Mumbai | He has lived with stories from the Amar Chitra Katha since he started reading and now comes the time to deepen his relationship with the comic book publisher, says actor-producer Rana Daggubati whose next film is on demon king "Hiranyakashyap".
The pan-India film, inspired by an Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comic, will see him play the king from Hindu mythology. It is backed by his VFX and production company Spirit Media.
"My association with Amar Chitra Katha personally has been from the time I first started reading properly as a kid. I was pretty young when these comics came to me from my mom. I've lived with those stories. All of these stories have somehow inspired me to be an actor and a filmmaker," Daggubati told PTI in an interview.
The actor-producer's professional association with the ACK started in 2019 when he opened a learning centre, ACK Alive, in Hyderabad. His production company Spirit Media holds a stake in the comic book publishing company, which was founded by the late Anant Pai and his wife Lalitha Pai.
Daggubati, who hopes to present timeless stories from the Amar Chitra Katha stable as big screen spectacles, unveiled the concept teaser of the ambitious “Hirankashyap” at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC 2023) in July.
The 38-year-old actor said the interest non-Indian audiences showed in ACK comics at the SDCC came as a good surprise.
“I was fascinated with the number of non-Indian people who knew about these stories and knew about Amar Chitra Katha... I feel stories will always keep uniting people. It doesn't matter which culture or language you come from. We are divided by states and languages, but art unites us," he said.
“Hiranyakashyap” will revolve around the titular mythological demon king and his relentless quest to annihilate beliefs and faith of the followers of Lord Vishnu. His son, Prahlad, however, was a Vishnu devotee.
As per mythological stories, the demon king obtained a boon from the Lord Brahma that he could not be killed by human or animal, inside or outside, in day or night, and that no weapon could harm him. Vishnu takes the Narasimha avatar to finally slay him.
The idea of adapting mythological and historical stories published by ACK on film had always intrigued him, the actor said.
But it was SS Rajamouli's two-part action epic "Baahubali", where he played the antagonist Bhallaldev, that gave him the confidence to finally greenlight "Hiranyakashyap".
"Post ‘Baahubali', we understood what it takes to make spectacle cinema. ACK became my natural choice because this is all I knew as a kid. All these spectacle stories need a nice way to come back to the younger world," he added.
Citing the example of the 1967 Telugu film “Bhakta Prahlada”, which narrated the tale of Prahlada and demon king Hiranyakashyap, Daggubati said the film was popular across south India. With this new version, he intends to take the story to a wider audience, he said.
“It is one of the few stories that cuts across the universe. It is a father and son story, and we felt that's the right first one to pick.” According to Daggubati, mythological stories and folktales were revered in the black-and-white era but makers later shied away from exploring the genre as it demanded a certain scale.
"Today's generation is different from the black-and-white era that watched that film. So how do you tell those stories, connect these stories? Comic books became the first reference," he said.
"Hiranyakashyap" is currently in the writing stage and pre-production will begin next year in March. Trivikram Srinivas is attached as a writer on the project.
Daggubati said they intend to turn more stories from ACK comics into movies, but will focus on only one project at a time.
“‘Hiranyakashayap' is the first one and there are a lot more stories. We will go forward and announce them in future. These are big films and demand extreme preparation," he added.
Preeti Vyas, president and CEO of Amar Chitra Katha Pvt Ltd, termed Daggubati “the smartest” because he managed to invest in Amar Chitra Katha and has got a 500 title catalogue, which people love and admire.
“They are all ready to be made into shows or films,” Vyas added