She may be a stunner on and off screen, but she’s also got her head firm on her shoulders. Sreeleela has mastered the art of juggling her studies as well as her flourishing career in the South Indian Film Industry. One can often find her reading her medical books on the sets of her films! From playing interesting characters in Kiss, Bharaate, Pelli Sandad, Dhamaka, Anaganaga Oka Raju, Dubari and more, she has a whole lot of interesting projects lined up for release.
1. Where did you study? How did you enter the film industry?
Since my childhood I’ve always had a very busy schedule. After school I’d hop from dance class to Veena class to swimming class to tuition! I always had to be on my toes and I’ve always loved it. I am from Bangalore and most of my education was in Bangalore too. As a child, I’d say I was very sorted, I always knew what I wanted. From LKG itself, I’d introduce myself saying “Hi my name is Sreeleela. I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up and I also love arts.” I was pretty clear about that from back then and now I’m on my journey of pursuing both!
2. Were there any apprehensions entering the field of cinema?
Yes, just like in any other household, we did have a couple of apprehensions when I was first offered a film. But it was my grandfather who supported it first! I asked him if it was okay if I got into movies and after a little thinking he gave me a green flag! But he told me that I had to complete my education. So right now, I’m finishing my MBBS while also acting in films.
3. How do you balance both the worlds?
It is really crazy to handle two different lives! But I think it works pretty well for me because for me too much of anything gets to my head. So when I get tired of one, I switch my profession and in that way I get to enjoy the best of both worlds! My family and friends are extremely kind and accommodating. They understand my schedule, so they come visit me wherever I am. For my birthday my mum planned a beautiful surprise and all my friends came to visit me! It was incredibly special. My mum always makes sure that I don’t miss out on these special days no matter how busy I am with work or my studies.
My mum kept me busy as a child and always made sure I was doing different things. So now I know how to switch on and switch off whenever I need to! And whatever I do I make sure to put in my 100%, even if it’s just doing small chores at home. And I guess that’s how I balance my work and studies too! My books are always with me wherever I go. Even on set, I tend to take my books along with me. Whenever someone walks into my caravan, they always ask if it’s a caravan or a library! I like to tell them that it’s a little bit of both!
4. How did the journey towards being an actor happen?
I used to do a lot of photoshoots. And one time one of the photographers Bhuvan Gowda, who is our family friend, posted one of my pictures on Facebook. And the director AP Arjun happened to see it and that’s how I got my first film! So getting into the film industry was completely accidental. I’d always wanted to become a doctor but I loved dance. And I would always imitate people I’d meet and actors too. I was the main source of entertainment at home but now I have a wider audience that I get to entertain!
5. Would you like to share your experience working in the south Indian film industry?
It’s been a beautiful experience and I’m so grateful that I started my career in the Sandalwood industry. It has given me so many opportunities, confidence and so much love that even today it’s a part of me, no matter where I go. The South Indian Film Industry is filled with warmth and is so culturally rich. I love being a part of it! My first award for my first film in Kannada titled Kiss is very special to me. There was one thing I said that day – “There’s a lot more to come”. I entered this field thinking that I’m just testing waters, but once I put myself in front of the camera, I knew I was born for this!
6. Were there challenges and how did you overcome them?
In any field that you take up there will always be challenges. In life it’s about how you glide through those challenges. Without those life would be boring! These challenges make you stronger! And overcoming each one of them teaches you so much. I’ve overcome most of my challenges with my mum. She’s always been with me and that has helped a lot.
