NEW DELHI: Most people would remember him as Bhallaladeva, the antagonist in Indian cinema’s highest grossing films, the two-part Baahubali franchise. But Rana Daggubati has more to his credit, and currently on his plate.
The 34-year old actor who followed Baahubali 2 with another trilingual The Ghazi Attack and Telugu political thriller Nene Raju Nene Mantri, launched Anthill Studio, a business accelerator programme for technology startups that are building solutions for the media and entertainment sector, last year. The project is a joint venture between Anthill Ventures, an investment and scaling platform for early growth stage startups and Suresh Productions, an Indian film production and distribution company, owned by Daggubati’s father Daggubati Suresh Babu.
“I’ve been dealing with film technology for a long time," said Daggubati, who was a visual effects supervisor and production executive in the south long before he took to acting in 2010 with Telugu political drama film Leader. His mandate at Suresh Productions, Daggubati says, has always been to look after the new media business, apart from film production.
The Baahubali actor is known to take up different roles on a film set besides acting, from producing to looking for technological breakthroughs and finding marketing solutions. He had earlier initiated the conversation between Baahubali producers Arka Mediaworks and Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions to take the film to north Indian audiences and ensure a decent release for the Hindi version. The rest, of course, is history.
Born in Chennai, the movie kid worked as a visual effects coordinator in around 70 films, besides producing National Award-winning Tamil film Bommalata-A Belly Full of Dreams (2004). His acting hits include action drama Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum (2012) and epic historical fiction film Rudhramadevi (2015). Daggubati’s Hindi debut happened in 2011 with Rohan Sippy’s crime thriller Dum Maaro Dum and he made a fleeting appearance in Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) before grabbing Neeraj Pandey’s action spy thriller Baby (2015) and finally getting embraced by Hindi audiences in Baahubali.
“I met Anthill Ventures who’ve been investing in startups across various verticals, and they were trying to build a media and entertainment division. That’s something I was very interested in because we’d heard so much about AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and so on but there was no specific team that was going about finding these technologies and bringing them to India," Daggubati said. So far, the company has done one programme where it has mentored nine startups and put them in touch with investors besides helping run the business. The next programme is due in April from Anthill’s Singapore office.
“About six of those nine companies are already revenue-generating entities doing considerable amount of work in the market," Daggubati said adding that he is himself working on a project to rebuild old Indian tales into VR-based experiences.
“It’s a clear sign that the business is getting bigger and the entertainment ecosystem needs to be larger and more collaborative," he said.
Apart from Anthill, early last year Daggubati also tied up with Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions to bring out a south India division. Besides managing talent and brands, the company is also mentoring new writers, which the actor feels is an organic way for fresh stories to come into his studio and allow for a strong foundation of good cinema.
Currently working on a trilingual called Haathi Mere Saathi to be released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu directed by Tamil filmmaker Prabhu Solomon and a mythological titled Hiranya Kashyap, Daggubati feels the multi-tasking comes naturally to him. He has played different roles in the film process for as long as he can remember and he hasn’t known it to be any other way. And Daggubati’s film family lineage is responsible to a great extent. His paternal grandfather D. Ramanaidu is one of Telugu cinema’s most successful producers having founded Suresh Productions that his father now runs. The actor’s paternal uncle Venkatesh and his cousin Naga Chaitanya are also actors in Telugu cinema.
“I’ve been working in the movies for a long time now, whatever a particular film or show or project requires me to do, I do that," Daggubati said. “I grew up around people building studios and sets and I enjoy every part of it. The good thing is that movies are a very evolving business, so one must have their eyes and ears open all the time. When you’re making these big products that go beyond specific markets, everyone has to put in their extra bit to make sure the film feels right. I guess that’s a trait I have and I will continue doing this."