali is my upcoming epic film that is simultaneously being shot in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi will also be dubbed in Malayalam and in several foreign languages. The film is directed by S. S. Rajamouli starring Prabhas, Anushka Shetty and me. The film is produced by Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni under the Arka Media Works banner. It is a period two part war film and I am growing my hair for the film. The title Baahubali means a man with strong shoulders and the budget of the film is close to 160 crores. It takes me 3-4 days to do one scene since it is shot in all three languages that I speak.

My home production is called Yodha and no, I am not playing a warrior there. I am playing an underground street boxer based in Kolkata. There is a huge network of underground boxing matches and fights that happen all over India that draw huge crowds and a huge amount of betting is done on them. Yodha is one such film and it has a romance in it too.

What is your motive behind doing multi-lingual films?

I do films in Hyderabad and Mumbai largely. I don’t let the people of these two place forget me completely (laughs). If you notice, after Wanted, a lot of South Indian cinema was remade in Hindi and did really well. Look at a Ghajini or a Singham that did so well in Hindi though the originals were in South Indian languages. So instead of doing a remake of a South Indian film, I am doing the same film in three languages and that is my vehicle to reach multiple audiences across India (laughs).

After Dhanush has broken the taboo that South Indian actors can do well in Hindi cinema, do you see more scope for migration?

The migration was always there. South Indian technicians and actresses have always been a hit in the cinema of Mumbai. Now actors too are making their niche. Look at Prakash Raj who is a big star in Tamil cinema, making his mark in Hindi films- Bhaag Milkha Bhaag being an example. Dhanush has been such a huge success with Raanjhana. But for actors there is still a long way to go. Production houses from the Hindi film industry are taking in talent from the south – Prithviraj who is such a big star in Malayalam cinema was seen in Aurangzeb and you do see actors wooing south Indian audiences too. My friend Ram Charan is stepping into Hindi cinema with Zanjeer.

What is the reason that actors and production houses are wooing South Indian audiences?

The South of India has the largest viewership of Indian cinema. There are about 2000 theatres for the Telugu audiences and they are huge consumers of cinema. Cinema is a religion to them and with the amount of cinema they consume, you wouldn’t really need another audience. The state does as much as the world does. That is a section that film makers today are acknowledging and catering to. The overseas market then is an addition.

So boundaries are blurring?

There was always a diminishing boundary between the two industries. During the Jeetendra –Sridevi era, where was the boundary and they were such popular films made then. But even before that, collaborations were happening. I remember my grandfather telling me about this Telugu film called Premagada that starred Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. It was shot in three languages. The Tamil remake was called Vasantha Maligai released in 1972 and in Telugu (the original) was made as Prem Nagar released in 1971. In Tamil the pair was played by Sivaji Ganesan and Vanisri and in Telugu Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Vanisree as well. It ran for nearly 750 days in the theatres. Though the movie is remake of original Telugu version, some few scenes which were not in Telugu but in Tamil version was remade in Hindi also. The film was called Prem Nagar in Hindi and starred Rajesh Khanna, Aruna Irani, Ashok Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Prem Chopra, Asrani andJagdeep and the music was by Sachin Dev Burman. The film was a box office hit. What is interesting is that, in the same set, three different set of actors from the three different film industries shot the film.

The boundaries were always blurred for the last 15 years, now it is getting lighter and lighter. It is good to see more stories come from all over India. India is such a diverse lang. Which country has this variety? A Kashmiri looks so different than a man from the interiors of Madurai yet we are all Indians – we all watch Salman Khan films.

So, where do you see the divide happening?

It is usually a group of film-makers that change the course of cinema. At one point of time, we had a few films that were only made for the Bandra and Juhu audiences. But Wanted changed that trend and after Ghajini collaborations started happening again. And now there is a clear trend of making remakes of popular South Indian cinema.

Remakes of South Indian cinema versus brand new scripts, how do you see the trend?

Remakes are a time-tested formula. It is easier for producers to work with a film that is a hit with 7-10 crores of people and convert it into another language film with a few changes. It is very rare that a remake of a South Indian film hasn’t worked. A new script might be posing a challenge to some producers because it is independent and might or might not work while a remake has a lot of chances of being a hit because of being a time tested formula.

Tell us about your foray into Hollywood and your future films?

I make my international debut with a film titled ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ directed by Aditya Bhattacharya.