Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Fireside chat with Rana and Shobu” at TIE-ISB conference on 9th September 2017 at ISB
Moderator: Murali Bukkapatnam
Panelists: Bahubali team: Rana and Shobu
Murali: Rana did his debut as Leader. What was your experience in such a difficult script?
Rana: I was into visual works. I came from working in cinema. I always wanted to tell stories. I took new genre movie. I like drama and I see it in politics so I picked that movie.
Murali: You are an environmental engineer. You had couple of dot coms. Now you run largest media works.
Shobu: I went to US for MS in environmental engineering there. I returned to indja in 1996. I was against the wall with two failures. Finances were down and confidence too. Movies was by accident. Our third venture is a TV venture through family contacts. It was a Russian of survival. We started in 2001. 16 years from single serial production to where we are today. He is son in law of K Raghavendra Rao. Failures were off the marriage.
Murali: You are a multi disciplinary actor. Do you see this as a need for entrepreneurs?
Rana: I work in diffeent forms of telling stories. I grew up in the movies. This has been my world. I was from Chennai. Moved in 25 years ago. I moved into a house where shootings used to happen. Editing happened in the basement. Academics were never a focus. I used to hang around in editing rooms.
The property next to our house, we did sound mixing. Here I learnt alot. It is like I grew up in the film school by the time I graduated!
Murali: Are you advising entrepreneurs to stay with the known devil?
Rana: Film is the only last surviving art form. If I wanted I would have taken real estate where I would have made more information money. Film combines the erstwhile arts that get performed in Kong courts.
Murali: Being the the glory of Bahubali, what is in store?
Shobu: We want to keep the Bahubali brand momentum keep going. Merchandise, serials and VR and so on. We continue to make movies. We are looking at script driven coffee.
Rana: When I go through the transformation from one movie to another, how do you take it up? Each film is like a startup, new idea, new character and a new art and so on. When I start resonating the story, we start identifying with the character! Once the film is done, there is no growth acceleration. We keep rebooting. Start all over.
Murali: If you do it all over again Bahubali?
Rana: I rework with the 6 years of experience, I can add more. We were made like athletes but not feel like one.
Shobu: Bahubali Prequel will be there.
Murali: Failed dot coms?
Shobu: in 1999, 20 member team we developed a dotcom for returns management tool for retailers. Dot Com came crashed on us. Goto market strategy is a challenge in films. Getting the people to theaters is the tough one.
Bahubali from the get go we know with Rajamouli and story will be of some standard. We knew the telugu market for the taking. We knew that other languages would be a challenge. Noone did. We were focused on engaging with people outside our core market. Getting KJ on board and tight partnerships paid off.
Rana: I don’t attribute film’s success to one. It is a collective effort. Hard for an industry to believe in something that is bugger than the entire industry itself. Outsiders never believed till they have seen some Visuals.
Murali: As an VFX entrepreneur and then struggling actor, you have stabilized. Paint us the picture.
Rana: struggle is in story telling. Whatever be the role. As a film actor, I got unique position. I was never trained, but came from the film background. Language didn’t matter. I need to find new stories from,new story tellers. Next I didn’t want to go back what I did. I tried in Hindi. Mumbai made things open.
Murali: You dreamed big and you had no money left. Startups end up here too and knock on many doors.
Shobu: Yes. There were multiple layers. We started with some amount of respectability and credibility. We got close relationship with ETV and mutual trust. This partnership helped us. Rajamouli delivered consistently and hence huge trust by distributots and financers. People who gave more know this money goes into the cause. As a startup, your vision and technology have to deliver.
Murali: Who do you chose as your cofounders?
Shobu: Rana just finished his film Krishna Vande Jagadguram. We want someone equally big as Prabhas. We openly discussed with Rana. He is the most pro-active person.
Prasad: You are a friendly and easygoing one you look like.
Murali: That is what really life about. Keep making friends and keep.mvkng forward. I think in words as story telling than numbers and business.
How did you stay focused?
Bahubali is a classic example of everyone doing their job right.
Shobu: After 5 years everyone walked away as great friends. Film making is intense one on one personal relation. This is the biggest achievement.
Murali: How do you hit bull’s eye?
Rana: Movie is my world.
Murali: Marketing budget is very low for Bahubali 2
Shobu: Yes, very small. We started very early and made a big bet on social media. We studied the market pro actively. We stayed away from mainstream market. BB2 spent zero on TV media. We were prepared. We told the fans what we were doing all through the years. Started relaeasing behind the scenes. It was a conscious decision. We showed that lot of work by lot for commited people. WKK was my line but credit goes to all. We changed the screenplay in the very end. This was an after thought like better ending. We decided on such closure one week before the release.
Shobu: We got a 25 member team.
Murali: Challenges faced when you wee down?
Rana: My struggle was to do with changing movie industry. It was about finding those story tellers. It wasn’t much. I see this still easier than VFX. I may lose some time if a film fails. People who worked with me makes more money than they out into me.
We made hindi movie sitting in Hyderabad.
Murali: Leading actor in South, did good in North.
Rana: I step out of my comfort zone. Tollywood or Hollywood, film.making madness is the same.
Shobu: When you make a film, do it as a business. Give it that respect and place, don’t fancy it as hobby. You have to do it because it has to.make money. People come and say I am OK to lose couple of crores. That can’t be the attitude. There is no glamor quotient associated with startup or movie production.
Rana: I don’t regret not owning any of Bahubali IP. I have so many takeaways.
Murali: Competitive advantage of your background
Shobu: Engineering and analytical background. This is not common in movie industry. We treated this as a business. Very disciplined. Our credibility and trust over years.
Rana: I invest in technology based film businesses. Only telling stories.