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‘My childhood dream of working in a franchise like Star Wars or Amar Chitra Katha has come true through Baahubali’

Rana Daggubati reveals that he has more than one reason to celebrate the success of the Baahubali series.

ET Online|
May 11, 2017, 06.00 PM IST
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By Sahil Magoo

Bhallaldeva may have failed to show his supremacy when it came to being the king of Mahishmati. But actor Rana Daggubati with his villainous act in S S Rajamouli’s ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’ has left a lasting impression. In a telephonic chat, the 32-year-old talks of Amar Chitra Katha, Star Wars, his childhood dream of being a part of an epic, and how Baahubali has brought Indian cinema closer.

Q. Thousand crore at the box office and counting. How does it feel?

Satisfied, excited and overwhelmed with the numbers. When I was first approached, S S Rajamouli went through the narration and showed us the kingdom, and what happens as a single story. I have grown up watching franchise-based movies like ‘Star Wars’ and read Amar Chitra Katha and had aspired to do cinema like that. My excitement was because Rajamouli was finally putting together what I had always dreamt about.

Q. As an actor, are you impacted by numbers?

Frankly, these numbers have gone beyond our calculations. We had aspired to reach the Rs 1,000 crore club, we hoped for it, but none of us had expected it on the ninth day. While watching ‘Ben-Hur’, my grandfather had told me, “nobody remembers Charlton Heston and very few people know of William Wyler, the director of the film, but all of us know Ben-Hur”, and it is exactly what this film has put us on. This film has created an identity and has united the cinematic regions of India.

Q. With Bhallaldeva, villains and anti-heroes have come into their own. How does it feel to have brought about such respect for the bad guy?

Firstly, I can't take that credit (chuckles). It is the writer, the director and then me in that order. We are as good as what we are written for and what we can portray. Even in the ‘Mahabharata’ and the ‘Ramayana’, Rama or Duryodhana leave a lasting impression. So does Darth Vader from the ‘Star Wars’ series. ‘Baahubali’ is the first franchise film, and nobody has attempted stuff like this before with such characters. It is not just the protagonist or the antagonist but Katappa, Baahubali, Bhallaldeva or a Sivagami that stay etched in the audience’s memory. Each character comes with certain strength and power, and all of them are the drivers of the film.

Q. Baahubali is being touted as ‘India's Star Wars’. Your comments?

The ‘Star Wars’ tag really blew my mind away, that was like a dream come true. After I watched the Star Wars, I wanted to be in the movies. I started doing visual effects for many years and after that I became an actor. And here I am, part of an Indian epic.

This story is over but the world of Baahubali will always continue, whether in the form of books, movies or anything else. There is nothing written right now so we can't speak about it. The books have been on the shelves and have been doing well. We are looking forward to see where all this ends up then we can take a call.

Q. Your last Bollywood film, ‘The Ghazi Attack’, was critically acclaimed. Are you content with the scripts you are picking; what future plans in Bollywood?

I had two films this year. I think it is a bit much no (chuckles)? Post these three films – Baahubali I and II and The Ghazi Attack – I think the flood gates have opened between Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. You have to make one film which is right and which the entire country is going to stand up for. This has been proved time and again, twice in the same year for me. It is the film that drives the direction as opposed to where I want to be as an actor.

Q. Do you think the Indian film industry has become more professional?

I have been in the industry for about 15 years and every day has been a learning experience, thanks to changing trends and technology. Cinema plays an important role in uniting the entire nation as a single unit. Beyond language, there is nothing that differentiates us, as the method and the madness in making a film is the same in any part of the world.

Q. You said in an interview that you are blind in the right eye. Was that ever a handicap?

A young kid’s mother had lost her eyes because of a tumour or something and the child was deeply affected by it. I shared my story to motivate him. It really doesn’t matter to me. It happened years ago, and I am perfectly okay with it. I am happier seeing not many things (laughs).

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