It’s Samantha Akkineni’s ninth year in the industry, and among her personal achievements is having finally reached a place where her insecurities and fears don’t dictate her decisions anymore. “I entered the industry with a bang in Ye Maaye Chesave, but had absolutely no idea about how the industry works. I had no mentors either. Most of my early decisions were guided by fear. I’ve evolved as an actor now though, and my confidence reflects in the choice of my scripts.”
The actor had a great run last year, which included films like Rangasthalam, U-Turn, and Irumbuthirai. She’s kickstarting this year in earnest with Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe, for which she admits she wasn’t the first choice for her character, Vembu. “Kumararaja narrated the script to two other top heroines, but they declined as the character doesn’t quite fit into the template of a heroine. I think any usual female actor would think twice before signing such a role. The level of realism in Vembu’s character scared me, but the fear motivated me to give my best. Now, I’m proud and happy that I made the decision.” She says the shades in the characterisation of Vembu will surprise the audience. “She is just another girl you see in your daily life, but she is so unique and real. I had to get into the skin of the character and be honest with every single reaction.”
The film has other strong female characters played by actors like Ramya Krishnan and Gayathrie, but she won’t trade hers for theirs. “In fact, I heard that the other actors wanted to play Vembu after reading the script,” she reveals. “I was able to completely align with the vision of Kumararaja and can proudly say I am the actor who took the least number of retakes while shooting.”
She remains tight-lipped about the story, or the actors with whom she has the most screen time, but the trailer gave it away that she has a few scenes with Fahadh Faasil. “He is a subtle performer, and as a co-actor, you won’t notice how he brings in so many nuances until you look at the monitor. I got tuned to his style of working with time,” she says.
The film may have so many top actors in it, but Samantha is convinced that Super Deluxe is ultimately about its director. “Thiagarajan Kumararaja will be the only name you will remember after watching Super Deluxe. I’ve always wondered how a one-film-old director managed to achieve such a cult status. He is a filmmaker who has got fans waiting for eight years for his second film,” she says. “Super Deluxe will make you laugh, cry, and think. Every person will have a different understanding and interpretation of the film.”
The actor who headlined the U-Turn remake has two more remakes in her kitty: Oh Baby! Yentha Sakkagunnave and the Telugu remake of 96. Asked about the pressure to match up to the benchmark set by the original films, she says, “Even before signing 96’s remake I called Kumararaja and asked him whether I should do it. He was a voice of encouragement, and told me that I don’t have anything to lose and more importantly, that characters like Jaanu don’t come around too often. That’s how I said yes.” She adds that her desire to do a full-length comedy made her sign Oh Baby!, the remake of the Korean film, Miss Granny, “I always wanted to do a film like this. It has a lot of slapstick comedy and I loved being a part of the remake. This summer is shaping up to be quite special for me.”
In her upcoming film, Majili, she will feature opposite her husband, Naga Chaitanya, a collaboration after five years. “Nothing has changed much in our lives; we are still the same people. The only difference now is that we leave to work from the same house. Also, we didn’t try to cash in on us being a couple. This script demanded actors like us.” She hopes to step into production next. “That’s definitely something I want to do. As an actor, I’d love to do a sports biopic too,” she says.
She is among the most active celebrities on social media. “I like social media, but I don’t really worry about the effect my posts may have on my image. I only react to and share positive things; earlier, I used to post all my immediate responses as tweets. Somewhere along the line, I learnt that I’m giving unnecessary mileage to negativity by talking about it.” She is among those from within the film industry who’ve been vocal about the MeToo movement, and believes that it has not ended.
“We are not screaming in Twitter, pointing fingers at perpetrators. We are forming a powerful body against such crimes and nobody will be spared. The organisation that I am part of in Hyderabad, meets once every three weeks, and irrespective of the status of the accused, they will be pulled up and questioned, when there’s a complaint.”