1. Tell us about your growing up days. Where did you study? Your time spent later at the law college. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I belong to an army family, so I was raised across the country, across several small towns in different states and in different terrains – sometimes forests, hills and even deserts. We moved every two years and changed schools. We had different teachers, different friends, new neighbours etc, so my childhood was about pack and unpack and start your life again from scratch every couple of years. I studied in nine different schools, so I don’t have that loyalty or pride that one usually has to a certain school. I have studied in too many of them. Each one is precious to me though. Law College was interesting. I had moved to Bangalore as it was my choice to study law. It was my first taste of adulthood and independence. Well, that’s what you think when you’re 18. It was very exciting. The first time I hopped onto a local bus with a bus pass and discovered the city on my own and made new friends will always be special. It was less sheltered unlike school. There was a wave of freedom and I could do whatever I wanted to do with my time. But, I soon realised that I didn’t have great passion for law. During the law course of five years, I discovered many new passions. I had almost 10 different dream careers during that time – ranging from being an astronaut to being a news reader, to being a doctor to a physiotherapist. There was a certain age at which I began to be drawn to acting and soon knew that this was what it would be for me.
2. When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen?
From the age of 10, I knew that I liked to perform in front of people – could be just mimicry of people or sharing a few laughs. It was silly back then. But when I moved to Bangalore at the age of 18, I wanted to pursue theatre, as this city has such a big history of theatre. I wanted to try my hand at it and I did try. It didn’t happen immediately, as I didn’t know how to go around it. When I was in my third year of college, I got the opportunity for an audition and got selected for it. That’s how my journey towards being an actor began. It was beautiful, because by then I knew that law didn’t excite me. A lot of my friends were involved in the happenings around law and I was nothing like that. So, I’m glad I had theatre to back me up, as I did feel a little out of place in the world of law. I rehearsed ten hours a day for a play and that gave me such a satisfying feeling. After I graduated from law, I worked as a lawyer for two years, but never left the stage completely. I was simultaneously acting at all times. I never quit acting, even though I was working as a lawyer. After that I thought I had had enough as my heart was not in it. I decided to quit law and pursue acting full time. Back then, I was open to doing anything – stage or television or movies. I wasn’t gunning for lead roles only – I was happy with character roles as long as I got to act. I wasn’t picky at that point. Turning an actor was a conscious decision and it was this dormant dream that I wanted to fulfil. I wanted to give it a chance and see if I was any good at it. I’m glad I took that leap.
3. What are your other passions and hobbies? If not an actor what else would you have considered being?
I’m extremely passionate about saving the planet – sustainable alternatives. I love to read and educate myself on what’s happening in the world around us and talking about this on my social media. The planet and conservation of resources is a huge chunk of my personality. I also love to bake in my free time. It’s one thing that I really enjoy. If not an actor, I would go back to any other desk job – maybe being a teacher. I think I would be good at teaching and I’m good with children. My mother was a teacher for many years and a part of me still wants to be a teacher.
4. How challenging was it to carve out a niche for yourself?
It was pretty challenging as I didn’t have a godfather in the industry. My dad’s an ex-army officer and my mum is a teacher. There was no advice, tips and tricks or secret hacks of the trade that they could give me. I came in pretty lost and I didn’t know about the workings of this industry. I didn’t have any contacts and had to make all the decisions myself. If things worked out it was great, but I had no one to blame, if things didn’t work out. One tends to compare oneself to others. You have to wear makeup, your public persona, everything has to be up there and it took me some time to master all of that. If I was a star kid, maybe I would have some experience in that field. Coming from one industry, hopping to the other and then also learning new languages – these were the regular struggles I faced, but nothing that I had issues with.
5. How have last six years in the industry panned out for you? How did you come to where you are today and what were the challenges initially? How did you overcome them?
The last six years have been full of learning and many memorable moments. For a girl who thought, she wouldn’t even survive a year and would have to go to a desk job, I think I’ve done pretty good for myself. I’ve let my work speak for myself more than anything. I feel proud and accomplished. But there are certain days, when I feel there’s so much more to achieve. I did make some mistakes and tried to bite off more than I could chew, but overtime I built a reputation for myself who worked hard, remained punctual and disciplined. I want people to know me for my talent. There has been like 20 rejections and one selection for a film. I’ve become very careful in picking roles that would suit me. There has been advice from people that I should sign up more films, but I knew if I wasn’t feeling the character or a lot for the film, I wouldn’t just do it. I need to be passionate about the role. It has to really excite me and I guess that’s how I’ve come to where I am today. Challenges were how a girl who’s not from the industry figure it out and make her own space.
6. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
I began with a debut film that premiered at a film festival in New York. Nothing can really peak that highpoint. But every film has been special – I remember the day when U Turn released. My phone was constantly ringing and I couldn’t get off the hook all day. I had missed one of the phone calls and one of my co-actors told me this is not the time to miss a call. You better not miss any call at this time. Anything could materialise into something at this point. Playing a part in Mani Ratnam’s film Katru Veliydai and working with him was definitely a high point. Films Like Vikram Vedha, Jersey, Nerkonda Paarvai, Maara, Urvi, Krishna and His Leela, Operation Alamelamma, K- 13, Rustum, Jodi and reading all the wonderful reviews, are all the wonderful memories I will take with me.
7. What does family mean to you? What do you and your family do and how do you all spend time these days when you’re at home?
