From an impressive beginning with ‘Sringaram’ (Tamil) — a National Award-winning film — Aditi Rao Hydari went over to Bollywood to become a star. Mani Ratnam’s ‘Kaatru Velliyidai’ brought her back to Tamil cinema. Hydari marks her entry into the Malayalam film industry with the recently released ‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’. Her earlier role in ‘Prajapathi’ (Malayalam) was a small cameo.
In an exclusive conversation with Gulf News, Hydari talks about her new experience.
What drew you to Sujata?
Producer Vijay Babu met me after an event in Kerala and spoke about ‘Sufiyum Sujatayum’. When he described Sujata, the interesting thing was her speech impairment. I saw an opportunity to explore a love story without dialogues. The team came down to Mumbai for a narration. I was drawn into Sujata’s world. It carried a fairy-tale-like quality. I felt connected with the strong emotions.
I have essayed beautiful characters — Leela (‘Kaatru Velliyidai’), Sameera (‘Sammohanam’) or Mehrunisa (‘Padmaavat’). They inspire and reaffirm my belief in many things. Sujata joins them; pure and innocent, she showed that one can be fearless in love. I was excited to play her.
How did you prepare for your role as Sujata?
I find it very difficult to answer the question because I really don’t know. I don’t have any method per se. As a child, I grew up listening to stories and with a vivid imagination, I am a dreamer. I imagine, sometimes in animation and when I effortlessly can put myself there, I understand the character. There is also a small fear — a churning in my heart that is happening unconsciously — whether I can live up to the role. On the sets, the costumes, people around me and the actor in front, helps me get to that place.
I feel you can’t learn to prepare for feelings. It just happens. That is the magic between cut and action. There was one scene — long and emotional — that we did in one take. I remember that night walking to the sets, and asked them, ‘Can everybody check that everything is sorted, I would like to do it in one shot’. It was cathartic for me in many ways. I am deeply connected with Sujata at the core level.
Did you interact with speech impaired people?
No, I did not. The team arranged for a teacher who works with speech impaired people. He came down to Mumbai for ten days to teach me sign language. He was on the sets too.
While enacting I realised that whatever preparation one did earlier, it was different on the sets. With no language to fall back on, you connect with the eyes. That is the truest language and you can’t fool anyone. Sujata loves to dance, so we relied on dance for some scenes. It was an incredible process.
How was it working with a new director?
I admire conviction in people. It can be difficult to go out there and do what they dreamt of doing. I admire Shanavas who lived with this story for so many years and believed in deeply-the honesty of intent was so strong that he could take the team along, despite being his first film. There was a lot of kindness and honesty on the sets. Having earlier worked with DOP Anu Moothedath for an ad film, I could go up and ask, ‘Can I try this?’ He was helpful. The atmosphere was one of trust and freedom.
What about Dev Mohan?
I am a director’s actor and give myself completely to the process. Dev Mohan is a beautiful person and fitted the role. In the beginning, I was not involved in anything, more out of a respect for him and his process. Slowly, I decided to step in and help. Ultimately it was our scenes and we had to make it work. So we would discuss our scenes. Actually, it was an experience from an earlier film where I shot with an actor whom I admire. He used to work like that. I thought I could also help Dev. It was the most natural and basic thing to do as a co-actor.
How has lockdown been?
I am in Hyderabad with my family. It feels like reliving my summer holidays of childhood and doing a lot of things that have been an intrinsic part of my life. I have been creative in terms of music, dance and kalari. I love hanging in the kitchen — watching them cook and helping. I learnt to make few dishes — mustard mutton, mirchi ka salan and Lucknowi yakhini.