Friday, June 28, 2013

Shruti Haasan

“I’m like that beast which keeps growing stronger, every time you push it down”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the June 22, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Considering where she comes from, one would expect that Shruti Haasan would be looking up to her parents for all the advice related to films and acting. But here’s a surprise! She’s quite the independent tough girl, who’s made her own choices so far, when it comes to her career. What’s interesting is, while she looks stunningly beautiful, she’s not quite girly. Her soft low-pitched voice may not really make you feel she’s a singer, but she is, and a fine one. Shruti is slightly reserved, which is why, giving interviews may not really be her favourite thing, but well, here she is! While her debut vehicle ‘Luck’ may not have created wonders at the box office, that hasn’t deterred her confidence in any way. For now, she’s ready to sparkle the screen with two movies, and interestingly, both of them – ‘D-Day’ and ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ release on the same day. In a brief chat, Shruti shares her excitement and experience of her upcoming projects, reveals few things about herself, and talks about her parents, Kamal Haasan and Sarika:

You seem to be surprising everyone with ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’…
(Laughs) Everyone is like ‘Shruti is in this desi look, but I’ve been doing it a lot in the south.’ I’ve been keeping extremely busy there as well so I’m happy that people are liking the look. The character is very simple, she’s a pure village girl, so it’s quite a departure from what people have seen me so far. The response so far has been so good for the trailer and music, that I’m quite excited. It’s so different from any character I’ve played. For me, the challenging thing was, she’s so far-removed from who I am as a personality and whatever I’ve played before. Even in the south, I’ve been offered strong, independent girls, with strong personalities. She’s so simple and pure. I’m not naïve, this character is naïve. The only similarity is that she’s very happy with what she has, which is how I am.

Would it be wrong to call this your formulaic Hindi cinema debut?
It would be wrong. Debut is the first film you do. But, unfortunately, a character is considered a perfect debut only if the film is a hit. If the film is not a hit, it’s not considered a good debut then. But, if ‘Luck’ was hit, people would have told me, ‘Oh that’s a perfect debut!’. Also, as far as ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ is concerned, it’s not released yet, so you don’t really know whether this would be a hit or no. There’s no formula to say that this is a perfect debut character. I could have chosen some other film for my debut, but doing ‘Luck’ was a very last minute decision, but, I stand by my decisions, there’s no point regretting it. Though, ‘Luck’ didn’t do well, my responsibility began and ended with the character that I played. And people like it, so I was okay with that.

So, how do you go about approaching your roles?
In some films, the characters just scream out saying, you have to play me. It’s a combination of a team, and when you have a director like Prabhudeva, and a company like Tips backing the film, that’s also a consideration of the scale and how the project is going to look and stuff. So, it totally depends. I’m character-driven, mostly.

The kind of films you’re doing now, are they matching to your expectations?
No, not enough, but hopefully I’ll get there. It depends. There are certain elements of a character which make me feel that these are the kind of characters I want to play. Some of them are different from what I expected, but I enjoy the process. It’s changed also over the years, what it is that I want to do. But yes, it’s definitely, will move closer to what I want.

Considering your parents have done such wonderful films, it may be difficult to choose, but which is your favourite film, of your mother and father?
They’ve had very comprehensive careers because they both started acting when they were about five. My mom, I liked her work in ‘Parzania’, I think it’s great because she came back to acting after so many years. Like she walked on to the set, and won a national award, that was very good. I thought it was a great message for all the women out there. You know it’s not the end of the road, if you decide to do something, the universe is your oyster, you can go out there, and do what you want. Dad has so many roles to pick from. I like his film ‘Mahanadi’ a lot.

And how do your parents react to your journey so far?
My parents have always let me do my own thing. And fortunately, the success, the failure, all of it has been mine so the learning experience has also been mine, completely. I feel good that I have nobody to blame, and at the end of the day, I have a lot of people to thank. So, it’s a good feeling. They’re there to support me, but they don’t even really advice me. All my script choices, everything I’ve made myself.

