Weapon of Mass Seduction: Rana Daggubati

He’s hot! He’s handsome! And oh baby, he is so desirable! Girls go gaga over him, women go weak in their knees when he lights up the screen with his machismo and men go green with envy when he does what they wished they could. He knows the effect he has on women, for sure, but is quite nonchalant about it, which in a way adds to his appeal. From girls-next-door to sultry sirens, he has been linked with some of the most happening heroines of our time. But mind you, his claim to fame is not that. From choosing his debut vehicle `Leader’ under the aegis of Sekhar Kammula, the master of offbeat cinema, to bulking up 40 pounds for the magnum opus `Baahubali’, Rana Daggubati has pushed the envelope constantly. What’s more, he’s done it all so effortlessly and  convincingly. Not that his detractors weren’t sniggering behind him for his various link-ups or the roles he essayed in Bollywood, they were! But then, a `Leader’ doesn’t give a damn. Regardless of what people say, Rana knows just one thing. And that one thing gob smacks them all – his overall impact on the audiences.

Text by Shankaran Malini; Photographer : V. S. Anandhakrishna; Styling : Sujith Sudhakaran; Make up : Vijay Dhamne; Hair : Vasantha Vasu (Bounce); Designer eye wear: Lawrence & Mayo; Location : Amethyst.

“I guess I picked the right job at the right time”
    It is one of those sweltering summer days in Chennai when we catch up with Rana in the cool green environs of Amethyst. The hunk is in Chennai to shoot the Tamil remake of the Malayalam smash hit ‘Bangalore Days.’ Judging by the way women stop dead in their tracks as he passes by in breezy linen, Lawrence and Mayo sunglasses and his super cute EGOTIST cap, Rana has earned every bit of the ‘Most Desirable’ tag.
Straight off, I ask him what makes him so desirable. “Frankly, I have no idea what makes me so desirable as a man! If you had asked me this question five years ago, I wouldn’t even have known that things would turn out this way. I am an actor. Being in the limelight, you need to look right. And it’s a combination of being fit, being blessed with good looks, being comfortable in the clothes you wear and carrying yourself well. You also need to speak right. So It’s a combination of everything. My makeup artist, my stylist, my publicist and the people who put my look together are the ones who need to be given the credit for making me desirable,” he says, continuing, “You probably noticed the lady who greeted me as we walked in and enquired about what brought me here! She was my colleague in a BPO. I started working straight out of college. I was a visual effects coordinator. I guess I
picked the right job at the right time. And as to how I got here, the credit for it goes to a combination of different things.”

“My style goes hand-in-hand with my role in a film”
     How does he balance this ‘Most Desirable’ tag and his unique sense of nonchalant style with the different characters he plays in his films? “My style goes hand-in- hand with my role in a film. In fact, my look, my physique – everything depends on that. ‘Rudramadevi’ and ‘Baahubali’ – the two period, historical flicks required me to sport different looks. ‘Baahubali’ required me to bulk up massively, grow long hair, a beard, the works…I am totally game for whatever the character demands of me.” Does he emulate anybody on screen? “Look at me. I am naturally taller and broader than most others. If I tried to emulate their style, it wouldn’t suit me.” We can’t disagree with that one, especially after we learnt that his shoe size is 13! And while he may not emulate anybody, he certainly has his favourites as far as style is concerned. “I think Hrithik Roshan is very, very stylish among Indian heroes. He is a style icon, a style guru so to speak. I can’t even think of a second name. Among women, Sonam Kapoor, I think, is super chic and makes news when it comes to fashion and trends,” he says.
All through college, Rana used to wear a lot of his uncle, Venkatesh’s stuff. He chuckles, “I didn’t even go to college properly. I would dig into my uncle’s wardrobe for clothes and shoes. As an actor, he used to have a lot of stylish stuff – clothes, shoes and accessories.” Irrespective of whose clothes he wears, it is a fact that wherever he goes and whatever he does, Rana makes news.
Recently, his switch-over to vegetarianism had PETA sending him a gift hamper with predominantly vegan products. Rana comments, “When I was preparing for ‘Rudramadevi’ and ‘Baahubali’, I had to eat a lot of meat to bulk up for my look. The film and the script demanded it. Now I am working on the Tamil remake of ‘Bangalore Days’, where I am playing the role which Fahadh Faasil had played in the Malayalam version. I needed to get lean. Despite my workout and rigorous fitness regime, I realised that the weight and muscles I had put on for ‘Baahubali’ were hard to shake off. I always work out five days a week, no matter where I am. But when I tried a vegetarian diet, the weight started dropping significantly. So, I decided to stick to it for a while, until this project ends. I am not strictly bound by anything specific. It all goes with what is required of me at a particular
point in time.” In terms of project lineup, Rana is currently working on the Tamil remake of ‘Bangalore Days’ and has recently wrapped up the first part of ‘Baahubali’ which is due for release in July. There is no Bollywood project in the offing yet. However, regardless of how many landmark films he stars in, his role in `Leader’, his debut film, admittedly remains closest to his heart.

