Rana Daggubati is known for his work in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi cinema. Coming from a rich film background, here he discusses the nuances of film releases by comparing Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh. Edited excerpts:
Rana Daggubati (RD): The information we get in Hyderabad about Hindi films is completely different from what the Hindi cinema scene is.
Anupama Chopra (AC): What do you mean?
RD: The perception is different, the idea is different. The sense of what Hindi cinema has about the Telugu films that are there is completely different, because it’s been a different system of working for the last 60-70 years. There’s never been a case where it’s married. It’s been a filmmaker from Telugu who would have come here, made a bunch of films, like say my granddad, who made films with Jeetendra and Anil Kapoor in one shot and then went away. Otherwise, there were remakes that were bought. It’s quite disconnected if it is a remake, right? You picked up a certain right. It’s very few guys like me who have landed up in the system who are here also, who are there also. There are a bunch of actors now like that – Taapsee (Pannu). Now there’s a lot of osmosis, more women than men.
AC: Rakul Preet is another.
RD: We are the bunch who started seeing it differently. We see a little bit of this, of that. We are actually in one place. So then nothing is so serious except the film you’re making. And most often there is a perception of: The audience wants this, the audience wants that. How do we know what they want? We know how to make a certain story, tell that story and there will be people who’ll connect to you.
AC: So what do we in Mumbai totally not get about the Telugu industry, about the south industry?
RD: The resources here are too too high. Too (much is) available.
I’m doing a film called Ghazi which doesn’t have a song, it has Taapsee in a cameo, it’s happening underwater. I am not going to compare what Baahubali is going to do to that
AC: There’s too much money?
RD: There’s too much money, in terms of budgets. And that is not what is first required to create movies. Every time I am here, everybody says, ‘We have raised 10 million dollars for a film, 100 crores for a film.’ I’m like, ‘It doesn’t require all of that.’ An Ayushmann Khurrana makes a small idea called Andhadhun with Sriram Raghavan and it’s a great movie. It didn’t require all of these things. What happens with so much money, so much of these resources coming in, is your thought goes away. Your thought is, ‘How do you spend this money?’ That’s not the place we’re supposed to be in. Our system doesn’t even move like that. The second piece which is different is…I feel the sense of literature has kind of gone from here. Most of the studios in Hyderabad, whether it’s our studios or others, the lit heads become the heads of the studios. Most of them. They’re bigger than the producer, they’re bigger everybody.
AC: They’re bigger than the stars?
RD: Without a doubt. Because that’s where the stars get their stories from. That other ecosystem also exists very very solidly, where the stars there are much, much bigger than here. Everything is much larger in some ways. The lit guys are so much higher. If you see Tamil and now independent Telugu cinema, there are so many movies that are all mainstream successful films, but have no stars in them. The cost of getting a film out here is too, too expensive. There we make a film at 2-2.5 crores, it costs only a crore to get into theatres. Here it’ll cost 10 crore. To even be heard in Bombay is very difficult. Cinema is still not the culture of everybody. Social media is, cinema isn’t. There, social media is still slightly lesser than the existing ecosystem.
AC: So the passion for cinema is a little more?
RD: It also comes with many many things. There, if you see, theatres in Andhra (Pradesh) and Telangana have been growing. That’s the only place it has been growing.
There we make a film at 2-2.5 crores, it costs only a crore to get into theatres. Here it’ll cost 10 crore
AC: Your family has how many?
RD: We operate about 300 screens in Andhra. Because it’s about three or four different, large networks that are filed as businesses very very carefully. We don’t have free pricing, so which means it’s always affordable. That culture never changed.
AC: You’re nurturing the theatre-going people.
RD: Constantly. That’s disappeared here, which makes it just about the opening. That’s a scary part to be in, if you’re not a spectacle, if you’re not a star, you need that cinema to be in the theatre for some time for people to actually want to see it. Here it costs really too much to do that, or you don’t have that much theatre time. The theatre business isn’t growing in any other parts of India.
AC: The footfalls are going down every year.
Probably the lifetime collections of Arjun Reddy in Telugu were done by day 1 in Kabir Singh. I still can’t compare the two
RD: I guess the system is not fully integrated. Look at China, they have the same number of people, but 60,000 more screens than us. That’s a big number.
AC: Competition is for the box office. Here, the first day has become a spectator sport. We are all part of “kitna hum kitna hua, 40 crore ki picture, opening kitni hui”. Is that not a conversation you guys have?
RD: Each of our films are so different, we can’t expect the same opening. I’m doing a film called Ghazi which doesn’t have a song, it has Taapsee in a cameo, it’s happening underwater. I am not going to compare what Baahubali is going to do to that. Now I do a regional Telugu film, which is a commercial political drama. That will open better than Ghazi does, but Ghazi will have the opportunity of somebody in Bombay watching it.
If you’re not a spectacle, if you’re not a star, you need that cinema to be in the theatre for some time for people to actually want to see it. Here it costs really too much to do that, or you don’t have that much theatre time
AC: You’re solid enough to know that?
RD: The studio will teach you that if you don’t know it. You can’t expect the same, because the product is not the same. If it’s the same film you’re putting out there, which is very rare, like there’s a lot of comparison in the last few days. Every time there is a remake, I get called. Arjun Reddy released recently. Probably the lifetime collections of Arjun Reddy in Telugu were done by day 1 in Kabir Singh. I still can’t compare the two, because there it’s a newcomer whose innocence you saw for the first time, whose madness you saw for the first time and that’s created Vijay (Deverakonda) out of it. And Shahid Kapoor’s a star, he’s a big star. So it is two different experiences, completely. So it’s hard to put a measure on both, in terms of this is what this means, that’s what that means.