7. You share a special bond with your mother. Tell us more?
She was always that taming hand and that comforting lap. We share a very special bond like most mothers and daughters, but what’s different here is that I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have the energy to invest in too many people, so my mum is my best friend. She keeps switching roles – she goes from my mother to best friend to confidante, depending on our moods. We don’t need anyone else when we have each other. It can be just the two of us and we’d be extremely happy and content. We giggle, laugh and have such a good time together! Someone should probably make a TV show of what happens between us when we’re together – right from her yelling at me for not setting my clothes properly to being really caring the next moment. It’s hilarious! Anyone who has met us tells us that we are inseparable – one second we’re screaming at each other and the other second we’re cuddling and hugging each other and I’m sleeping on her lap! The best thing is, whenever I travel to other countries for shoots, she always accompanies me. She never lets me feel that I’m alone. She truly is my one-in-all!
8. Do share some special moments and experiences from some of your recent movie shoots and also Pelli Sandad and James and Dhamaka film shoots?
I’ve been juggling between sets and it’s been very exciting. Our day shoots are usually from 6 am to 6 pm and post that I’m on a different film set. I like how hectic it gets at times. Luckily I’m able to manage well. Once, we were shooting a dance sequence in Spain. The sun sets a little late in Spain so I didn’t realise that it was late. I had already learnt the dance but wanted to practice it. As it was an outdoor location, I went to a corner and put on my headphones and practiced my dance sequence. I came back outside after about half an hour and saw that no one was there! And realised that the whole crew had packed up and had left for the day! They probably thought I had left too!
Pelli SandaD was one of my most beautiful films. My character and my team was amazing. Shooting with Raghavendra Rao garu was a pleasure. I grew up watching his songs! So working with him was very special to me. He also wrote a book and to be a part of that book was also really special. My co-actor Roshan and I shared great chemistry on screen. Our songs also did very well. There was a lot of space for me to prove myself as an artist in my very first Telugu film! It’s rare to get such a role in the initial stages but I was lucky and it’s truly given me so much!
Dhamaka was such a blast and every moment was super exciting. The team was wonderful and it will always be special as it was my second Telugu film. My character is also very nice. It’s a film that I actually signed before Pelli SandaD released!
The song that I appeared for in James which was a tribute to Appu Sir (Puneeth Rajkumar) was extremely special. It was a huge responsibility towards the Kannada film industry. And I was lucky to have been given that opportunity.
9. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
Someone close to me once said ‘you should look for success in big things and happiness in small things’. I think that has really stuck. My family celebrates every small success of mine which is very encouraging. They make even the small points a high point for me. Initially just acting in a film felt like a high point but then once the movie releases and people appreciate the film – the satisfaction you get from that is a whole new highpoint! There’s nothing more exciting than that!
10. Tell us about your family and what it means to you?
My family is everything to me. I’m very close to them, we’re all very close knit. I call my grandparents every day. I enjoy spending time with my family and they understand me so well. I’m always in touch with them. They’re my biggest support system and complete me in every way. I believe that if you want something and if you value someone you’ll make time for them. There have been many times when I would fly a couple of hours just to spend a day with my family and then fly back to work the next day. It’s hectic but I love doing this. They’re like my fuel. I spend some time with them and I’m all recharged to give it my all at work again!
11. What are your other passions and hobbies?
I love art, poetry, music, instruments, travel and learning about new cultures. I also love dancing which I started when I was three years old. I did my arangetram when I was eight years old! It was a way to express myself. As a kid I went to various places around Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for my performances. Maybe that’s when the travel bug bit me!
12. How has life changed after entering the film industry?
I have developed different perspectives towards life and towards different situations. The people I meet and every character I play, leave a mark in me. It’s incredible how I get to learn things from my characters as well!
13. What kind of a person are you in your personal space?
I love my me time. I like to write. I enjoy the little joys of life. I’m a very old school person to be honest. Most of the time, I feel like I belong to a different generation. I still love old school games like Antakshari! If there’s a large gathering, I make sure that we play Antakshari!
14. How often do you travel?
I travel a lot for my work. So after the shoot is done for the day, you’ll find me wandering around the streets of wherever I am!
