Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

It’s not just a film, it has become a phenomenon. Yes, we’re talking about the ‘Bahuballi’ franchise. Rana Daggubati who played Bhallaldeva in the film, interestingly also played a pivotal role in getting the film, this sort of huge release in Hindi. The actor seen working in various industries is calm, sharp and articulate to the point. In a quick chat, we speak about ‘Bahubali’ and cinema in general…

What do you have to say about the stir and thundering effect that ‘Bahubali’ has created?
This is the really what a franchise film does and this is the first time we were successful in making a first-of-its-kind franchise film for the entire nation. It went beyond the usual boundaries. The Hindi audience owned it as a Hindi film, the Telegu audience owned it as a Telegu film, and also in Tamil and Malyalam respectively. So, I haven’t really seen a film working across the country in its independent capacity. It is the beginning of many such things to come in the future. But for me it’s very satisfying as an actor and also beyond as an actor, as someone who’s helped platform this film in Hindi. Everything has really worked, the actors, technicians, the partners who came on board. This is a case of everyone working really hard beyond their 100 percent.

What made you go ahead and be instrumental in the film getting such a release in Hindi?
When we were making the film, we were making a national film and wanted the Hindi audience to watch it. Historically, nobody’s really done that before. Nobody has made regional cinema and released it here like this. We wanted to take a different route, we wanted to have partners right from the beginning who believed in the film the way we did. So, the search for a studio started and ultimately it was Dharma who came on board. Karan Johar is really a film-maker running a studio, so the film-making might be different but he still has the vision to understand what it will eventually look like. We just showed him some earlier artwork or the little that we’d shot and explained to him what we were trying to do. So, he came on board to partner ‘Bahubali’ and ‘The Ghazi Attack’. It has really changed the demographics of how we make films now.

So did you always have that gumption to make sure the film sees a PAN India release when you came on board?
I’m someone who’s grown up here, and have understood films from a very young age. I have been working in the movie business since the time I was 17years old, and I’ve also been involved in different kinds of cinema like visual effects or production. I understand the back-ends pretty well. You need to take that extra leap of faith especially when you’re making newer cinema. So, you need the right kind of partners from the very beginning, that’s when the film gets the kind of release it deserves.

What was the biggest challenge on the film? Maintaining that sort of a body all through the long process or even be in that zone mentally, must have been difficult? 

When you’re defined to do something like this, when you choose that this is going to be your next film, and if it’s the kind of cinema you want to be a part of, you need to take that extra leap of faith. I would say it was physically taxing. It’s not an easy film to choose. It’s not an air-conditioned set. It’s on-ground on soil and blood. But the experience is so overwhelming. You go on set and see such large structures built, then you see the visual effects make it even better, so I just feel blessed to be a part of telling the story.

In a way, can the film also be called career-defining for you?
It was a career-defining film for not just me, but for the industry itself, in terms of the kind of cinema we’re going forward with. There were many things in the past which we weren’t ready to do because of the kind of money involved in making these kind of films. The success of ‘Bahubali’ gives confidence that leap of faith needs to be taken that the audience is waiting to watch something like this. That is the most satisfying feeling.

Many people believe that the digital content is posing a huge threat to cinema – and people aren’t really flocking to the theatres as much. How do you look at the scenario?
All the mediums will continue to co-exist, and you’ll see more and more of spectacle cinema which the audience will want to watch in cinema halls, as oppose to watching it on mobile phones or television screens. ‘Bahubali’ was one of those spectacle films where even if it’s available on digital content, you still want to go back to the theatre and watch it. That’s really the experience it caters. There will be different content for television and different content for the digital mediums. We’re in the content space, we develop different content for different mediums and that content just needs to find its intended audience. We need to re-think and re-structure how we put this forward.

Does the know-how of the industry further also help you as an actor, and vice-versa?
Everything is inter-linked in that sense. We’re just a part of the industry and it’s the art form which comes first and then the economics. The economics have to be added very carefully because it’s a very sensitive space. It’s a business which works on a 5 per cent success ratio across the world. Not only in India, but everywhere. To survive that, you need to take the right decisions. Both the things work hand-in-hand for me.

What’s the criterion which choosing films in various industries?
Ultimately, I choose the content I come with. I’m not really a full-fledged part of this industry but whichever story I like and choose, defines the language and industry which I’m a part of at that moment. I’m just a film fan, a movie lover, who’s doing movies everywhere. For example, my next is going to be a Telegu film which is out in August, that’s a political drama, that’s a very region centric as a story. It works for Telegu and Tamil content. After that, I’m still looking for content.

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