Interviewed by: Hemanth
Rana Daggubati : “I can never be bigger than the story”
Rana Daggubati is living a dream. After his debut in Leader, his next film was Dum Maro Dum, which marked his debut in Bollywood, where he shared the screen with Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu. Much to the actor’s delight and his legion of fans, he’ll soon be seen in a new Telugu film Nenu Naa Rakshashi which is going to release on April 29. The film has been making quite a lot of buzz about his unusual theme and Rana has no qualms accepting that it’s a different film which might surprise a lot of people.
What made you jump onto Nenu Naa Rakshashi?
Nenu Naa Rakshashi is a romantic thriller; however it’s not a regular story. Once, Jagan and I met at ‘N’ grill where he narrated me this story. I came back and wrote the scene order and I realized that I have never seen any film like this. I am a big movie buff, although I am 3 films old, I have been watching films for more than 15 years. But in this case, I couldn’t find a reference. Puri Jagannadh had made a solid character note for me. What interested me most about the film was its uniqueness and how it deals with the sensitive human nature. Although it has a backdrop of suicides, we are not talking about what’s wrong or right. Point is – there are 14 people who die every hour due to suicides, imagine how many more are thinking of committing suicides due to various reasons. Sometimes, the reasons why someone wants to commit suicide might seem silly, but to that person it might be a strong reason to end his or her life. I think you need a lot of courage to take a decision like that.
The story narrates the story of how a person ended up as an assassin due to his dark past and how he falls in love with a girl who has a darker past. It’s a dark film by nature. The characters are similar to how Puri deals with people in normal life.
Did you encounter any interesting or for that matter weird incidents while shooting the film?
We were shooting in Bangkok and Ileana, Puri Jagannadh were sitting beside me. And suddenly Ileana talked about how, at one point of time, she was so vexed up with her life that she wanted to commit suicide. Even Puri narrated a similar incident. I was shocked when I heard that, because we never get to hear about the other side of such people. Luckily, I have never had such suicidal tendencies. Touchwood!
At the audio launch, Ileana confessed that she had cried while acting in this film. What had happened to her?
I hadn’t met Ileana before we started working on this film, although I sort of knew her through friends. I was thoroughly blown by her performance. Her character deals with a lot of stress and complexities in life. I consider acting as a reaction to what the other person says or does. If I have done a good job in the film, then I will credit it to her. She gave me the stimulus to perform well.
We were shooting in an island near Bangkok. This was for one of the scenes in the climax and I remember, Ileana cried for 30 minutes before the shot began and an hour after that. She connected a lot with her character. Somehow, she wasn’t the same Ileana we have seen so far in films during the shoot.
Recently, there was lot of criticism after people found out that one of the songs in Nenu Naa Rakshashi was a rip-off of Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone”. Any comments?
Quite frankly, I have no clue! I don’t listen to music so much and when they came up with the tunes and asked my opinion, I told them that I liked it. It’s a cool song and fits well into the narrative. Rehman and Vishwa, who are basically lyricists, have composed the music as well.
You have been doing every possible thing to project Nenu Naa Rakshashi as a ‘different’ film. But the posters still have guns and Ileana & you in a liplock (almost)?
Haha. As I said, the film is dark by nature, so we have been careful about promoting the film in the right manner. I believe one can promote a film only till the date of release. We have to tell people what the film is about. If the audience is cheated, they would probably slap me and I certainly don’t want them to have any misconceptions when they walk into the theatre. Nenu Naa Rakshashi is a genre film made within a specified budget and sold accordingly.
Your recent stint in Bollywood, with Dum Maro Dum having hit the screens recently, you have been in news for sorts of reasons. Although critics praised your screen presence, most of them didn’t have good things to say about your acting! What made you sign the film?
Well, it’s good that they have at least some good things about me (chuckles)! I am happy with the way the film has turned out and how I have been received. The role was so different than what I played in Leader. I take care that I don’t repeat the characters. I play a Goan Musician in the film and quite frankly, I can’t play a role like that in Telugu. My director (Rohan Sippy) told the limitations which my character (DJ Joki) has in the film, that he’s disturbed and is not a rebel. That is exactly what you see on the screen.
How would you compare Bollywood with respect to how things go here?
The boundary is large compared to Telugu. Moreover, some new genres and niche pockets have sprang up due to this large boundary.
Too many things have been written about your alleged linkup with Bipasha. Was it a case of PR overdrive?
Promotions have become so important and in Bollywood, everyone takes it very seriously, since cinema is not the only means of entertainment these days. Sometimes the focus shifts from the product to the promoter. Probably, that’s one reason why people have written so much about me and Bipasha, when in reality there was nothing happening between the two of us. By the way, I had to learn how to ride a bike and play guitar for the film. One of the scenes where I can’t drive the bike in the film was a real incident. That bike didn’t have a second gear and I was struggling to get it started. Co-incidentally, that became a part of the whole scene.
What’s your next Telugu film – Naa Ishtam all about?
It’s a romantic comedy. Naa Ishtam is a love story of a selfish boy who puts the world behind him and a girl (Genelia) who puts the world ahead of her. It’s again a very interesting story. Prakash Tholeti is directing the film and I am going to dance a lot!
Have you already begun practicing it? We can’t really picture you dancing!
I believe, like acting, dance is also a skill set. I’ll do whatever a character demands me to do. I am training (on dance) under the aegis of Raju master. By the way, this beard will be gone so that I look younger!
You are going to do RGV’s Department. Of late, he seems to be going through a bad phase!
For that matter, even Steven Spielberg and Mani Rathnam have made bad films. RGV is a wonderful director and his genres still excite me. One of his films, Kshana Kshanam is my all-time favourite film. And Department, where I am playing a cop, is right up his alley. This time, I am going to dub on my own for Department and I already have a coach to work on my Hindi diction.
Do you have any dream projects that you would love to do at some point of time?
I want to do a large action period film and also a Tamil film. Tamil films have always interested me, since I learnt the language before I learnt Telugu. I want to be in Tamil space because of the kind of stories they are coming up with. Some of their recent films like Aadukalam, Subramaniapuram and Paruthiveeran have been quite exciting to watch.
Have you been picking your roles carefully? You certainly don’t seem to be in a hurry to do more films. What’s your approach to acting?
When I sign a film, I look at the writer’s intent and think about what else I can do with what has been written for me. I am not bigger than the story and I can’t choose what sort of films I would like to do. I believe the story chooses me. It has happened with Leader, Dum Maro Dum and Nenu Naa Rakshashi. Over the past one year, I have heard quite a lot of scripts. But I can do only two films a year, although I would love to do more films. Reason is, I haven’t figured a way out to do two films simultaneously. While I was shooting for Nenu Naa Rakshashi, I was called to shoot some left over scenes of Dum Maro Dum. By then, I was so engrossed in the character I was playing in Nenu Naa Rakshashi that it took me half a day to get into Dum Maro Dum mode. I was so lost. Besides, I have plans of producing some films, so, even if I want to do more films, I don’t have the time.