Tall and handsome as always, the hulk of Tollywood has transformed into a new avatar now. He is leaner and looks even more fitter now, despite the health issues that he battled recently. His deep ferocious sometimes naughty eyes are still daunting yet sometimes mysterious and his bold voice is as charming as ever before. Rana Daggubati, who has made his mark in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films, was in Bengaluru for the launch of a wellness and IV clinic, that has presence in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, where he took out time for a one on one tête-à-tête.
Leader, Housefull 4, Dum Maaro Dum, Welcome to New York, Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum, The Ghazi Attack, Nene Raju Nene Mantri, Kaadan, Rudhramadevi, Aranya, Baahubali series – The Beginning and The Conclusion, of course, besides many other movies, Rana Daggubati is not just a name to reckon with in the south Indian film industry, but a figure that is known nationally and even internationally. He has won many awards for his contribution to the film industry. Rana received the National Film Award for co-producing Bommalata – A Bellyful of Dreams. He won the Filmfare best debutant male for his debut, Leader. He also won the Zee Cine Award for the Best Male Debutant for his debut in Bollywood, Dum Maro Dum in 2011, besides many other awards and recognitions.
When was that moment when you decided to enter the film industry?
It was a long time ago. I was running the visual effects facility before I joined the films. What made me enter was that there were very few who supported alternative story telling in the mainstream film industry at that time. I got to be an actor and tell a lot of those alternative mainstream ideas that I had. That time there were no other producers who were willing to take that risk, so I made that shift.
You rose to great heights with Baahubali. While shooting for the film did you imagine how big it would become? How did your life change after that?
It changed my life as well as touched many lives across the country. It gave you the ability to dream, as big as you want. Earlier, from a sense of Indian culture, people would restrict themselves to this is enough and draw boundaries somewhere. But what Baahubali did was that it gave India a global stage to play on and taught us how – if we unite as one country in a cinematic sense, it will make us the biggest piece in Asia, where cinema is concerned.
You do so many things – from production to graphics to acting, endorsing and what not? Are you hands on with the production and other businesses?
Yes, I do have a whole bunch of jobs that I do. That’s what, when you stop partying, you realise that there’s a lot of time to do a lot of stuff (he laughs). That’s how you end up working harder than the normal people around. My being hands on depends on if it’s my film or not, besides other factors. Instead of visual effects that I worked on earlier at Spirit Media doing animation and VFX, I run a pre-production facility now. Being an entrepreneur comes with its fun and challenges. One is constantly trying to do something different and get to tell stories that are rare. There was no pressure from family at any time. They’re all people who love films and anything to do with film making. That’s why when I first started out, the first set of films that I did were very alternative films. I did a film without songs or dance then and now it’s become mainstream. I did that six or seven years ago and could engage a lot of film makers. Today, everyone is in that direction of wanting a change.
So, how do you maintain a work – life balance?
Being in movies, is not really a job for me, it’s my lifestyle now. I wake up to playing a new character, pick up some ethics of that new character and go build on that and go for it. It kind of borderlines on me and doesn’t really become work for us. Work is sitting in an office and someone presenting you a quarterly report. So, thankfully, my films sort that fun life out for me. Being in movies is fun. Infact, being in anything entertainment driven is always fun as you’re always trying to create something with a group of other collective creative people.
How did you work on your 30 kg weight loss program? You battled heart and kidney health issues. How did you fight it out and how tough was it? Tell us about your fitness regime?
My 30 kg weight loss journey began when I was working on NTR: Mahanayakudu, a biopic of NT Rama Rao. He wanted me to play Chandrababu Naidu, the ex CM of Andhra Pradesh and I had to look like him when he was young. He was a thin lanky man, so my job was to shed my big size that I had and try to look as close to how he used to look. My job offers me these fun things to do. The idea is to keep doing something different and find stories that are unique. Fitness is something you do for yourself. I don’t do anything that’s crash unless it’s for a particular role and for a little period of time. It’s a lifestyle change. Don’t find excuses. Just find time for fitness and you’ll be fit.