15. What does social media mean to you? Any crazy fan comments you would like to share?
It’s a great platform! It truly is one door to reach millions of people. I sometimes feel like I belong to the previous generation. Although I like interacting with people face to face, I can barely get myself to be active on social media. BUT I’m getting better! And I’ve started liking it now as it’s a way to stay in touch with my followers who like to see what I’m doing day to day. I’m turning into a social media bug and I try to reply to as many comments and messages possible! I don’t think too much now before posting something as I want to be authentic! I feel that if someone is investing their time to read my interviews or go to my Instagram, then I should have some impact on them. I should either make them laugh or give them something to think about when I speak! I handle my social media myself. I think I’ve found my footing on Instagram but Twitter still haunts me a little. I’ll get it soon though, I’m sure!
I like to be a part of many campaigns and help support causes. My mom is a gynaecologist herself and since I’m going to be a doctor soon, I like to talk about the issues women face and try to create awareness among them. As a doctor I will heal and as an actor I will provide entertainment. Some of the fans have been cheesy with their pickup lines, but I think it’s very cute.
I had once mentioned that I like handwritten letters and suddenly I started receiving a lot of handwritten letters! One crazy thing is how some fans have tattoos of my name and even my face! I remember going back to someone who had a tattoo and asking him if he realised that the tattoo was going to be on him for the rest of his life and he answered ‘yes I’m aware of it!’ In that moment, I questioned if I even deserve all this! But I am incredibly grateful to God for this unconditional love I receive.
16. Also recall some of your experiences growing up in Bangalore and then later in the US?
I was born in the US and then later lived in Bangalore. I was always into sports, dance and music classes, they kept me busy. I would go to my aunts and tell them how my mum would keep me so busy while all my friends would play in the park! But now that I look back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
17. Your views on love and marriage?
Love is important and marriage is a completely different stage in life altogether. Marriage is important but it should be with the right person and at the right time. One shouldn’t rush into it. There are so many different kinds of love – love from your parents, love from your kids, your guru, people you’re close to or sometimes even people you’re not related to! I’m incredibly blessed to be an artist and to receive unconditional love from my fans! It truly is a blessing. Right now, I receive love from my mother, Shobhitha, little kids, my pets and hopefully when the right time comes I’ll receive it from the right guy too! But right now my cup is full with the love I receive from my fans, friends and family and that’s all I need!
18. How comfortable are you with Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam? Which language are you most fluent in?
Kannada is my first language and was the language that got me into films. I can speak Telugu and Tamil also. I have a knack of picking up languages very quickly. Later in life I would like to travel a lot and learn a lot of foreign languages too!
19. Your message for all the women out there on Women’s Day?
We don’t need one day, but a lifetime to be dedicated to women. Women are synonymous with mother earth, energy and we are the strongest of all. We go through so much and still do everything that a man does. I urge everyone to do regular health checkups and take care of themselves.
20. What are the current projects you’re working on?
Junior with Kireeti Reddy
NBK108 where I play Balakrishna’s daughter
1. Your favourite cuisine?
Italian and Indian.
2. Your favourite colour?
White and navy blue.
3. Veg or non-veg? Your favourite South Indian food?
I’m a vegetarian. Masala Dosa and Idli.
4. Your favourite South Indian film and dream director?
Someone who I can create history with.
5. Your favourite actor and actress?
I fall in love with characters and roles more than the actors. My favourite actors keep changing.
6. Your favourite drink?
7. Your crush?
Bliss, my pet beagle.
8. Your dream role?
A nice historic and artistic character.
9. Your ideal man should have these qualities…?
Consistency, Passion, Patience, Respect, Understanding and funny.
10. Your fitness regime?
Yoga, dance, fitness, sports and I’ve also been a hockey player and love swimming. I don’t enjoy going to the gym.
11. Beaches or hills?
12. Straight hair or curls?
13. Indian or Western?
I like to wear Indo western.
14. First thing you notice about people?
Their warmth and personality. I observe the way people treat others.
15. Late night or early morning.
16. Your idea of a perfect date?
Under the moon.
17. My first love?