Shruti Haasan
Shruti Haasan Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Indian actress and musician Shruti Haasan answers her own door and doesn’t travel with an entourage.

When she’s travelling to a new country like Dubai, the daughter of iconic actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika Thakur is keen to try out the local hair and make-up experts.

“I was struggling to communicate how I wanted to my hair done earlier this morning, but it worked out all fine,” said Haasan with a laugh running her hands through her poker-straight hair.

Haasan, 35, seemed to be one of the rare talents who doesn’t take the star part of the celebrity too seriously.

The actress was in Dubai to attend the Filmfare Middle East Achievers Night earlier this month and was honoured with the Middle East Art Icon trophy. As an actor, she has excelled in films such as South Indian-language blockbusters such as ‘Gabbar Singh’, ‘Balapu’, ‘Krack’ and the seminal gangster Bollywood film ‘D-Day’.

“So nobody — my father or mother — made any call to a producer or filmmaker to cast me in a film. I made a lot of mistakes. I encountered a lot of wonderful people and some not-so-wonderful people. But the greatest thing I have achieved through that journey is knowing that I don’t need a safety net because I have never used it,” said Haasan in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

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Shruti Haasan channels her inner-goth on the FFME red carpet Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

We spoke about fashion, films, and fanfare. Here’s her take on…

Returning to the awards ceremony scene with FFME:

“It feels amazing, isn’t it? I went for a ceremony in India wearing masks and all, but it didn’t feel like the same thing. I am happy that such an awards night is happening in a city like Dubai where everyone is vaccinated and there are multiple checks to even get in and that gives you peace of mind.”

Being red-carpet glamorous:

“There’s no substitute for working out every day and it’s not just about fitting into that pretty dress. Working out makes you feel so good with the endorphins rushing in and your skin feels better. But if you have not been good up to that point and you crash diet, you are probably going to look weird as opposed to looking fresh-faced. And remember, even if you are carrying an extra bit of weight here and there, just work it.”

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Shruti Haasan's red carpet look at FFME 2021

Keeping it real:

“I don’t travel with an entourage usually. I love going to new places and trying out their local talents in hair and make-up … I have more people on my team if I need them logistically on a film set, but I am not high maintenance.”

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Shruti Haasan with John Abraham in the riveting thriller 'D-Day'

Being a songwriter and a musician:

“I am writing all of my own music now. I released ‘Edge’ [her English album] last year and I am going to put out more stuff this year. I want to balance both cinema and my music. Before the pandemic hit, I was doing a lot more gigs as I toured London. Now, I need to reassess and restart it.”

Her biggest lessons from the pandemic:

“I like my own company and I didn’t feel lonely. I was productive, too. I did a lot of things that I enjoyed because there was nothing else to do. I was doing online make-up tutorial classes, sharing my music, and I spoke to a cross-section of women who have inspired me from my group of friends. And that project made me feel incredibly proud as I spoke to a lawyer, a dancer, a writer … We spoke about a range of topics like sisterhood to cooking to working out. I learnt I could be super creative with myself.”

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Shruti Haasan Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Women being her biggest support system:

“In my life, I have found that the people who have let me down the most have been women. But the women who have stood up for me and have been my friends are my entire support systems too. So, it’s not about whether you are a man or a woman. It’s about a personality trait. So when I come across a woman who’s insecure, jealous or overly competitive, I wonder about where it’s coming from. There’s enough space, enough movies, enough clothes, enough men, enough money and enough of everything for all of us women. I have also made a personal note never to belittle women or comment cattily on what they are wearing. It might sound like a simple thing, but we are feeding into this cycle of putting other women down. Even with women I don’t particularly get along with, I have learnt to appreciate and admire what they are good at. It has helped me build a sisterhood even outside of my circle of friends.”

Shruti Haasan and Suhasini
Shruti Haasan and Suhasini Image Credit: Twitter/SIIMA

Embracing her flaws publicly:

“When I was a teenager, I was wise. But after that I just lost the plot like everyone else, but my stumbles were public … As a teenager, I was filled with hopefulness and I have found that again … Yesterday, I was on a beach in Dubai with knee-high vinyl boots and a golf outfit. I may have seemed like a spectacle on the beach, but I was proud of it … And, there were ladies with tons of jewellery on them, but I was like, ‘You ain’t got nothing on me’.”

Being a misfit in cinema:

“I have felt like a misfit since the time I was in school. And, little did I know that it would never change … I have always loved the artistic side of being a star. I have learnt and grown into it. I was never a natural actor and it wasn’t an easy transition. It was easy for me to get into cinema because of my surname and I can never take away that fact from my existence. But staying relevant was really hard. But it never came easy to me and it took me a while to understand the emotional spectrum of being an actor. But the business side of being an actor — like keeping up with the appearances wasn’t easy. I tried hard to fit in. My publicist once told me to stop wearing black and grey everywhere. She organised a pink sari and I ended up looking like Edward Scissorhands in a Manish Malhotra creation.”

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Being misunderstood:

“A lot of people misunderstood me in the beginning and it’s not their fault. It’s completely my fault because I came from a place of feeling misunderstood, unheard and unseen. I was defensive or at least I put on an air of defensiveness, which obviously comes across as different things to different people. I was so protective of who I am and kept feeling that they don’t know my story, but being judged anyway. But therapy as an adult helped me tremendously. I realised that everybody has their triggers. In my case, eight-year-old Shruti didn’t get that balloon at a party during my formative years could even be my trigger. A child often doesn’t get what kind of family she comes from or that she drives to her school in a Contessa … I realised that several things made me feel very insecure from a very young age and I carried that into my adulthood. So it was therapy — talk therapy and addressing my mental issues — that helped me come into my own … Now, I feel good about who I am — the good and the bad.”

Being an iconic actor Kamal Haasan’s daughter:

“In the beginning, I didn’t take the comparisons too well. It made me nervous although I gave off an air of ‘I don’t care’. But the truth of the matter is that it did not seem like a fair comparison. And secondly. I walked into my own life at the age of 21. My dad said, ‘If you live under my house, these are the rules or you are on your own.’ I chose to go out on my own.”

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Actor and politician Kamal Haasan with her superstar father and politician Shruti Haasan and her sister Akshara Haasan

Never using her star-kid privileges:

“There were people who aren’t star kids who are parts of camps or is someone’s favourite. They have all done way better than me. I am really bad at schmoozing and sucking up to the right people … On a film set, I am rarely seen with the actor whom I find boring. But I am friends with the DOP [Director Of Photography] and am more keen to know about how he’s going edit the film … And that hasn’t got me roles. It’s been hard but also wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may have got in because of my surname, but I stayed because of the Shruti part. And I’m really proud of that.”

“Goth is about acknowledging that there’s light and shadows and preferring the shadows because the grey is where most of us live. It’s not about optimism, pessimism, or realism. It’s a state of in-between that we like celebrating … My greatest inspirations have been Edgar Allan Poe [American writer and poet], Neil Gaiman [English writer], and Tori Amos [American songwriter/pianist]. I am influenced by Kurt Cobain too. My music is inspired by a large spectrum of people who are willing to think askew a little bit.”

- Shruti Haasan

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