I’ve always been a fan of anything to do with wellness and one has to change their lifestyle with the changing times. The levels of stress and problems that we go through everyday has increased a hundred times from our previous generation. I’m the brand ambassador of Happy Head and it’s in the lane opposite my house in Hyderabad, so I’ve tried it many times. Yes, I did battle heart and kidney issues and it wasn’t easy. I’ve made conscious changes in my lifestyle now. I have a very clean lifestyle. That has also made me a nicer human being. I don’t party hard anymore. I do my job and I come back.
Does that mean you’ve also stopped drinking?
Yes, I’ve also stopped drinking. If I do have to drink, only if I feel like drinking, and it has to be a rare occasion. But I make sure I stick to just one drink. My new life is a cleaner version of me. I try and fit in my exercise atleast four times a week. My fitness schedules are more to do with the roles that I’m playing at that point of time. Usually my roles would require me to be of a certain size or body type, but I ensure that I remain active. The most fun part of my job is that I get to be different people and for that I have to fit into different body types. If someone throws a character which is unlike me, one has to mentally and physically transform oneself. Physical transformation is a demanding job and it depends on a lot of workout and everything you eat. My job is not a desk job, so anyway I’m active due to my work and the cardio gets done. I try to do weights thrice a week.
It’s been one year of marriage. Has anything changed for you after marriage? How romantic are you in real life? What is the most romantic you have done for Miheeka?
Yes I recently got married. Isn’t it good? Marriage is a good thing if you find somebody who is right for you. Otherwise no. I changed as a human being first and then I got married. Marriage didn’t change me. I changed first and then tied the knot. It’s peaceful. I’m much more happier and much more balanced. She has been very supportive too. I like to do keep my romantic life a secret.
What is the most romantic thing she has done for you?
She does romantic things every day for me. She does a lot of those things.
Tell us about your association with Amar Chitra Katha?
I’ve also been a fan of it since my childhood. I think just not me, but everyone of a certain age, who reads English books and understands Indian mythology and culture will love it. Post Baahubali, we realised that we can make cinema on such a scale, whichever language it may be. Today it’s back to being online. Today we have a few million subscribers for Amar Chitra Katha online. Cinema is the keeper of all arts. In that sense, this venture is very much related to what I do in cinema. Hyderabad is now home to India’s first Amar Chitra Katha learning centre – ACK Alive, in the same space that originally housed a visual effects studio that I started, a few years before I turned an actor. It’s a collaboration with Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and Kishore Biyani of Future Group and we aim to teach the 64 art forms to children and adults who want to re-discover their creative side.
What are the current projects you’re working on?
I’m shooting a Telugu historical drama film with Sai Pallavi called Virata Parvam. The film revolves around the Naxalite movement that took place in Telangana in the 1990s. The director Venu Udugula is someone who has lived in that world of Nexus that was prevalent at that time and this is a love story that he picked from that time. It’s a very honest film. We just about finished filming. It’s almost ready for release soon and in this traffic jam of films, we are trying to find the right release time. I’m also just completing the action thriller Bheemla Nayak with Pawan Kalyan, directed by Saagar K. Chandra. There’s also Nithya Menen and Samyuktha Menon in the film. I’m also shooting for a show which is a rom com called Rana Naidu for Netflix. I’m still filming all these. All of them are very different films from each other and different from anything I’ve done before. I’m really excited to be working really talented people – Sai Pallavi and Pawan Kalyan. I’m sharing screen space with my uncle Venkatesh Daggubati, first time ever in my life. I always wanted to do this and its finally happened professionally. This is first time in this show called Rana Naidu. It is the Indian adaptation of the extremely successful American TV series Ray Donovan, which is the story of a man who fixes issues of rich and influential families in Los Angeles. My character is that of Ray Donovan named Rana Naidu in the Indian Netflix series.