Were you always sure you wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry?
Yes, absolutely. There were times when I thought of other jobs, but ultimately I knew I wanted to entertain people.

It may be hard to pick, but singing or acting?
I don’t have to choose. God has been really kind. Both in their different ways are creatively satisfying.

When you get some time off from work, what do you like doing?
That’s rare! I get very little alone time and which is precious to me. Actually, as a rule, I write music a lot. It could be a script idea or poem, or music. Or otherwise I just vegetate in front of the TV because I love watching TV. I also like shopping, eating, hanging out with friends, just normal things.

Oh so are you a foodie? Doesn’t really look like!
I am! It doesn’t show because I’ve to run and work out. And I’ve to watch what I eat, but I’m a huge foodie! I love good food!

You seem like a very tough girl. So, do failures affect you in any way, or do they make you stronger?
I get very strong with failures. I’m like that beast which keeps growing stronger, every time you push it down. It’s a slow process, but failures have taught me a lot. They’ve taught me a lot more than success to be honest. There have been tough phases, personally and professionally but I’ve found a way out, and come out of it, stronger. For me God has been a great energy that has helped me through that.  

So, there’s ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ and then there’s ‘D-Day’. That’s quite a transition!
Every character that I’ve played so far, I’ve not been able to pick and say that these two characters are similar, and touchwood I’ve been very lucky that way. And ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, like I said is a very simple, lovable character. That also is completely out of my zone and this also is completely out of my zone. It was challenging and it was fun. That as well, is a very interesting character. I’m excited for people to see me in that part because it’s a very intense role. I know people are looking the initial pictures and forming their own perceptions of it. But it’s a beautiful character and extremely intense.

But then how do you make that transition from character to character. Do you prepare?
Your transition into a character is your responsibility from set to set.  ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ didn’t require that kind of preparation to be very honest. The intensity of this character in ‘D-Day’ though, is very different, and for this character I think it was language preparation, learning Urdu and stuff. And preparation in terms of the look, with the prosthetic scar to make it look authentic, from hair to clothes everything. She had to look like she was from Karachi. So, yes that was the kind of basic preparation and the basic amount of research, but I don’t know how much one can do even in terms of researching the content. For me, it was a lot about what the director had in his mind, and also preparing for the emotion and intensity of that character.

I believe you’ve only worked with Arjun in
‘D-day’. So how was it working with him, and being directed by Nikhil Advani?
Yes, I worked only with Arjun. It was very nice working with him. He’s very nice, a lovely co-star, very helpful and chilled out. Nikhil’s very passionate about this film, and I think that shows. And this is a different voice for him as well, something different that he wants to say and put across. Everyone has brought a very positive energy to this film.

Is south cinema any different from Hindi cinema? In terms of the styles of working.
No, I find the difference from set to set. Each unit has a different energy, and a different approach. I look at it, comprehensively as Indian cinema to begin with, and I don’t think it’s region to region, I think it’s a set to set difference.

What do you like the most, and not like the most about being an actor?
I don’t like packing and unpacking so many times. But, because I travel so much, I have to. I like almost everything about being an actor. I’d say that it gives me the opportunity to see and be in lives that I wouldn’t have, otherwise. Even as a singer, it’s very much a world in my head. If I’m doing a playback, it’s a voice, but as an actor, comprehensively, you get to be somebody else, and live somebody else’s life, and give life to the person and touch the audience in a different way.

While as an actor, you have to change your look with every film, how do you like dressing off-screen?
I’m pretty chilled out. I like a mix between feminine and comfortable.

Are you content, as an artist?

No, not really. I don’t think it’s an artist’s prerogative to be content at all. It’s always about wanting better, and more and bigger. And that may not always translate to box office or pay-cheques. It’s what you feel inside. I think it’s an artist’s responsibility to keep growing. So, no definitely not! I don’t think I’ll be content till the day I die. 

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