Rana Daggubati's newly launched YouTube channel to pay tribute to his love for animation
Rana Daggubati, who now has his own YouTube channel to pay tribute to his love for animation, talks comics, superheroes and all things geeky
When we sat down to chat with Bahubali actor Rana Daggubati on Zoom last week, a minute into the interview, we wondered who the figure in the mural on the wall behind him was. It turns out that it's George Lucas, Star Wars creator. He then flashed the cover of his mobile phone on the screen, also Star Wars inspired. "I was into this much before I became an actor in 2006. I actually had a VFX company. But back then, animation was only meant for kids," he tells us.
Daggubati plans to change this with South Bay. His just-launched YouTube channel headquartered in Hyderabad, and run by a team of eight, will host live chats, news for millennials, music, animation, fiction, and non-fiction, all in animated form. The language, he says, will appeal to the young viewer, addressing the many subcultures that exist in the country while offering a global perspective. Hinglish, a mix of Tamil and English and Telugu and English is what the team is considering.
He has roped in famous faces and influencers on board as content creators, including actors Shruti Haasan and Laxmi Manchu, who will work as collaborators. Haasan hosts Secret box, a show that goes into the minds of India's finest indie musicians. Manchu's Coming Back to Life sees her talk to celebrities from India and the world, with the first conversation between Tapsee Pannu and Sendhil Ramamurthy. Musicians can use South Bay as a streaming platform, sharing their indie content with listeners. Sublime Collective hopes to find the best of indie music talent from across the country. Why Are You? is an animated talk show, that involves mainstream actors and directors, and turns the concept on its head some days, by making it fictional or nonsensical. One episode sees Daggubati's animated avatar interviewing filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, who speaks about controversies surrounding his life and career.
Daggubati rose to fame as the antagonist in Baahubali
Other than the phenomenal spike in OTT viewing during the lockdown, that makes this a timely business opportunity, Daggubati says, India has had a fan base for shows like South Park and Bojack Horseman. "So, why not create that kind of content here itself? Also, India has been divided between alternative and mainstream. So, at South Bay, we are combining both, while using animation. Look at me, I grew up on heavy metal and Rajnikanth! Young creators are helping us marry these two genres."
As a kid growing up in Chennai, Daggubati admits he read everything except school books. The first comic he became a fan of was Phantom ("even though I hated the movie"). "Back then, comics were a challenge to come by. Usually, their pages were used for packaging goods that came to us from America." He started reading Marvel comics, with Black Panther being a favourite. But he also read Tintin and Amar Chitra Katha. As he grew older, he found MAD magazine, which used humour and comic book treatment to publish satire. "It offered new world exposure in one shot. For a long time after that, it became my go-to Bible. For a boy living in Hyderabad and Chennai, it became a window to the world. So, South Bay is a sort of tribute to that."
Personally, Daggubati binged on The Simpsons and South Park, both of which arrived in India via the cable television revolution of the 1990s. "These seemed to us as ahead of their times, because the creators had the freedom to create and say what they wished. It was my introduction to American life. It helped me gauge what was happening in the US, Russia, and China. Later on, when I visited the places, I realised of course, that it was a bit different than you thought it was."
And that's why, Baahubali, he says, where he played antagonist Bhallaladeva, was a dream come true. It married his love for VFX with mythology. The films [2015, 2017] changed my life, and even the Indian viewers , because they knew that now we could make something like this in India," he says.
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