Karthika shot the initial episodes of Aarambh in Gujarat. The first few days on location, she was busy feeding bananas to an elephant. No, she is no PETA activist, but was merely trying to coax the animal into let her stand on its trunk for a stunt sequence.
“I wouldn’t say it was all fun because how well-trained the elephant is, at the end of the day it’s an animal only. It was easy practicing in shorts, but stepping on her trunk in my princess costume for the shot was a hundred times tougher. But she turned out to be a good elephant and everything went well,” laughs the actress who is making her small screen debut with Aarambh, the mega series directed by Bollywood filmmaker Goldie Behl.
She plays Devasena, a warrior princess, in the historical fantasy penned by K V Vijayendra Prasad, the scenarist of Bahubali franchise. “But the similarities stop there, just the name and Vijayendra Prasad sir are the only common factors. Devasana in Baahubali is part of a male dominated kingdom, but my Devasena belongs to a matriarchal society, a queendom.
The queen is the ruler and when she dies the throne goes to the princess, not the prince,”she explains. And playing Devasana was no easy affair as it involved oodles of hard training. “If it’s a movie, your action sequences will be over in a few weeks. But here I am doing it every other day and the effort involved is another level. I had to go through long sessions of harness training, horse riding and sword fighting,” she adds.
Aarambh is built on the historic clash between two civilizations - the Aryan and Dravidian empires. Paired opposite Karthika is Rajneesh Duggal, the Bollywood actor who plays Varun Dev, the Aryan prince and her prime rival in the series. Karthika says it’s impossible to compare Aarambh with any other period drama currently on television in terms of magnitude and novelty. “The canvas is much, much bigger. And it’s a story you have never heard, the characters are not taken from history or mythology. Aarambh is a complete fictional world, you will not read about its characters in any book.”
Karthika says Aarambh was originally conceived as a movie, but since the script was so vast the makers opted for a series. “They were not ready to sacrifice the script, but everything about Aarambh is heavily cinematic. It’s basically a big movie which you will get to see in parts. Each episode is spectacular and involves Bollywood actors and crew members,” she says.
While Roja star Madhoo is making her small screen debut with the series, veteran actress Tanju appears in another key role as a priestess. “It’s not like a regular serial as most of them are from Bollywood circuit making their TV debut.
As the series progresses we will be getting more stars on board.” An actress who has been part of all South industries, ask Karthika how she ended up in the series and she says, "I have no idea how Goldie sir found me. Since it’s a Dravidian princess, he wanted a South actress I guess.”
Devasena is leagues apart from conventional princess roles as she wears her armour and wields her weapon like a seasoned soldier. Karthika says since there was no point of reference she had the freedom to interpret Devasena the way she wanted.
“She is a warrior princess, so she cannot wear all the finery usually worn by royalty. My costumes were designed in a way to keep me comfortable while doing high voltage stunts. So far I had just once chance to look like a traditional princess, the coronation ceremony in which I appear all decked up in a pink outfit,” she says. Aarambh will be aired on Star Plus from June 24.