We are five of us in my family and they’re everything to me. I can’t say I have many friends as I’m a private person. My family has seen and been with me through all my phases. They have always cheered for me and I appreciate them so much. When I’m not shooting, there’s nothing extraordinary that I do at home. I wake up late and help around in the kitchen maybe or some cleaning. I cherish my time at home and love to be at home when I’m not shooting. I’m a huge home bird. Just breathe in every moment and love the family time. Sitting around with my parents is enough for me on an off day.
8. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema at a young age?
There were a few, when I was new as I didn’t know what kind of people I would encounter. Stories don’t help either. One is not sure, as it’s not really an organised industry. You know how IT works or how a corporate would function, but you have no idea how a film industry works, as there is no structure. My apprehensions revolved around many things – I wondered if I would find good work or meet the right people.
9. What is your vision and dream in this field that you’re in now?
I want good characters to be written for both men and women. I just want that whole divide between men and women to slowly blur away. I want people to stop looking at male lead actors or female lead characters as hero or heroine. They should be more focused on their characters than on their genders.
10. Who are your close friends in the industry? Who is your 2 am friend?
I have no 2 am friend. I’m sound asleep at that time. Even if something is bothering me, I won’t disturb other people. I’ll just put myself to sleep. I sleep at 9.30 pm. I feel like I’ve made friends with some of my directors – like Dhilip Kumar who directed Maara and Gautham Ramachandran who directed Richie. Shruthi Hariharan, my costar is also one of my closest friends in the industry. One of my directors Ravikanth is also my close friend. I’ve become close to the directors of my films, as there’s so much conversation that takes place during the shoot and that leads to a good healthy friendship.
11. How do you manage to get a work life balance?
I don’t take phone calls after 9 pm; sometimes after 8 pm and that helps me have a work life balance. Also, as celebrities you’re expected to attend this or that, be a celebrity judge, these days – attend zoom calls and I’ve realised that there’s no only so much a human being can do for the sake of doing. If there’s no value in doing it, don’t do it. I’ve now started following that. Initially, people told me you need to be seen and attend functions and events. I did that and it exhausted me. Now, I just don’t, unless I see that this is something that I truly want to do, and not just because Shraddha, the actress is supposed to be doing it.
12. How often do you take holidays with family or friends? What are your preferred holiday destinations? Do you like adventure travel or leisure travel?
I take annual holidays with my family. With friends it’s not too often. I also do solo trips. I want to travel the world. If I had to pick a place – I will say Japan, Russia, Egypt and Patagonia. I like leisure travel, wherein I can also try adventure activities. I don’t want my itinerary to be chock-a-block, but I don’t mind backpacking, staying in hostels and meeting new people. I’ve done white water rafting in Bhutan and in the north east.
13. What would your dream man be like?
My dream man should have a good sense of humour and should not take himself too seriously. He should be knowledgeable, should be inspired and should inspire me to do stuff.
14. Are you a romantic at heart in real life? What is the most romantic thing anyone has done for you?
I’m a huge romantic. The problem lies with the fact that my generation of people grew up watching romantic films, where romance was shown through extremely rose-tinted glasses and that in turn makes you a romantic and you start believing in these things. But life disappoints you slightly. But that doesn’t stop you, does it? I’m a romantic at heart and continue to be.
15. What is your fitness routine like?
I’m not a huge fitness freak. If you let me be, I’ll lie on my couch and one won’t even realise. But workout makes you feel good and more than anything it makes you feel better, that you’ve achieved something and on most days, we need to feel that we have done something. I have been doing yoga past three months and I’m taking yoga classes. I’m loving it now and also doing a bit of gym. I have been doing strength training too.
16. What’s your style mantra? And your beauty regime?
Do not over think or blindly follow trends. I feel the pressure to look good is so heavy that we end up buying so many clothes. I don’t even understand why looking good is so important. My style mantra is to keep it simple, wear what you have and wear it until you can’t wear it anymore. I’m on this path to sustainable fashion and the new Shraddha does not believe in binge shop or retail therapy. Clothes are just meant to clothe you. If you have a great personality you will look good in anything. I eat really well. I eat good nutritious food. My food takes care of my skin. I used to have an elaborate skin care routine. I’m on the path to minimalism and to reduce my carbon footprint – so now I only do cleansing, toning and moisturising. Luckily, I’m born with good skin and on most days, it looks good. I guess exercise, good food, water and sleep result in visibly good skin.
17. Which language and which genre of acting are you most comfortable with?
I would say English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu in the same spot – in that order. I’m ok with all genres, just that I can’t stand shouting and screaming and waiting for a hero to come and rescue me. I would love to do a good comedy, I also love romantic dramas and action if it’s well designed. I can’t beat up five men at one time. I feel like there’s something about women on screen who kick some derriere. I would like to dabble with some action.
18. What are the projects you’re working on currently and what are your future plans?
I’m currently working on a Telugu film and looking at a few film scripts. I would like to diversify. I feel it’s limiting to call myself only an actor. I would like to start business in the sustainability space. I feel I have the potential for so much more.
1. Your dream role?
The one that fetches me an Oscar nomination.
2. Your favourite movie? Favourite actor and actress?
Love Actually. Tom Hanks. Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson.
3. Your pet peeve?
People who do not respect time.
4. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Lip balm, water bottle, power bank, phone, sunglasses, wooden cutlery set, metal strap, cloth bag.
5. Yoga or gym?
6. Indian food or global cuisine?
7. What does social media mean to you?
A place where I can be myself and speak my mind and just connect with my fans.
8. Beaches or hills?
9. Veg or non-veg?
I’m a vegetarian now.
10. Fame or money?