Indian actress Aditi Rao Hydari, who has worked with provocative directors such as Mani Ratnam and Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra, is puzzled by Bollywood’s bad reputation.
This is not a drug-fueled orgy! What do you think we are doing? We all work so hard and where’s the time to be that bunch of people you think you are? But I can only speak for myself, Hydari said on a Zoom video call to discuss his latest Project V, a Telugu crime thriller streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Since the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, Bollywood and the film industry as a whole have come under the scanner and position themselves as a decadent playground for high profile drug addicts and depraved people who thrive on a toxic work culture.
But Hydari, whose credits include touching films such as the romance Kaatru Veliyidai and the Malayalam hit Sufiyum Sujathayum, does not buy into this popular theory.
I feel bad when people attack my Indian film industry. At the end of the day, we have flaws and we are human beings too. I would also like to believe that we are artists and that we are full of love and that we want to create beautiful things. Sometimes we make mistakes, but there is so little we can do about it.
She is also not a fan of those who vilify a certain group of people.
I really admire them for maintaining a dignified silence which I don’t want to add to this noise and give any credibility or legitimize their claims. But is it such a mess out there, the actress said.
Hydari, who has made her way into the industry through films that weren’t entirely focused on her, feels disillusioned with the hatred that swirls around her peers.
I have a great sense of justice and what is right and wrong. What is happening affects me. How can I ignore that so many contemporaries and friends of mine that I respect are drawn into this mess. How can I ignore this? But I also try to work and maintain my sanity.
The anti-nepotism poster girl is now focusing all of her energies on her new thriller V, also starring Nani. She plays an important role as Saheba.
Saheba is such an intriguing character. She doesn’t slap, kick or punch, but her courage to give up everything including her own unborn child to save an unknown girl is amazing.
Here’s his take on movies, favoritism and more …
On V output directly to a streaming platform:
While I’m grateful, I honestly couldn’t wait to see a theatrical release for V. But sometimes those things are blessings in disguise. Social media users have been extremely enthusiastic about this.
When filming resumes during the COVID-19 pandemic:
I did not resume shooting completely because I am careful. But two weeks ago I toured with John Abraham in Mumbai and traveled from Hyderabad for it. But when you talk about filming, it often means that you go from set to set and it hasn’t happened yet. The first month of my lockdown was painful and I was appalled by what was going on around me. But things have stabilized now. I have toured twice myself and had two releases in this lockout, I am privileged and have very little to complain about.
On COVID-19 being the biggest leveler:
COVID-19 was not about countries or regions, but about people. The virus was democratic and attacked everyone. It made us all realize that we need to connect as human beings. Nothing else matters. He taught us to wake up every day and count our blessings to be alive.
Upon entering Bollywood as a foreigner:
I moved to Bombay around 2010-2011 and wanted to be part of the cinema because I found it magical. I didn’t have this movie launch where I showcased each of my talents. When I appeared in Delhi 6 nobody really knew what I could or couldn’t do. It has always been one step at a time for me. Without sounding shameless or arrogant, I did what I wanted to do and did it the way I wanted to do it.
Dignity and the way I work and the people I work with are very important. I set myself the goal of being a Pan-Indian face and I achieved it on my own terms. For me, it’s always been quality over quantity and dignity and credibility over instant success or fame. I want to create a timeless cinema and characters who accompany you for a long time. I worked with directors who challenged and fed me.
On her first role as unmarried aunt Sonam Kapoors in Delhi 6:
When I made this movie, I wasn’t an actor that I studied and danced, but I knew I wanted to be a heroine. But I didn’t know how. Even on Delhi 6 sets I was so lost and stepped in for an actor who backed down at the last minute.
All the actors were like, she didn’t even fit the role, because I was playing someone in my late twenties and I was a lot younger. A few main actors even wondered why I was there and how I would do this part. But another actor on sets said: You’ll get your due if it’s meant to be.
I didn’t even know what was going on and just felt like I had to film and come home. With this first part I could have been split so easily but I wasn’t. After two months of moving to Bombay, I was offered Yeh Saali Zindagi and London Paris New York and these films were really the start of my career.
I was fumbling around, falling, scratching my knee and didn’t know what I was doing. But I knew the kind of people I wanted to work with and the direction I wanted to go. The outcome of the film is not in your hands, but this journey and what you learn is in your hands. You must be fearless.
His career in cinema as a foreigner:
I feel happy when people say that they are proud of me or that they are proud of the way I have worked so far. These words mean a lot to me because there are a lot of talented artists out there, but it’s also your attitude and ultimately the choices you make that define the artist you are. I don’t often think of myself as a foreigner. I have this urge to work on something new. I remember a flight attendant who came up to me and said: I’m sure everyone tells you that you are beautiful or that you are a beautiful actress, but I have to tell you that you are so well behaved and it has been a pleasure to serve you.
His words meant a lot and made me so grateful. As an artist, everyone contributes to the way people like and perceive you. I don’t want to be someone who stabs someone in the back to get the next big role. I never want to be that person.
His take on the insider-outsider debate:
Today, the conversation between outsiders and insiders is hectic and chaotic. I don’t like to use those words because it creates a wedge between us. At the end of the day, we are all artists. Yes, some may come from a privileged location and the opportunities I get may be less. They can have cushioning when they fall, while I might scratch my knee. But we all have this collective passion to work because we love our job and therefore we all get up and start running again. We work hard, but our struggles are different.
On auditions for roles even after nearly a decade in the movies:
I recently auditioned for director Vikramaditya Motwane. He asked me if I was open to auditions and I answered: yes. I have no egos about these things. Yes, I have worked in cinema for 9 years, but so what? But let me tell you, I’m terrible with auditions. You can put me on a set with an actor and I can play my scenes effortlessly because I have that instant bond with the actor. But auditions are a whole different beast, because I’m nervous.
On filtering hate and trolls as a public figure:
We all have mechanisms to survive. I don’t wallow in negativity. As a child, I was sensitive. A puppy on the side of the road would cause me anxiety and I couldn’t see a bullied child at school. Even when I got into the movies, everyone warned me that I had to have thick skin to survive Bollywood. But I feel that my vulnerability and my sensitivity are my greatest strengths. Plus, my fans are my army. If someone is mean and mean, that’s their problem and not mine. I just send them hugs.
In inverted commas
He makes me believe that dreams come true I became an actor thanks to him, said Aditi Rao Hydari of his collaboration with director Mani Ratnam.
Don’t miss it!
The Telugu V movie, starring Nani and Hydari, is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.