Ever since she burst onto the scene as a bubbly college girl in Sekhar Kammula’s Happy Days in 2007, actress Tamannaah Bhatia hasn’t looked back. The actress found love in abundance down south and soon became a regular feature in Telugu and Tamil films.
Not only has she established her status as a bankable star of Telugu cinema with, Tamannaah recently took up the cause of girl empowerment by becoming the brand ambassador of the government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign. All this at the age of just 26.
Having been featured largely in commercial roles, romancing the big stars, flaunting her midriff and titillating the audience with her dance numbers -- the actress attained the status of a glam doll in the industry and earned the tag of ‘Milky beauty’ from her fans.
Uninhibited and confident, she has no qualms in doing glamorous roles and out-and-out dance numbers. “I feel my movies are always depicted the right way in terms of glamour and performance. And that’s what the movie business is about, it’s about entertainment. There will always be a section of the audience that will have a certain opinion but at the end of it all, what matters is what the average viewer thinks,” says the actress.
Despite being typecast as the go-to person for glamour in the industry, the success of S S Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali has turned her career around in a way which surprised everybody, including herself.
“To be honest, I never imagined that the movie would be made on such a big scale. We all knew it would be a big film but nothing like this. Personally, playing the role of an intense warrior is something I had never done before. In fact, a lot of people did not recognise me because of my de-glam avatar. Baahubali has given me recognition on a national scale,” she points out.
Flooded with offers post the film, the actress now wants to move past glamour and focus on something more intense. “I don’t want to do films where I’m doing just 10 scenes. I’m looking for something more substantial. People say I’ve become choosy after Baahubali, but the truth is I have been so overburdened with work that I don’t even have time to fall sick. I have just completed Dharma Durai in Tamil and am now shooting for a trilingual film (Telugu, Hindi and Tamil) with Prabhudeva, which obviously takes time. I’m doing different yet time-consuming films and I feel they are a lot more rewarding than doing 10 films in an year with no substantial role,” she reasons passionately.
The actress is visibly excited about her bilingual Oopiri, which has crossed the `100 crore mark, and is also special for her as it’s the first time she’s dubbing in her own voice (Telugu version). “The movie is a celebration of life and was really like a breath of fresh air. Everything was so organic and natural in the movie that I decided it was the right time for me to dub for this film. I have enough experience in Telugu and was confident I could do it without feeling out of place,” she says.
Tamannaah plays Kirti, the assistant to a billionaire – played by Nagarjuna – in Oopiri and serves as the bridge between Nagarjuna and Karthi’s bromance. “It was truly a memorable experience, because we had two big actors from both Tamil and Telugu industry, and I’m a Mumbai girl. So in a way, it was India coming together for a film,” she points out.
Directed by Vamsi Paidipally, Oopiri is an adaptation of the 2011 French drama The Intouchables, wherein Nagarjuna portrays the role of a quadriplegic, and Karthi that of his caretaker.
“It is not a remake and merely an adaptation. We have made several changes to the original script to cater to the Indian audience. I am one of the few members of the film who had not seen the original. It was a conscious decision since I did not want to be influenced by it,” she explains.
Being a proud Mumbaikar, Tamannaah always wanted to be a part of Bollywood, but hasn’t been able to get a foothold with any of her three films – Himmatwaala, Humshakals and Entertainment. But on being asked if she would still do Hindi films, an unfazed Tamannaah says, “I never look at acting in a particular region, and I’m never bounded by where I’m going to work. I’m a Mumbai girl but I’ve been working down South for the past ten years. A lot of good work has come my way in the south and I would continue working there. If someone really interesting comes up in Hindi, I would take that up too.”
Movies aside, Tamannaah’s also one of the fittest women in the industry and attributes this mostly to diet and exercise. “I think balance is very crucial. I don’t try things that mess around with my body. Your body is your temple and it’s important to maintain it.”
Last year, actress Anushka Shetty put on 20 kilos for a role in Size Zero and lost it all in a matter of weeks. Would she would do something similar if required? “It’s something I wouldn’t prefer to do. Again as an actor, you’re always looking to push the envelope for the sake of a character, which is great and requires remarkable dedication, but I prefer sticking to a balance.”
After the success of Oopiri, Tamannaah awaits the release of Tamil flick Dharma Durai, a trilingual film with Prabhu Deva and of course, Baahubali: The conclusion. “I have a very small part in Baahubali 2, but I have no problem with that. Baahubali has done enough magic to my career. I couldn’t really ask for more,” she signs off.
Tamannaah was all of 13 when she was offered her first acting role upon being noticed at her school’s annual day function. She soon joined Prithvi Theatre from Mumbai
Summer of ‘09
The year 2009 was a very productive year as she had five releases – four in Tamil and one in Telugu. Three of the Tamil films were commercial hits, and she shared screen space with Dhanush, Siddharth and Suriya
Too cool for school
As she started early, she has already had a long career in spite of being only 26, having acted in over 30 films. She acted in her first Telugu movie immediately after she finished her board exams
In S S Rajamouli’s blockbuster Baahubali: The Beginning, she played the role of Avanthika, a princess of a warrior clan. The actress has revealed that her role in the sequel is much smaller