Telugu film ‘Arjun Reddy’ catapulted its lead actor Vijay Devarkonda with a role that will never be forgotten.
Remade in Hindi as ‘Kabir Singh’, this love story was criticised for its lead character’s toxic masculinity. Coming up is its Tamil remake ‘Adithya Varma,’ that launches Dhruv Vikram — Tamil actor Vikram’s son — into cinema. The film also introduces London-based actress Banita Sandhu, who began her movie career in 2018 with Hindi film ‘October.’
‘Adithya Varma’, directed by Gireesaya, former assistant of director Sandeep Vanga of ‘Arjun Reddy’, is Sandhu’s second film. She reprises the role played by Shalini Pandey in ‘Arjun Reddy’ and Kiara Advani in ‘Kabir Singh.’
Gulf News tabloid! caught up with Sandhu on the eve of her departure to London.
While ‘Arjun Reddy’ was a big hit, the Hindi remake ‘Kabir Singh’ was much criticised. What made you take on ‘Adithya Varma’?
I completely understand why there was criticism with ‘Kabir Singh’. I remember watching ‘Arjun Reddy’ and I just couldn’t relate to Preethi. She was so different from me that I saw it as a challenge to take up the role. Before I came on the project I told the direction team about my concerns with the film and the character as a woman. They listened to me. But we did not deviate from the film entirely as it has a cult following. Instead we decided to go in for a performance and filmmaking that gives her more agency and autonomy. On my part I have done my best.
Having grown up in London, how was it working in Indian films?
Adapting to the Indian culture and picking up nuances of a woman growing up in Chennai and South India was a challenge. But when you are shooting day in and day out it was natural to pick it up. I soon got comfortable in the costume and the culture. I did a lot of research before the shoot and watched ‘Arjun Reddy’ a couple of times. Besides, when you are shooting in the place where the film is based you have abundant material at first hand.
How was it working with Dhruv Vikram?
I have never worked with a co-actor of my age. This was the first time. Dhruv took me by surprise... He worked really hard and exceeded my expectation. He is a talented actor. Dhruv and I got on well. He was supportive of me and made sure I was okay.
What about director Gireesaya?
Gireesaya was an asset to have on the sets having worked on the original ‘Arjun Reddy.’ His passion for the story was infectious. If he was not happy with the smallest thing, he ensured that it was corrected and got the best [out] of us.
How different is Bollywood from the Tamil industry?
It is unfair to compare ‘October’ and ‘Adithya Varma.’ Filmmaking is a universal experience. You are with a creative team whose intentions are pure and good. Both were productive experiences.
What inspired you to get into films?
It was always my dream to be an actor. By the time I was 10 or 11 years old, I knew that and I feel blessed that I had this direction quite early in life. In school I have been in plays. I signed my first play at 11. I started working with BBC and my professional career took me travelling around the world. There are many who inspired me, in particularly Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie. In India cinema it’s Alia Bhat and Deepika Padukone.
What is it about acting that you enjoy?
It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing. What I love is waking up every morning and wanting to go to work. I love the team effort of cinema and the unity that brings people together as well as the connect between the actors-crew and the audience that this medium brings.
Don’t miss it!
‘Adithya Varma’ releases in the UAE on November 21.