“I always walk on trouble!”
I cannot help but ask Rana about Trisha, especially at a time when the grapevine is abuzz that the engagement between her and producer and realtor Varun Manian is over. All he says in response is a polite, “I don’t think it’s right to answer these questions or comment on anything related to this.” But what about his much publicised affairs with Bipasha Basu and Ragini Dwivedi, amongst others? “I used to find these link-ups really annoying but then when I realised that all this helps certain newspapers in selling space, I decided to leave it at that. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks about you as long you and the people around you  who matter, know what the reality is,” he responds.
Rana is amongst the few actors who does not hesitate to speak his mind and is refreshingly forthright. Often this lands him trouble. “I always walk on trouble. Take the news about me turning vegetarian and PETA sent me a gift hamper acknowledging my switch-over, presuming it’s for life! Now that’s a very scary thing to think of…. Come on, Ramzan is fast approaching!” he laughs out loud.
“When things happen well for you, don’t ever question the logic”
 Recently, Rana had posted a picture of his from the sets of his current film, in a wedding costume sitting in a mandap, And that evinced crazy amounts of curiosity and reactions even from his fellow actors, not to mention many sections of the media. “That’s a funny one,” he guffaws as he reads out news from a Telugu film portal, “It says that I am gearing up for my secret wedding. That’s how most of my link-up stories are! Most are not true and some are utterly nonsensical, like this one.”
Still, I wonder whether the life of someone so handsome can also be so bland. Surely there is a special girl in his life right now?
“The fact is that, there is no girl in my life right now. I am not commitment phobic. Definitely not! I want to work for a few
more years, get settled and then think about marriage. I am working in three industries now – Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. My priority right now is to do well.” So what’s the first thing he notices about a woman, I ask. “Height. I find tall women appealing. I enjoy talking to women I can have a fun conversation with. I believe each one of us has our own personality and when someone tries to portray something that they are not, that’s a big put off.” Why do women love him so much, I wonder. He chuckles with delight, “Don’t ever question such things. When things happen well for you, don’t ever question the logic!” So, if he found the right girl on a date, I ask him if would he consider living in. “It depends on the person. I don’t know who she is. I don’t have one right now. I believe the idea of a perfect relationship is that you should be comfortable with one another. And you should be  yourselves. When you go out on a date, I believe you should have fun wherever you are.”
So, when is he planning to get married? “Come on! I am only 30. I am young. And I am single right now. I have no answer or thought in this direction. On a lighter note, you see even in films they don’t get me married. That’s how it is,” and he laughs as shares that his first on screen marriage happened recently.
So, what has changed, now that he has turned 30? “I noticed my first grey hair. And I was very upset about it. I think that’s the paradigm shift in my life now. It’s my first grey hair after all. The idea of colouring my hair was something I found appealing initially. Not anymore,” he says. The passing away of Rana’s grandfather, the stalwart D Ramanaidu, has left a great void in his life. “I was very attached to him. I don’t even know what to do now. I know he is not coming back. It’s something that cannot be undone. Whenever I see his office, his room or his car empty, I feel very emotional for those are spaces that can never be filled.”
Working in two period films – ‘Rudramadevi’ and ‘Baahubali’ – Rana feels is one of the greatest things that could have ever happened to his career. “Reconstructing a part of history is a big thing indeed. To visualise something that has happened so long ago in the past that you have no scope of ever seeing in real life or experiencing first-hand is a feat in itself. As a kid, Lord Krishna only reminded me of the late NT Rama Rao and Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, of the late Sivaji Ganesan. If the real people came in front of me, I would probably be disappointed because the on screen images are so firmly imprinted on my mind. My roles in both my films are the biggest blessings I can ever get as an actor. And if it’s accepted by the audiences, nothing like it.” Amen to that!