I try to be fearless when I pick my films: Aditi Rao Hydari

Aditi Rao Hydari can’t wait to “hug people who I miss and love very hard. And then rush to shoot!” The classical dancer-singer-actor has been locked down at her home at Hyderabad where she has been keeping herself busy with “dance, kalari, Ashtanga yoga, watching movies….”

Catching up with MetroPlus over a video chat, Aditi says she is looking forward to the first OTT release in her career — her Malayalam movie, Sufiyum Sujathayum, which has its world premiere on Amazon Prime next month. “Initially I was disappointed that the movie wouldn’t have a theatre release. But then I felt it was my duty to support my producer. This has been a difficult time for the industry. The production house has been extremely welcoming and given me a lot of freedom as an artiste. So it is my turn to step up and stand by them. Now I am excited that I am part of the first Malayalam film to be released on a streaming platform,” says the actor.

It is a “path-breaking decision” and she feels that with the OTT platforms becoming an integral part of our lives during this lockdown phase, her film will be watched by a lot of people across the world. “There is a huge viewership for Malayalam cinema because of the amazing content it has been generating over the years,” she adds.

Aditi does not want to spill the beans on her character, Sujatha, for, she doesn’t want the viewers to approach the character with any preconceived notions. Vijay Babu [producer of Sufiyum Sujathayum] had approached her with the role when she had come down to Kochi to perform at a film awards’ night. Once she heard the story, she immediately agreed to do it.

In this “musical love story” directed by Naranipuzha Shanavas, Sujatha is married to Rajeev, played by Jayasurya, but she has a past where she was in a relationship with a Sufi priest. “I had to do a lot of reading for the role and had a coach to help me out. I can’t tell you anything about what exactly I had learnt!” she chuckles.

Role recall

  • Her first film, Sringaram, in Tamil, in which Aditi played a devadasi, won three National awards and two Tamil Nadu state film awards. In Bollywood she has worked with the likes of Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, Sudhir Mishra, Imtiaz Ali, Bejoy Nambiar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Among her films, she holds Kaatru Veliyidai close to her heart. So too, Padmaavat. “I also enjoyed the role in my Telugu film Sammohanam. Bhoomi was another film that gave me a lot of positive feedback. Two of my earlier films are also special, Yeh Saali Zindagi and London, Paris, New York. The latter was quite ahead of its times,” she says.

This is her second movie in Malayalam – the first was Mammootty-starrer Prajapathi, which was also the first theatrical release of her career. “But Sufiyum Sujathayum feels more like my début because in Prajapathi I had a brief role and I was young and new at that time to get enough experience. This is a full-fledged character with many layers to it,” she explains.

While Malayalam language was difficult for Aditi, she had “no trouble” with the food. “We shot the movie in Calicut [Kozhikode], which is a food haven. I had all kinds of home-made food, almost daily, thanks to some of the crew members. I love jackfruit and enjoyed jackfruit dishes as well. I also had food from some of the famous restaurants in the district. It’s a miracle that I didn’t put on weight after the shoot,” she laughs.

Aditi Rao Hydari

Having come a long way since she forayed into cinema, Aditi considers herself lucky to have got those opportunities even though some of them have been small roles, that too as fragile and docile characters. “I have been asked this question many times about why I get more of those vulnerable, submissive characters. For me, vulnerability is a strength. Without sounding modest, I want to say that I try to be fearless when I pick my films. Irrespective of the length of the role, I want viewers to take my character home. That’s what Sanjay [Leela Bhansali] sir said when he cast me in Padmavaat. He said although I have only a limited screen time, the role will be remembered and that did come true,” she says. She played Queen Mehrunnisa, first wife of Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), in the movie.

Aditi points out how many were surprised when she acted in the Tamil film, Psycho, directed by Mysskin, known for his brand of dark and violent cinema. “He gave a different dimension to the character, who looks weak. The killer looks at her as his saviour, as someone who understands him,” she says.

In multiple languages

About working in different industries (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam), Aditi says that she is overwhelmed by the acceptance and don’t want to compare the industries. “For me the atmosphere is created by the director. Filmmaking and how a set functions is completely about who captains the team and how, irrespective of language or region. Maybe, it also has to do with my own personality, I am like a sponge on the set and I give in to the experience with trust,” she explains.

Beating lockdown blues

  • I find the most positive thing we can do as artistes is to create and stay happy and share that positivity and hope. We must not limit it to Instagram and social media. We can actually share our time and resources and positivity with people who are struggling to survive! The lockdown has been difficult for everyone. Either we go down a rabbit hole and look at the negatives or we choose to find the positivity within us so we come out of it stronger, kinder, more loving and more grateful for what we have because there are many people who have it worse than we can ever imagine. I’ve realised there is literally nothing more important than love. Love for people, love for your work, love for the environment, love for your country. Love for your freedom. Love is the solution to literally everything. Evidently not the virus, but in the way it can be handled. I’m convinced that’s all we need ultimately.

Looking back at her career, she observes that even though not having a godfather has its challenges, those with godfathers have their own set of challenges. “I may have had a hard time getting the opportunities and the kind of roles that I want. But I always have conviction. What drives me is cinema and fame is a bonus. And ultimately what speaks for itself is talent and the acceptance of the people and cinema lovers,” she says.

Once the lockdown is lifted, she will be back on the sets of choreographer Brinda master’s Hey Sinamika, starring Dulquer Salmaan and Kajal Agarwal. “About this film, I can surely say that you will see me in a different role,” she laughs.

She is also looking forward to work with Vijay Sethupathi soon. “He is on another level, such an incredible actor.” A film each in Hindi and Telugu are also in the pipeline.

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