Rana Daggubati’s role of Bhallala Deva in the magnum opus Baahubali — the Beginning catapulted him to an elite league. Though he played an antagonist who had no hesitation in trying to kill his cousin Baahubali, the audience sat up and took notice of his impressive physique along with his acting skills. The actor, who already has a pan Indian presence across the industries in the South as well as Bollywood, saw his popularity soar to a new high. Rana was in Kochi for the promotion of the second part of the series Baahubali — The Conclusion. As images of the bulked up actor with massive biceps and menace in his eyes swirl around in one’s mind, in walks a smiling and lean physiqued Rana. Gone are the massive biceps and in place is a toned physique. The tall frame and broad shoulders along with his intense eyes and good looks are an indication of why he always finds a place in the list of India’s most desirable men.
Not many know that Rana had some doubts before taking on the role of Bhallala Deva when it was offered to him five years back. Rana was three years into his film career and he was a part of some films that were hits and some that were misses but his career graph was going upwards. He says, “At that point of time, so early in my career was I right in thinking of playing a negative lead were the questions thrown at me. Yes, I was excited about my role and so I went and asked Rajamouli if I was the right person for the role and by career logistics, if he thought I was apt for the role.” Rajamouli told him that it was a decision Rana himself had to make and explained about the movie and the role to Rana. That was when realisation dawned, “I understood that if I did not do this film now, no one is going to make a cinema this big again. That was it and I became a part of Baahubali, one of the biggest franchise films of the country.”
The film is also a showcase of the dedication and hard work of all the actors who gave five years of their career to it. Speaking about the challenges, Rana says, “It is a very physically taxing film with a lot of heavy action sequences involved. Getting into the skin of my character six to eight months before the shoot, building my body, getting weapons training— all this was new to me. All the actors and the director were learning and going through this journey together — that was the beautiful part.” Rana emphasises that it was this discovery that had them bonding well. In between his taxing shoot schedules, Rana managed to find time to squeeze in a Bollywood film Baby and the Anushka Shetty-Allu Arjun film Rudhramadevi. Rana quips, “When Rudhramadevi came, I thought — I was anyway fighting a big war (Baahubali) so I might fight a smaller one (Rudhramadevi) too. I also had a beard and long hair to suit the role!” Baby with Akshay Kumar happened because of an injury — first with Rana and then with Prabhas which gave Rana some free time to do the small role.
He also fitted in the Bollywood movie The Ghazi Attack as well as the Tamil remake of Bangalore Days. Growing up in Chennai and watching films across all genres, Rana is at ease with all languages. “Each industry has something new to offer. So as an actor, I want to be a part of different content which excites me. As an actor doing crossover films that have content relevant across India is great.” Coming back to Bangalore Days, who are his close friends in Mollywood? Pat comes the reply, “Dulquer Salmaan— I have known him for years.” Kerala, especially Fort Kochi, is Rana’s favourite place for its architecture and of course, food. The handsome hunk, who was shooting in Kochi recently for his period bi-lingual film set in the 1945s, has women beating at his door. Has the eligible bachelor being snagged yet? He laughs and replies, “I prefer sticking to the eligible tag for some more time till I get old and then you won’t call me eligible anymore.” Before signing off, the cliché question has to be asked, ‘When do we see him in Malayalam?’ He replies, “I would love to and I have tried, but I cannot speak Malayalam. Since Malayalam films have subtitles, I stopped learning too.”