Who makes Trisha blush?
Upstairs, in G Venket Ram’s classy studio, its walls washed a tasteful off-white while Vikram’s adaptation of The Dark Knight’svJoker smirks at you, the scene is controlledvchaos. The bride and groom – so to speakv– are each closeted in a room, transforming themselves into ethereal characters, while their retinue waits on tenterhooks with costumes, hair-brushes and tissue. People are stalking about here, there, everywhere. A kind handler leads me along meandering corridors, and into an elegant room – where Rana Daggubati greets me with a friendly grin, easily towering over me in all his six-foot-and-more glory.
Here, it’s an oasis of calm. I sit down amidst audio invites, files, plates and cutlery, while Rana flops down on a sofa, dressed casually in a green t-shirt and jeans. He’s waiting for wardrobe – and doesn’t mind giving a few bytes, in the intervening moments. A few bytes that actually end up becoming full-fledged, gregarious conversations sparkling with his easy-going demeanour, with not a hint of celeb artfulness. But then that, as he says himself, “is just how I’ve always been. Right from childhood.” A winsome characteristic, indeed.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to do a Tamil film,” he begins, as assistants pop in and out of his room. “My first film Leader meant that I was coming and going to places all the time and then, my second ended up being in Hindi. Now, I’m in my sixth film and finally, it’s a bilingual – Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum in Telugu, and Onkaram in Tamil.
Inevitably, the talk leads to his accepting and then refusing Vetrimaran’s Vada Chennai, and he rubbishes all rumours – be it related to Trisha, STR or anyone else – regarding the project. “We were supposed to be shooting Vada Chennai exactly at this point, this time. Obviously, I couldn’t do that, having committed myself to this one,” he points out. “So, I couldn’t shoot.”
Coming from an illustrious film background, his has always been a very privileged life. “Oh undoubtedly, I was lucky. For sheer vastness of knowledge nothing can beat the collective experiences of my family. I think I realised that when I went to New York City in my summer holidays once I’d finished college, to check out film schools. I realised that what they taught was stuff I already knew; I was far more knowledgeable. While they were still teaching the basics of sound, I already knew a lot about mixing Dolby and DTS. The knowledge I received as a kid – I couldn’t have gotten that in any other household. When I was young, the house was always full of talk about actors and distributors. I was supposed to leave for school at 8 am, and the first distributor would call at 6.30 am. And I’d be the one to take down details about theatres and figures – say, like Rajamundhry, and there were 30 theatres; these were the figures in the morning, noon and evening shows, and my grandfather needed to know all of them. Through him, I knew exactly what was happening, as well. There were no middlemen; I had direct access to information. I understood all of those things at a growing-up level.”
A wealth of knowledge and experience helped him kick-start his career in style, of course – but with all this came tacked another factor that could end up either advantageous or otherwise, depending on how he utilised it: star-status. “I can’t deny that it did give me the opportunity to start well,” he acknowledges. “I had relatives who were famous actors, like my uncle Victory Venkatesh who’s a huge star. And unlike most new heroes, I had the chance of an opening, because of my legacy and lineage. It really did work out well for my first Telugu film, Leader. To tell the truth, it wasn’t exactly the film everybody wanted me to debut with. It wasn’t a standard launch – usually people go for an action or love story, with larger-than-life song and dance, but I knew that this was what I wanted to start with. It was the political journey of a very true and honest hero. It worked very well. My point is, Leader took an opening because of the hype and the promos; the lineage, and an ardent fan following that actually wanted to see me in that film.”
It was only for his second film, he says, that reality crashed in. “When Dum Maaro Dum came up, I was a fresh newbie and no one had any idea who I was,” he guffaws. “It was only for the second film that I actually experienced what it was to be a newcomer. I didn’t know the unit, the people or even Mumbai.” Not to mention the roles themselves, which were as dissimilar as chalk and cheese. “I mean, first, there was Leader which saw me as a politician, the CM of the state, as someone with a sense of extreme power in his hands. In Dum Maaro Dum I played a musician who had lost his lover, friend and job – he was a loser in most ways. In one film, I went from powerful to powerless. It was a complete split. But with each of my movies, I’ve done something different. Right now, I’m operating out of three industries. Nobody has actually done that. Even those who have attempted it, did so only after they were already big stars in Telugu or Tamil,” he declares, justifiable pride tinting his voice.