‘This film has changed me as a human being’

Deccan Chronicle.  | S Ramachandran

Entertainment, Bollywood

Says Rana Daggubati while talking about his latest trilingual film, Haathi Mere Saathi

Rana Daggubati

Rana Daggubati is ready for this third Bollywood outing after the 2015–2017 Baahubali series and 2017-war–thriller The Ghazi Attack. His next, which is a trilingual film, called Haathi Mere Saathi in Hindi, Aranya in Telugu and Kaadan in Tamil, is set to release later this month.
Chatting with us, the actor speaks about what he considers the ‘elephantine’ difference between the characters of Bhallaldeva in the Baahubali series and Baldev in Haathi Mere Saathi.

“What I did as Bhallaldeva was as organic as had been created there. Baldev is from a universe that the director Prabhu Solomon has created. And in all these roles that I have done so far, Baldev is possibly the noblest in terms of just his character and his being. Especially as an actor, it is lovely to play somebody that you aspire to see or you really want to be in society,” confesses Rana.
However, even as he speaks of his character that he’d soon be seen playing onscreen, the actor states that he does not usually get much into the nitty-gritties of a tale. “I usually don’t think much if a story is organic and true. I believe the audience will take what the actor is. A story like Haathi Mere Saathi and a character such as Baldev is far beyond us as people,” he opines.

So also, it doesn’t surprise us when the 36-year-old actor confesses that this one film has changed him a lot. “Most of the films I’ve done have taught me a lot, and I’ve been growing every time with each film I’ve done. But this film has changed me as a human being forever,” he points out. “Normally, when you go to the jungle and spend days there, you start feeling different and you start understanding different things. But for us, spending a whole year in the wild with animals — I think that changed us and our relationships with human beings forever.”

Co-workers who left deep impressions

Rana, who shed 30 kilos for the role, was, in an interesting contrast, working with the ‘biggest’ co-stars in his career — the elephants in the movie.
“The ground used to shake when eighteen elephants start moving at once on the set,” recounts Rana, who tells us that in the first week of the shoot, he got to rehearse a lot with the elephants alongside Prabhu [Solomon]. “It was like having the biggest and the best co-stars around. They’d react right irrespective of what fake emotions we may express. So, to me, the elephants were probably the wisest co-stars I have worked with and I probably learnt more from them than I have from anybody else.”

A family of filmmakers

Not many on the other side of the Vindhyas may know that Rana’s grandfather Dr D Rama Naidu holds the Guinness Book of World Records for producing the maximum number of films in varied languages and on varied subjects.
Perhaps a little differently, Rana has, although to his credit, been dabbling in many projects, from television anchoring to talent management with many in between. Grateful to his family for backing him, he credits them for their influences in his diverse interests. “I have been working for the same company since 2003 although my career started differently,” elaborates Rana. “I started a visual effects company, after which I got into producing films and then into acting. Obviously, there is a strong influence because I have learnt a lot from him (his grandfather). All my exposure to everything cinema is because of what my family and my grandparents allowed me to do. That is the very reason we are getting to do cinema like this, too. My grandfather did that in the ’80s and I am able to do that one more time.”

The actor’s newly wedded wife Miheeka Bajaj runs Dewdrop Design Studio, which designs leather canvas and jewellery. But does she seem interested in his work? “She is just figuring out what I actually do for a living. She will be active in some part, but I don’t know which part yet,” says the gentle giant with a smile.