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Activist first, actor next, the story of Sonia Akula

Her four-yeard-old NGO called AASA – ActionAid to the Advancement of Society in KPHB has exposed her to many hardships that poor women face.

Published: 14th October 2020 07:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th October 2020 07:32 AM   |  A+A-

Sonia Akula

Express News Service

Local Telugu girl Sonia Akula, who plays Disha in the chilling movie based on the rape of the veterinarian in 2019, says that working with rape victims as a social worker in the last few years has given her much more perspective into the pain the girl has gone through in this RGV film set to release in November

HYDERABAD: Actor Sonia Akula, who has caught the nation’s attention as Disha, the veterinarian who was raped and murdered last November in the new Ramgopal Varma (RGV) film, is known to slip one from one role into the other effortlessly, in real life. This engineer from Bhojreddy Engineering College in Hyderabad has been a techie until she realised the need to also add LLB to her list of degrees because that would help her guide and support the helpless women who approach the police station for justice.

“As part of my community work, I have worked hands-on with abandoned women, kids, rape survivors/victims, women who faced domestic violence. Most of them do not even know how to report to the police and a course in law would equip me to fight for them,” says the actor who also had a brief role in the 2019 movie George Reddy. Her four-yeard-old NGO called AASA – ActionAid to the Advancement of Society in KPHB has exposed her to many hardships that poor women face.

It took her years to raise even 10K to support a child or woman in trouble, but as an actor with a better network, she hopes to be able to use her social following to be able to make a bigger impact. “Getting the role of Disha, who has undergone heartwrenching trauma one winter night in Hyderabad and woke us all from our slumber that our city is safe, was a big step in my life.

I have worked with rape victims and sometimes, a movie like this can help convey their trauma on a larger canvas in a touching way.” Sonia says that she asked RGV many questions before she signed the movie. “He said that the idea of the movie is to showcase the trauma Disha underwent in such an evocative way that no man would ever dare touch a woman without consent or even think of sexual violence. I wanted to be part of such a landmark movie.”  Incidentally, she also said that she got to see the other side of the maverick director when he went ahead to raise and donate Rs 2 lakh to Renuka, a minor from Mahbubnagar who gave birth to a girl.

She happens to be the wife of Channa Keshavulu, a rape-accused killed in Disha encounter. “I visited Renuka when she delivered the baby and we all faced a backlash for helping her out, but eventually, we felt she was a new, clueless mom who was an orphan herself and could do with some hand-holding. He said although her husband has committed the crime, it was heartless to let the wife suffer without medical help.” This Manthani girl who is now settled in Madhapur, Hyderabad, says that movies were a far cry for someone like her who was passionate about academics and social work.

“Yet, when my stint with Telangana Water Works led me to host a show called Cine Varam about film personalities in Ravindra Bharathi, it felt natural and exciting. The two-week show fetched her appreciation and some film offers. “Every time I discussed my movie offers, almost everyone told me that few Telugu and Telangana girls have made it big in the film industry and that I should break the stereotype by accepting the offers.

As you know, my heart goes to any work with a cause attached to it. Now, movies are no longer just a career, but perhaps a new way to prove that the ‘local girls’ are  indeed competent enough to work in big movies,” she adds. A book lover, Soniya’s NGO has worked to set up 10 rural libraries in Mathani and Peddapalli and her target is to build 100 such libraries in the future. “I also conduct stationery donation drives and talks by accomplished and inspiring speakers for the underprivileged children as part of Project Prerana,” she informs. Not many of her fans know her facet as a full-time social worker. Although Disha trailer garnered 3 lakh views so far, she also has Coronavirus set to release on October 23. “I want to be the girl on fire in real and reel life. The real hero both onscreen and offscreen,” she concludes. 

— Manju Latha Kalanidhi  kalanidhi@newindianexpress.com  @mkalanidhi



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