The Swathi Reddy interview where we find out she’s crazy in an adorable way. I have watched Hum Aapke Hain Kaun ten times, she smirks, responding to a question about world cinema, is appalled that “most people don’t realise Ayn Rand is a woman” and breaks into peals of laughter when we mention her former name, Svetlana Reddy. She was born in Russia, you see.
We broach the best (and the safest) conversation starter we can think off – Vadacurry, her Thursday release. Directed by debutant Saravana Rajan, a former associate of Venkat Prabhu, the movie sees her romancing her Subramaniapuram co-star Jai. “I was always comfortable with Jai. He still remains a simple Tamil boy. But yes, things have changed. Earlier, we used to share a cab to reach the location. Now he has a caravan, but so do I. There are hordes of people around him. There are those extra frills,” she says with a laugh.
[quote align=’left’]My co-stars find it incredulous because they always consider me one among them. In fact, I offer them tips on wooing girls[/quote]Swathi agrees that “having a great rapport with a co-star helps like crazy”, but she is restrained all the same. “I don’t think we need to be ‘best of friends either’, that would be konjam over,” she says. “We are actors after all and are supposed to romance anybody and anything. We have to make it look effortless and natural on screen.” But Vadacurry is also making too much noise for the Sunny Leone item number, we tell her cautiously. Didn’t the teaser get around 32k likes on YouTube? “Seriously, I am beyond all this now, trust me,” she declares, “five years ago, it would have affected me and I would have had something to say about it. But if it helps bring in the crowd, so be it. Let them do what they want.”
First-time directors excite Swathi. She loves their energy on the sets. “Right since Subramaniapuram, I have always worked with first-time directors. It is a risk alright. But there are also those instances when an established director delivers duds and a newcomer strikes gold with the very first film,” she reasons. But isn’t it strange that things didn’t really take off for her in Tamil despite her super-hit debut? Her next release after Subramaniapuram – Poraali – happened after three years. “After Subramaniapuram, I was confused. On one hand, I was getting all the accolades, being complimented by everyone but on the other, offers were getting fewer. I realised that it finally boils down to your market value,” she rues. Swathi has great memories of her first movie, though – particularly about director M Sasikumar. She recalls how he used to unnerve her with his bassy voice; and the way he would drawl, “theriyum illey?” She was ready to pack up on the second day, and that’s when the director finally sat down and explained things. “Once I realised that’s the way he was and was not really ordering me about, I felt better. He then took on the role of a protective big brother,” she smiles. [quote align=’right’]Having a great rapport with a co-star helps like crazy but I don’t think we need to be ‘best of friends either’[/quote]The actress also realised the snags of stardom quite early. “I was linked to Jai. It was the biggest joke of my life, and I was quite upset. Truth is, we hardly talk – both of us really romanced the cameras if you noticed. I was naïve and young and remember pacing up and down Sasikumar’s office. He would tell me, ‘nee overa react panre’.” Now of course, things are different. Her “link-ups” are particularly laughed at by her co-stars. “They find it incredulous because they always consider me one among them. In fact, I offer them tips on wooing girls,” she chuckles.
With Subramaniapuram, arrived a volley of village girl roles, but she was not ready to take the bait. “I didn’t want to be stuck with the image. Not that I was offered some 100 films soon after that, just about 2 or 3 – in the backdrop of Theni, Dindugal or Pollachi. Nobody wanted to cast me as a regular girl. When Poraali came, I had graduated from being a village girl to a background dancer,” she quips.
That’s also one reason why she readily accepted roles from other languages. Between her first film and now, she has already done eight Telugu, three Malayalam and two Tamil films. In Malayalam, she picked the unconventional ones; be it her debut Amen (she plays a Catholic girl, Soshamma, set in medieval Kerala), the award-winning North 24 Kaatham (as a no-nonsense social worker Narayani) or the latest Mosayiley Kuthirameenukal (a docile Isa). “When I got the offer for Amen, I was excited to be a part of Malayalam films. They were having this cool new wave of cinema with movies lke 22 Female Kottayam, Chappa Kurusu etc. I used to watch them with friends. Actually in Kerala, they call me Swathi Menon. I am addicted to Kerala food and greenery,” she laughs.[quote align=’right’] I never lose interest midway, I think that’s the magic of films. After all, your life revolves around it.[/quote]
Her other movie in Tamil, Amali Thumali, directed by KS Adhyaman and starring Nakul and Shanthanu has been in the making for quite sometime now. Since 2012, to be precise. Isn’t it enough for an actor to lose interest in the project? “Amali Thumali is a sweet subject about young adults. I never lose interest midway, I think that’s the magic of films. After all, your life revolves around it. I think the day I lose interest in acting, I will quit. Right now I am obsessed,” she clarifies.
Swathi also picks up languages easily. Daughter of a navy officer, she was born in Russia, and briefly named Svetlana before shifting to Mumbai. While she finished schooling and college in Vizag and Hyderabad, she picked up Telugu only after she was roped in to anchor a regional show called Colors. “We used to speak English and Hindi at home. But now, I dub in Telugu and even in Tamil sometimes. There is so much that happens in a dubbing theater. I could have dubbed in Malayalam, but my character Shoshamma is a Catholic village girl in Kerala and I didn’t want her to have a twang of Telugu or Hindi,” giggles Swathi who has dubbed for actress Ileana D’Cruz (Telugu film, Jalsa).[quote align=’right’]In Kerala, I am constantly asked about world cinema, whether I have watched this Japanese film or that Iranian film and I tell them that yes, I have watched Hum Apke Hai Kaun 10 times[/quote]
Swathi also visited Russia last year, to be a part of the Pacific Meridian film festival. She was a special invitee along with editor Been Paul. “I visited my home and play school. My mother obviously had more memories than me. Svetlana Reddy would have sounded weird here, eh?” she questions, breaking into peals of laughter. Something that Swathi has learnt over time in cinema is to “shut up and trust people”. “Here, filmmakers frown upon actresses who ask too many questions. I used to insist on the full script initially, now I simply have faith in my directors. I still have not found that one film when I can say, ‘Ok I am done’. The one that justifies my profession,” she shrugs. She used to hate make-up as “it felt strange on her”, has dabbled in playback singing, and rues the fact that “just about anyone can sing with the aide of technology today.” And yes, she gets “offered more ad films than films.
She is a hard-core movie buff, yes, but begs off when I mention world cinema. “In Kerala, I am constantly asked about world cinema, whether I have watched this Japanese film or that Iranian film and I tell them that yes, I have watched Hum Apke Hai Kaun 10 times,” smirks the actress.
We mention her blog and she almost cries in protest. “Hey, how did you know about that? Have you read it? I am not going to give you the URL (laughs). See, I don’t do those irritating reviews that everyone uploads on their blogs. There is no melodrama; just an outlet for my thoughts.” Swathi reads as well, but – “don’t judge me, my choice is very different. I like Arthur Hailey, Irving Wallace and Ayn Rand. I like Rand’s Anthem more than Fountainhead though. It’s funny how most of them don’t even realise that Ayn Rand is a woman.” Having said that though, she also loves Harry Potter, having finished the series in a week and also liked reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She declares that “the day all Indian authors stopped sounding American”, she would probably start liking them.
We think Sophie Kinsella should pen an Indian series soon. Just so she can cast Swathi Reddy in it.