HYDERABAD : Amid the din of the Sri Reddy row, a pertinent point that’s gone under the radar is the lack of representation local talent usually gets in our films. In recent times, Telugu-speaking female actors have come out engaging in dialogue over how our filmmakers, in their fascination for fair skin, are turning a blind eye to regional talent. Filmmakers though explain that it’s not so simple.
Actor-director Rahul Ravindran, who’s almost ready with his debut film, Chi La Sow, admits that he struggled for many months to find a Telugu-speaking girl who would be perfect for the part. “I was keen to cast a fresh face, a female actor who would speak Telugu fluently. I worked closely with a friend, who is also making his directorial debut soon. But we got very few profiles, and even though I had them all audition, I wasn’t fortunate enough to find a local girl who was good for the role.”
And directors, of course, can’t wait too long. “It is a complicated process,” explains Rahul. “We have deadlines and have to plan schedules. Eventually, I cast a Punjabi girl, Ruhani Sharma, who I felt would be perfect for the role. I was also convinced by her desire to learn all her dialogues to get the perfect
Director Nandini Reddy, who has made three feature films, says it’s just about impossible to find native talent as Telugu families are not too encouraging of women stepping into films. “I auditioned over 250 locals and couldn’t find the right actress for my films. There aren’t too many options. Our parents want their daughters to pursue engineering, settle down abroad working software jobs. Once this notion changes, we will have more talent to choose from,” she says.Nandini recalls an interesting incident to ram her point home. “After Ala Modalaindi, I spotted an attractive girl in a restaurant and went straight to her to ask if she is interested in acting. Her mother, however, seemed reluctant and passed some insulting remarks about the film industry. The girl and her father apologised to me.”
All her films so far, she reveals, were made on small budgets. “When I was looking for a heroine for my debut film, Ala Modalaindi, we barely had any choices. I could have cast Swathi Reddy, who speaks Telugu. But Nani and she had already worked together in Ashta Chamma, and I wanted a fresh face,” she says. “So I opted for Nithya Menen. But really, what’s the big deal? Actors like Nithya and Malavika Nair are learning our language and delivering. And as I said, I don’t really see too many Telugu girls willing to pursue a career in our industry.”
The Jabardasth director also blames the lack of good quality acting institutes and theatre set-up for the absence of local talent. “People like me want to encourage Telugu actresses but where’s the talent? Except for one or two institutes, there are barely any good acting institutes out there to nurture talent.”A top director on condition of anonymity shares that there’s also a pressure to conform, and that the casting of a Telugu-speaking heroine is considered a risk.
“Given the budgets involved, there’s a pressure to cast successful heroines from the North. Upon reflection, I do think there are a lot of advantages to casting girls from here, but I feel there’s more audience interest in projects that feature a non-native heroine. It all helps us do good business.”
Hyderabadi-girl Eesha Rebba, who has been part of several hits like Ami Thumi, isn’t the sort to bemoan her lack of opportunities. “I’m trying to choose the best from the ones I get. I see that I’m not really given any preference just because I come from here and I speak Telugu,” she says. “But like all heroines, I’d love for an opportunity to work with A-listers. Perhaps with more such healthy debates, the situation could get better,” shares Eesha.