Do you believe destiny has its way?
Yeah, I do believe so, but I also believe in God and that he gives you free will. Your actions and good thoughts contribute to a big difference. I truly believe in Krishna and the fact that nothing moves without his desire.
How was your road to success defined?
Well, I think it’s a long journey, and I’m delighted that I got a chance to be an actor, to play different roles in my life — in real and in reel life. Every day is a new day with different challenges where you win some and lose some. But the beauty lies in the fact that every day lets you choose and move on.
Your stance in ‘Kabzaa’ looks phenomenal. Tell us more about it.
‘Kabzaa’ is directed by R. Chandru, who has delivered several successful films. It features the very talented Upendra and Sudeep. The Kannada film industry is turning out some fantastic films and this is another feather in its cap. The storyline is very different as it revolves around the lives of the gangsters emerging after 1947 and spans until the 1960s. So it’s a period film that has been shot superbly by our cinematographer, A.J. Shetty. We all have given our hearts and souls to it, and I know God willingly will do well. I hope that the audience will equally enjoy watching the film.
Did you have trouble breaking the news of your joining films to your parents?
Not at all. I was learning dance under Guru Shovana Narayan when a project required someone to dance in a music video. Learning that, my parents were thrilled. It was my father who took me for my first screen test in Hyderabad, and I still cherish that memory. Coming from a middle-class family, it was the first time I had boarded a flight. At that time, social media was not a thing, so it was tough telling my friends in Delhi that I was doing a film. From there on, there was no looking back. I did my first film, then a film with Nagarjuna. I was just a girl next door at the right place at the right time, so I’m grateful for everyone’s blessings and their kindness because that brought me here.
Who has been your inspiration through the years?
As a human being, you get inspired by the diversity of things and people around you. If you’re smart and don’t just look at things but see them, there’s inspiration everywhere. I find inspiration even in the harmony of the Sun and the Moon for their work. Now that I’m a mother, small things like Radha’s (daughter) persistence in learning something each day and her fearless attitude become my driving forces. My parents are yet another catalyst. I learned a lot about hard work from my mother, about not taking things for granted. I learned how we must dearly love our family from my father. In a way, I am lucky that everyone around me, including my friends, my assistances at home and work, and some inspiring actors and directors.
Amongst your portrayals, is there a character that you hold close to heart?
It would be really hard to choose. That’s like choosing a child closest to heart. There are characters that you know are connected and characters you may not connect. And then, there are times when some characters never leave you, ever. The process of being in a film becomes a memory. You remember the book you were reading or the things around you. For me, one such character that brings memories is Parvati from ‘Midnight’s Children’. I also reminisce almost every day about a shoot from ‘Shivaji’ and ‘Manam’, which I remember very dearly. ‘Nuvve Nuvve’ is a film released two decades ago and re-released this year. It was a delight to watch it at the theatre and relive it. While watching, I felt I personally knew Anjali. As if she never left me even though I portrayed her 20 years ago.
Nandini from ‘Drishyam’ is another character very close to the heart. Even small roles like in ‘RRR’ brought me immense pleasure because I wanted to work with Rajamouli (S.S. Rajamouli) sir. Playing Sarojini as young Alluri’s mother was extremely impactful.
How did you meet Andrei?
(laughs) I met Andrei accidentally. I wrongly booked my flight to the Maldives by nearly a month. As fate would have it, the evening of my arrival at this island, a boat was to leave for the south of Mali, and a bunch of people were going for a dive. Me being a lover of diving, I had to board this boat. It was here that I met Andrei, who would visit the Maldives with his friends every once or twice a year. I respect camerapersons a lot in life since I always believe they are the magicians from behind the scenes. Now, this boat happened to have one of the cameramen from Bangalore with whom I shared common contacts, though I had never met. He urged me to join, and there I was, taking a leap of faith, boarding a boat full of unknown people. And that’s where it all began.
You took leaps between dancing, endorsing, films and songs; which art form is most joyous?
Dance is my first love. My family tells me that before I could walk, I would sit and dance; Radha does the same and loves it. Music is, again, very important to me. Acting came gradually and I didn’t know when I fell for it. To me, it is an extension of dance; all art forms are related, and one leads to another. My background in dance helped me create a stronger understanding of acting. Portraying characters allowed me to become part of my audience’s lives.
How has, how has it been working on international projects? Do you think western accolades are overrated?
Not really. I remember Shah Rukh Khan once said that every actor wants his films to be released on all the planets. So you know you want recognition and people to know your work. And every language is different. So when your film travels regions, the structure requires specific adaptation to suit the region and the genre. The way the story is told may differ, in a beautiful portrayal with narration. So for an actor, it is actually an interesting process to do different languages, borders. But now, I feel times are changing. Any film is an international film. Language is not a barrier anymore.
Has motherhood changed you?
Completely, like I always want to go back home to Radha. She brings me immense joy. I love her little hands that come and touch my face in the morning, her naughty smile. But I think the factorial change that Radha brought in me is patience. She teaches me to be responsible and patient, and how to give my all my love unconditionally.
- Your favourite on-screen duo: Many. Can’t name a few.
- Currently reading/listening: Short stories and a book on Ayurveda. I am listening to chants in the morning apart from Baby Shark (laughs).
- Your favourite memory with Radha: When newly born Radha touched my face while on my chest.
- Dream director: Many, but want to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
- A film you can watch on loop: None, so many films to explore.
- Shriya Saran in one word: Learner
- Love is: Eternal
- Weddings are: Expensive
- Message for WA Readers: Choose wisely. Find someone you cherish your differences with. Do not be a bridezilla.