After working with Mani Ratnam on Kaatru Veliyidai last year, Aditi Rao Hydari’s career really took off, with 2018 turning out to be her busiest year yet. “When you start, you’re confused, and you sort of fumble. But every year, you learn a little more. I’m taking on challenging scripts and working with the filmmakers that I wanted to work with finally. I’m working in multiple industries, and it is fulfilling,” says the actor, who was recently seen in Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam Review: An in-form Mani Ratnam hits this gangster film out of the park
Excerpts from the conversation:
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Imtiaz Ali and now two films with Mani Ratnam. You seem to be choosing your directors wisely.
For me, that has always been an important criteria when choosing a film. A good director will have a good team, and they’ll make a good film. Most importantly, they will get the best out of the actor as well.
After Revathi (Pagal Nilavu, Mouna Ragam, Anjali), Aishwarya Rai (Guru, Raavanan) and Manisha Koirala (Bombay, Dil Se), you are the only other heroine Mani Ratnam has worked with twice.
People who are geniuses at what they do, have their own way of thinking and working. I don’t try to dissect why he’s chosen me again. I’m just thankful as it’s a blessing to work with him. I didn’t expect to be called for CCV, honestly. When I got a call from Madras Talkies, Mani sir described the role as something of a challenge for both of us. It was hard and I hope I’ve done justice to it.
It’s hard to judge if Parvathi (her character in CCV) is good or bad...
All of Mani sir’s characters are very human, and so they will have all shades. Forget black, white and grey, you can expect the entire spectrum. Leela (her character in Kaatru Veliyidai) was similar to me — someone who looks fragile from the outside but is a strong girl mentally. But that wasn’t the case with Parvathi. In fact, I don’t know anyone like her; so it really was a challenging role to play.
You’ve mentioned in an earlier interview with us that you would be happy to work with Mani Ratnam for every film of yours.
He’s like a mentor, parent and teacher all rolled into one. When Mani sir first approached me, I told him that I was very nervous as I didn’t know the language and I didn’t want to let him down. That’s when he said, “We’ll find the character together.” That was an amazing thing to tell a girl who was practically a newcomer compared to him. Despite being busy, he’d sit with me for each of my dialogues. I actually felt that not knowing the language was a blessing as I got to spend more time with him. He’s the kind of director who’ll put you on the edge of the cliff and tell you to jump. You’ll either fly or he’ll catch you and put you back on the edge, so you can jump again.
CCV is a multi-starrer, which is in total contrast to Kaatru Veliyidai, which just focused on the two leads. What was it like to work with such a large cast?
The magic of a Mani Ratnam film is that despite having so many actors, everyone will have their own story. I had scenes with quite a few amazing actors. And even when I didn’t have a scene with them, I’d be on the sets with Mani sir, watching them. Being someone who hasn’t learnt acting, seeing these great talents act was a wonderful learning experience. Watching Manisha Koirala in Bombay is what first inspired me to become an actor. So to work with Arvind Swami was a surreal moment.
Now that you’re a pan-Indian actor, do you feel the pressure to balance your work across languages?
I actually see it all as one film industry. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest directors across India. The pressure comes more from finding time to do everything I want. It’s also tough to switch between languages. For example, the Dhanush-directorial I’m working on currently is a bilingual, so I’ll have to do the shots in Tamil and immediately do the same in Telugu. I’m constantly mixing up both languages now (laughs).
You dubbed for yourself in your Telugu debut Sammohanam. Can we expect you to do the same with Tamil films too in the future?
In both my films with Mani sir, I’ve played Tamil girls and he felt my accent would be distracting. He is very particular about accent and intonations. In fact, Mani sir tested countless voices to match with mine. In Sammohanam, I played a girl who was learning the language, so it lent an authenticity to the film.
Be it Tamil cinema or Bollywood films such as Bhoomi, you seem to be getting these offbeat roles.
I’m not at all calculative when it comes to choosing a film. It’s a combination of the director, script and my character that decide it for me. Perhaps sub-consciously, I go for such roles. Also, while I don’t want to be typecast, based on how I look, I do end up getting cast for certain roles. But as an actor, you just have to approach it in your style.