In this exclusive interview to Silverscreen, Aditi Rao Hydari opens up about why it’s a joy working with Mohanakrishna Indraganti, and how her experience of working with the likes of Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Mysskin have shaped her approach to acting.
In 2018, Aditi Rao Hydari made her Telugu film debut in Mohanakrishna Indraganti’s Sammohanam (2018), a romantic drama in which she played a film actress, Sameera, who falls in love with a cartoonist, Vijay. Critics drew comparisons with Notting Hill (1999), a film which was a huge influence on Sammohanam apart from My Week With Marilyn (2011), and Aditi’s heartfelt performance as an actress, who’s trying to move away from an abusive relationship, struck a chord with the audience.
Also Read: Sammohanam Movie Review
It has been two years since she was seen in a Telugu film, her last release being Sankalp Reddy’s space drama Antarishkam, (2018) in which she played an astronaut. Aditi is back in Telugu with Mohnakrishna Indraganti’s upcoming thriller V, which also stars Nani, Sudheer Babu, and Nivetha Thomas. The film revolves around a cop (Sudheer Babu) and a criminal (Nani) that the former has been chasing. However, the actress refuses to divulge any details about her role at the moment. “I loved the story and Mohanakrishna Indraganti is someone whom I love to work with,” she says, without elaborating further.
Excerpts from an interview…
You are collaborating again with Mohanakrishna Indraganti after Sammohanam for V…
I can’t reveal much about my role or the film, but Mohanakrishna Indraganti is one of those directors who’s really good with actors. Some directors communicate so well with the actors that you trust them and surrender to their vision. In fact, this film is almost like a reunion for those who are from Mohanakrishna’s school (laughs), since Nani, Sudheer Babu, Nivetha and I have all worked with him in the past.
Your performance in Sammohanam was heartfelt and the way you internalised the emotional turmoil Sameera goes through was quite striking. Did the film change you as a person in any way?
Every film changes you a bit, but I wouldn’t be able to say exactly how the film changed me. It does, however, impact other things and choices you make in life. I’m a very loyal person and every time I work with people who are kind and gentle, it helps me grow. Sammohanam is very close to my heart in so many ways, and it’s so sweet and heartwarming at the same time. Mohanakrishna Indraganti is all heart and I cherish working with him.
Talking about Mohanakrishna, what makes him so interesting to work with?
It’s difficult to pinpoint, but let me just say that he has a way with words that will put you in that zone instantly. He’s very clear and understands what he wants, and at the same time, he gives actors complete freedom to figure it out. Every scene has a different timing and vibe, and he helps you get there quicker. Also, the atmosphere on the sets is really good. It’s important to work with people who nourish and nurture you, because you are spending nearly 30-50 days on any given film.
Over the years, you’ve used those two words – nourish and nurture – when you worked with filmmakers like Mani Ratnam. Is that what you look for before saying yes?
I think intent matters the most, and each time, I’m trying to figure out if their intent is clean and clear. I’m drawn to people who have a lot of conviction in their work because their passion is infectious. Sometimes, a few directors might not be able to communicate as much, but that’s when you have to think on your own, make sense of what they want and deliver it. It’s also part of the learning process. I’ve worked with all kinds of directors, and the most important thing is to trust them. I’m a director’s actor. I listen like a sponge and deliver my best.
Whether my part is for 20 minutes or two hours, as long as the audience takes me home, I feel that I’ve done my job right. There have been times when I wanted to really work with a director, but I had to politely refuse the film because I didn’t see myself in the character written for me. As an actor, you’re constantly judging if you’ll alienate the audience or not, if you play a certain character.
Was working with Mysskin, who directed your recent Tamil film Psycho, a different experience?
Oh yes, absolutely. Mysskin is a very ‘in the moment’ person, and he makes you reflect on a lot of things which you wouldn’t have paid attention to. I put my heart and soul into it. Having worked with Mani Ratnam in the past on a couple of films, you get used to a certain style of working and comfort. It was my dream right from my childhood to work with him. Psycho was my first film in Tamil outside the Madras Talkies banner, and it feels like I’ve learnt a different language from another person. It’s also quite tough because he doesn’t give you an easy way out. When you fall in the dirt, there’s nothing to cushion for your knees, metaphorically speaking. I wanted to kill Mysskin (laughs), but he’s also quite a humorous person. But when it comes to work, like all good directors, he doesn’t give any concessions. I love that sort of turmoil, because it makes everything seem like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
As an actor, what’s it like being in a Mysskin’s film?
When it comes to Mysskin, right from the way he frames a sentence to his thoughts, everything is so different from what I’m used to. I’m quite used to being shot in close-ups, a technique which Sanjay Leela Bhansali often uses. But in a Mysskin’s film, there are a lot of shots which are long, and it completely changes the dynamic. Sometimes, it’s just your foot or toe in the frame, and he brings out drama in that moment. Like I said, it’s the intent which matters the most and how passionate a filmmaker is about his or her craft.
You have a couple of films in Tamil, The Girl On The Train’s Hindi adaptation. And then, this year, you are also making your comeback in Malayalam almost 14 years after you first appeared in Prajapathi…
Oh, that was just a cameo in Prajapathi and I wasn’t even an actor back then. So, let’s just say that Sufiyum Sujathayum is going to be my full-fledged debut in Malayalam cinema. It has a beautiful, fairy-tale like vibe to it. I’m lucky to have found such a lovely team to work with and it’s so rare to find people who’re so sensitive and indulgent. My work schedule was all over the place due to my other commitments, but the crew were very helpful and sweet to me. I always keep saying that as much as the box-office result matters to you, it’s the journey of making a film that is equally important because that’s what stays with you in the long run.