Cars honking in the background. The purr of a smooth engine. And Hansika Motwani’s laughter as she says, “I’m a happy-happy person!” She should be. It’s almost D-Day for the release of Puli. And it’s going to be big. Meanwhile, she’s already busy driving between the sets of her next projects, Pokkiri Raja and Jolly LLB’s Tamil remake. Shuttling across cities. Trying to tune out the blaring of the traffic, we exchange the usual pleasantries. I assume there’s a driver, but I’m wrong. She says with a touch of pride, “I drive my own car, and I’m proud of that.
In fact, at the age of 24, I’ve achieved things that most people only manage to do in their 30s. So I am a happy-happy person!”
She started out as a child artist. At the age of 10, she was acting in TV serials like Shakalaka Boom Boom and Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand. Her first movie was in 2007, as the co-lead in in Allu Arjun’s Desamuduru. Sounds like a dream childhood. But then, it means you never experience the joys and camaraderie of normal college life. Hansika disagrees. “I think I’m lucky. I’ve never felt bad about missing out on college. The education the film industry has given me, I couldn’t have got at any college.”
2015 has been a great year for her, with three releases already in the bag. Aambala, Romeo Juliet and Vaalu have all been commercially successful. And the biggest of them all, Puli, is yet to release. Needless to say, the film has been garnering attention from all quarters, with 3000 screens across the planet ready to launch the film in their respective nooks. Would that be part of the Baahubali effect, opening doors to South Indian period fantasy films? Her answer is a clear no. “It would be unfair to compare Puli with Baahubali,” she says. “Baahubali is a period drama, whereas Puli is a fantasy film with commercial elements. Completely different genres.”
Hansika plays Ilavarasi Mandakini, Sridevi’s daughter in the film. Was that the tough part, I wonder. Having to work with an actress of Sridevi’s stature? No, says Hansika. “The tough part was the lengthy ‘Shuddh’ Tamil dialogues. But,” she laughs, “I survived.” About Sridevi, she says, “I had clarity about my character as well as Sridevi Ma’am’s, so I was pretty confident of myself. Of course I was excited about meeting her. But I wasn’t nervous. It was a great learning experience.”
She’s active on social media and seems to relish communicating with her fans. Lately, she’s also been promoting health and fitness on her pages. “I do a lot of Yoga, and for cardio, I play squash. If my posts motivates my fans to become fit, I’m happy. Yoga especially helped me to be at peace. I definitely recommend it to people around me.”
Playing a princess on screen comes with a bunch of perks, especially for Hansika, who loves to dress up. “I’m a girl. And an actress moreover. So, I love dressing up. Honestly, if I walk in somewhere and nobody turns around to look it at me, I feel bad. I think it’s my responsibility to myself to look good and presentable wherever I go. It makes me feel good and boosts my confidence. Of course, on screen, every actress should dress up according to the demands of the role. Glamorous or not. Personally, I like playing glamorous roles.”
When it comes to choosing a film to work on, she has a foolproof, simple strategy. “I don’t just listen to my part. I listen to the entire story, and get a feel for what the movie will look like. If I enjoyed hearing the story, then the audience probably will. That’s a green signal for me to work on the film.” Like any other actress, Hansika has had films that didn’t do well. But she has no regrets.
“Regardless of the box office outcome, every film has been profitable for me. By that I mean, it’s gotten me somewhere. I’ve learned from each experience.”
Despite being a star, Hansika says she still leads a normal life. Especially when it comes to time with her family and friends. “I definitely find time to hang out with my friends, and attend birthday parties and family functions.”
Hansika has consistently been in the news for her philanthropic activities. And that’s her sole complaint, “I‘ve always tried to keep my philanthropic activities away from the public eye, and I’ve always asked my PR to not announce it. Honestly, I’ve never been particularly happy that you guys (media) get to know about my various charities. It sounds like publicity for me, and that’s not true. Even before I became a well-known actress, I was involved with social work. My mother was also involved. I consider myself fortunate to be able to help people around me. ”
Hansika is often called “Chinna Khushbu” because her chirpiness is reminiscent of Khushbu. When I ask her who she would consider “Chinna Hansika”, she laughs. “A chinna Hansika is yet to arrive. Actually, I’m all of 24. I’m still a ‘Chinna’ ponnu, so let me keep my name to myself for a few more years.” She jokingly adds, “I’ll happily pass it on to someone later.”