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Red Haute


A leading actress in the Tamil and Telugu film industries, a recipient of four Filmfare Awards, and a critically acclaimed superstar; but under it all, an ever-evolving artisan who hates selfies, and a strong-willed believer in craftsmanship and story-telling. A philanthropist at heart, a free spirit, and a nurturer of unconventional ideas that are out there for the world to see- Samantha. Words are impover -ished in expressing about the queen of express-ions. She thrives in challenge, and vibes with exuberance. Here we are, in conversation with the ever-energetic Samantha Akkineni.

What were your dreams as a youngster? Was acting a part of the plan?
As a kid I just wanted to be successful. If I hadn’t become an actress, I’d be sitting by a desk, with glasses on, working on some accounts. I grew up in a humble background. So all I really wanted was to get out there and experience life in the wider public space.

Tell us about your schooling years
As a student, I was very hard working. My marks were consistent. Though I never considered myself to be naturally intelligent. I was what you’d call a book worm.

Tollywood dream
When I was in college, I started modelling for some extra pocket money; the thought of becom-ing an actress had never crossed my mind. But it all escalated from there.

First mentor
When I started acting, I was not serious about taking it as a career option. I stayed back as I found a mentor at the very outset. Gautham Menon, the director of my first Telugu film Ye Maya Chesave, had me totally awed. I put my faith in him and replicated each of his teachings till I perfected them.

Take on Oh Baby
I watched the original Korean Comedy. Something told me it has a universal appeal. I also found it to be an important film because it is about an old woman getting a shot at reliving her youth, which she couldn’t do the first time around. So the story sensitizes you to sacrifices that go behind making a living.

Does Baby resonate with the off-screen Samantha?
Baby’s character is very bubbly and active, which made it an incredible part to play. I myself am considered to be the comedienne in the family, so I had a lot of fun letting those aspects of me live vicariously through Baby. But despite being my most favourite role till date, Baby was one of the hardest too. Each day of shoot, I would exploit my potential completely before wrapping up. I extracted an incredible level of satisfact-ion from working in the movie, and pushing myself harder than I thought I was capable of.

Have you ever played a character that was extremely unlike you?
Yes, that brings to mind my role in Super Deluxe. You see, while approaching or understanding a character, you tap into a part in your subconscious that resembles it and you bring it out. But in that film, specifically, I had absolutely no aspect in my subconscious, or outside, to refer to. So I think it gave me a chance to enter new territories altogether. Yes, enacting a role that’s unlike you is challenging in a way, but at this point in my acting career, I would say I want to be challenged.

What roles appeal to you?
There was a time when I was okay with enacting unimportant roles in big movies just because the movies were supposed to be a guaranteed hit. But I have learned that the more we, as actresses, let this prevail, the lesser likely are we to have strong female characters written into films. My new movie Oh Baby is completely centred on the journey of a female character, which is unsurprisingly harder to market than a movie with a male lead. Nevertheless, what I look for more specifically in a role is whether or not it gives me a chance to challenge myself, and learn in the process. My love for the craft, my love for storytelling as an actor, and my respect for my audience are what keeps me from signing a role only for the paycheck.

You got married to Chaitanya. How has the journey been?
Marrying Chay is the best decision I’ve ever made. Even after 10 years of knowing him, my mind goes back to the Ye Maya... days and I cannot process the fact that I married him. On marriage and acting I was almost sure that once I get married, I would stop getting movies. I chose to get married nevertheless. Now, a couple of years down the line, I’m still working and I’m happy.

After marriage I’m much stronger than the girl I was before. The realisation that I’m no longer standing solo empowers me and encourages me to take up more challenges.

Does being questioned on motherhood bother you?
It doesn’t really. I don’t think the question is wrong as much as I think any question about choices is wrong.

On Pratyusha support
Coming from a humble backgrou- nd, I know how it feels to be helped out in a time of need. What drives me is the joy that’s derived from helping a family. It is above all other joys.

On working with women
People think that women have a lot of rivalries going on among them. But that is so untrue. The best part about working with women is that you can see the fire in their eyes. It is because they know what it is like to get what you want in a man’s world. In Oh Baby, most of the directorial and production team is women, so it was a wonderful experience.

Change over the decade
It takes a lot of mistakes before you can put a finger on what you really want. I made many. Before coming to a point where I knew what I want from myself, I lost track a number of times. That is what has changed in me as I evolved into a more confident and self-aware person.

Most difficult task for an actor?
It might sound weird but the most difficult task for an actor is to just be. There is a sort of proficiency that comes with being able to feel the character. It requires forgett-ing the actor and becoming the character for that moment.

What is your success mantra?
It has been both luck and hard-work. When luck presents me with an opportunity, I make sure to hold on to it. But at the same time, I toil constantly in order to be better and keep evolving.

Did you expect Oh Baby to be such a massive hit?
It has a lot going on for it. This movie is for the women, offering a new perspective towards the generations before us- This movie is my token of gratitude for them. I also thank the audience for receiving it so well.

Why do you dislike selfies?
I feel they are not as artistic as pictures.

Secret to your fitness?
Two words: Weight-training.

Who is your favourite actress?
Audrey Hepburn
Favourite actress in the South film industry
Hands down, Nithya
Favourite holiday destination?
A quality that you like about Chaitanya?
He is stable, balanced and sorted

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