Indian actress Hansika Motwani had several reasons to celebrate as she flew down to Dubai for a quick getaway earlier this week.
It was her mother’s birthday and their family tradition dictated that they spent that day together. But this UAE vacation was also symbolic of Hansika reaching a significant milestone in her career.
On July 22, this actress — who began working at the age of eight — will roll out the 50th film of her career with the female-fronted Tamil thriller ‘Maha’.
Hansika, who goes by her first name, plays the titular role of a frantic mother in search of her missing daughter.
“By the end of this year, I want to be on my 60th film … You need to constantly hustle and work, but this whole Dubai trip happened because I needed a break,” said Hansika in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
In the last four days, she has taken her mother to swanky restaurants dotting the La Mer beach in Jumeirah, feasted on decadent ice cream, and gifted herself a gigantic black designer YSL tote. While she loved every minute of her downtime with her doting mother and brother, she’s now itching to swing back to work and hit the sets.
“I wholly subscribe to the ‘Time Is Money’ philosophy. I am punctual to a fault … But this pandemic has taught me a lot of patience and has taught me to take it easy. It reminded that you don’t have to hustle all the time and it’s OK to breathe,” said Hansika.
True to her words, she was bang on time for the post-breakfast meeting with Gulf News and her every move indicated that she was ready to hit the ground running. She calls herself a compulsive hands-on person who loves to have things under her control.
So how did she survive in an industry notorious for thriving on chaos and stars who turn up late on their filming sets?
“In my experience, there are two kinds of people in this industry — the ones who are laid-back and the ones who are particular about doing things right away on time. I have usually worked with those in the second category where they have this urgent need to get stuff done,” said Hansika.
She famously began her career when she was eight years old with the Hindi-language serial ‘Shaka Laka Boom Boom’ and also appeared as one of the children in the Hrithik Roshan-led ‘Koi … Mil Gaya’.
At 15, when most girls were dealing with teenage angst and puberty, she played the lead role in Puri Jagannadh’s 2007 Telugu film ‘Desamuduru’, which won her the Filmfare Best Debut — South. But despite those accolades, did she feel that a normal childhood was denied to her since she was busy working on a film set?
The entertainment industry is heaving with cautionary tales of child stardom gone wrong with young minds unable to cope with fame and scrutiny.
“But I am blessed in the way I started my career and the way it shaped up. I am one of those lucky artists who did not go through auditions or portfolio making. I have not been through the real grind … My journey has been different and difficult in its own way. I worked with the right people and people welcomed me with open hands,” said Hansika.
Apparently her doting and protective mother was her biggest filter to weed out unsavoury elements lurking out there.
“She was like this amazing human shield … Honestly, I think my career as a child artist helped me become this actor I am today,” said Hansika.
Even after turning 30 and acting in 50 films, Hansika claims she only bothers with the creative aspects of her job, while she leaves the finances to her mother whom she describes as her biggest comrade in her cinematic journey.
While she has done remarkably well in South Indian films, she hasn’t found the same breakthrough and warm reception in Bollywood. Her Telugu acting debut placed her on the map, but her Hindi release during the same year in 2007 — ‘Aap Ka Suroor’ with Himmesh Reshammiya — was lacklustre. But Hansika isn’t complaining. Currently, she’s inundated with offers for female-led films from South India and has a pragmatic take on her career progression.
“The lines are getting blurred and barricades of this North-South films are moving … I have always believed that there’s a certain charisma to South films. But think about it, you don’t see a French actor claiming he only works in French cinema. He will just say he’s a part of cinema. Ideally, we shouldn’t have demarcations like Kollywood, Tollywood or Bollywood,” said Hansika.
She wants to be known as an entertainer and is keen to do films and projects that push her as an actor.
Her upcoming web series debut ‘MY3’ is the South Indian-language adaptation of Korean series ‘I Am Not A Robot’ that has already been filmed. She’s also working on an experimental short film entitled ‘105’ that’s likely to be the toast of film festivals. The entire succinct film was shot in a single take with a single artist.
“I am just done with 50 films and I have 100 to go … I am open to all kinds of films. Earlier before the pandemic hit, I used to do 12 films a year but now I have cut it down to eight or nine films and I am happy,” said Hansika. While filming ‘MY3’ in which she plays the dual role of a robot and a human, she claims she battled an eye infection because she was expected to remain still while playing the robot scenes. But that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying her work.
She claims she’s a juncture in her prolific career down South where she’s in a position to demand roles with heft and gravitas.
“Right now, I am getting female-centric films and am asked to carry a film on my shoulder. And that’s a new step in my life and this responsibility like the one in have in ‘Maha’ feels nice. I am enjoying that space,” said Hansika. Born to a Sindhi father and a Punjabi mother, Hansika can speak Tamil fluently. But she’s also keenly aware that she isn’t a South Indian native and has often turned down roles if she wasn’t fully convinced that she could pull it off.
“I personally believe that casting is 80 per cent of your movie … There are so many times when I have not done a film because I felt I didn’t look like the character. I am an actor who will ask at least 101 questions to my director and those who choose to work with me should be ready with the answers. I won’t do a shot unless I am fully convinced,” said Hansika. She famously worked with Malayalam idol Mohanlal for ‘Villain’ in which she played the antagonist.
“If you want to go to an acting school, just act in a Malayalam film with Mohanlal,” said Hansika with a laugh. She remembers an anecdote where Mohanlal could detect a technical glitch with the camera even though he wasn’t facing it.
“I was in awe that he knew that the camera moved for my shot even though his back was turned against it … My foray into Malayalam films was with one of the best actors like Mohanlal. He’s incredible,” said Hansika.
While her films have done all the talking, this prolific actress has also been in the news for her highly visible relationship and break-up with her peer and actor Simba. But all that’s behind her now. She now hopes to marry someone outside her industry as it means that they won’t talk shop at home and will have a chance at a fulfilling but separate professional lives.
But marriage is not on her mind right now. After the release of ‘Maha’, Hansika is planning to go on an all-girls trip to Paris to enjoy her much-need downtime.
“I take two such trips abroad every year … It’s the time where I truly get to be myself, sit on the footpaths, look at fashion, look at people on the streets … I have always been a protected child and I still have a curfew when in Mumbai and I can’t after a certain time. But during these trips, I have a lot of fun,” said Hansika, adding that she often goes along with her friends that she has known since childhood.
But on all other days barring these two girls’ trip, she is busy working and has no intention to stop.
“Every film and every journey has its own memory and experience … And trust me, ‘Maha’ is still my beginning. In my eyes, my make or break has always been audiences,” said Hansika.
Don’t miss it!
‘Maha’ is out in UAE cinemas on July 22
I make my own bed, make tea for my mom in the mornings, and pack my own suitcases … I am not your typical star
Did you know?
How did Hansika Hansika lose those inches?
“I just played squash and honestly I don’t enjoy food. I had rather sleep because I am always lacking on sleep,” said Hansika spilling her weight loss secrets.