She’s a natural on the sets. Our cover girl Elisabet Avramidou Granlund, popularly known as Elli AvrRam, flew in straight from Lagos, Nigeria to our studio for the cover shoot of Provoke Lifestyle Magazine and took it all in her stride. Despite a long flight and a hectic schedule, she made it all easy breezy in her Birkenstock Arizona’s as she kept her calm all day long and was ready to strike a stunning pose at every click.
The green-eyed Swedish-Greek star maybe petite but she oozes an enigmatic aura, the moment she’s on the sets. Known for her Bollywood movie Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon and the reality TV show Bigg Boss, she has acted in several movies in the last few years like Malang, Paris Paris, Butterfly, Koi Jaane Na and most recently shared screen space with Dhanush in the Tamil film Naane Varuven and Goodbye. She will soon be seen alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Ganapath.
1. Please tell us about your growing up days. Where are you from? What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I’m from Sweden and I’m half Greek. My father is Greek and my mother is Swedish and they keep on saying that they have an Indian daughter. Since my childhood, they have seen how much I love India and how fascinated I’ve always been about India and about the Bollywood film industry. My most cherished dream was to become an actress, a heroine in Bollywood. I still remember when I was five years old and I first saw a Bollywood song in a Swedish Television show. It was a program where they were talking about Indian movies. I loved how they were dancing and expressing their colourful costumes. I absolutely fell in love with it and I wanted to be like those girls. It was a fantasy land for me and I asked my parents what is that? That’s when they told me this is Bollywood and it’s the Indian film industry which is in this country called India. Ever since India was stuck in my head and I knew that I have to go to India one day.
I studied in Stockholm. I also studied the Devanagari script there, so that I could learn basic Hindi before coming to India. Apart from that I also studied economics and marketing.
2. Was there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema? When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen?
My mother is an actress so I basically grew up watching her preparing for her plays. She was into films before she got my brother and me. After that she started doing theatre. So I’ve literally grown up in a house where we were surrounded by art and entertainment. My father is also a musician. Acting was something that I always loved. It has always been with me since my childhood, since I used to do theatre as a kid as well. I would love it even then. However during my teenage days, I wasn’t sure if I would actually take up acting as my career. It took me a while and it was during my graduation, that I had to take a decision on what to study further in life and what to become. That’s when I listened to my heart and all my heart kept on telling me was to go to India and go for my childhood dream and try my luck as an actress in Bollywood. Deep down inside I knew that this is all I want to do in life. So, after my graduation I decided that I want to try out a career in acting. I didn’t want to live a life of regrets. I didn’t want to become a grandma one day and sit and regret that I didn’t go for my biggest dream. I rather want to be the one telling my grandchildren that I actually tried it out and that I followed my dream. And by God’s grace now I will be able to say that I also achieved it.
3. How challenging was it initially and how did you overcome the challenges?
It’s been a lot of challenges. Where do I even begin? The biggest challenge was to just ignore the majority of the people around me who kept telling me that it’s impossible and you can’t make it. I became fierce and strong in my mind and I didn’t allow all these things to affect me, because I truly believe in myself. I knew that I have the “It” factor and I knew I would prove everyone wrong. I was 100 percent confident and was doing my daily routine everyday. I knew that the universe would manifest it for me. I remember people telling me that if you’re lucky maybe you will get some work after three or five years. I denied it all saying that’s too long, I will get good work within one year. It was clear for me in my mind that I ended up manifesting it all so fast for myself. By God’s grace things worked out for me. Things were not easy after my first film. The challenge then was to continue getting good work. My journey has been such a roller coaster journey. It has been a journey where I have had to convince people that I know Hindi, speak fluent Hindi and I can do Indian roles and can look Indian as well. These challenges are not there for Indian actresses that are born here. I’m absolutely fine with it as I knew that these hurdles are going to be a part of my journey.
4. How was your experience working in the South Indian film industry?
I’m very grateful to all the filmmakers who have seen me and have believed in me that I do have it in me and I can portray a certain role. Be it my latest film Naane Varuven with Dhanush where I’m portraying Madhuri or any other character in any other role that I’ve played. I’m so grateful to Selvaraghavan Sir for seeing Madhuri in me and for truly believing in me that I’m the best option for this role. I thank my audience, who have loved me and my character so much. It really warms my heart and I’m so grateful for what I’ve achieved. I had to keep pushing myself. It wasn’t easy. One has to be stubborn in knowing that you deserve to be here because you’re honest towards your work and you’re talented and are working hard. Today the industry has accepted me and I’m just so grateful for it.
5. How did you learn Hindi?
By being part of the show Bigg Boss. I kept pushing myself to speak the language even if I wasn’t able to speak it correctly. I really pushed myself and when I came out of the show, I maintained that and continued to speak in Hindi and that’s how I learnt and picked up the language. The credit also goes to my staff who constantly talk to me in Hindi and have been correcting me and helping me out.
6. How much of Tamil do you know and what are you doing to learn the language?
I knew a little bit of Tamil. I’m yet to learn it completely. It is my favourite Indian language. I love the language and think that it is so beautiful. It’s definitely on my goal list to learn the Tamil language fluently as well.
7. Tell us about your experience acting with Dhanush? Any interesting experience from the shoot sets you would like to recall?
My experience acting with Dhanush was absolutely wonderful. He’s such a supportive actor and is so humble. He’s very kind and truly cares about his costars feeling comfortable on the set too. I’m extremely grateful to him for that.
The best experience I loved was the fact that everyone was so into their work and there was this amazing energy on the set. Everyone was so kind and generous. Also, the food was so delicious. It was the yummiest set food that we had every day, Especially the south Indian breakfast. I loved that and also the location. We were shooting in Ooty and I would love to sign a film again where I can get to shoot in Ooty again.
8. Tell us about your passion for singing? Did you learn professionally as a child?
Since my childhood I’ve always loved to sing. I used to perform with my best friend in school. We even wrote a song together that we produced. I have it somewhere back home in Sweden. It was our first single. I’ve always loved music as both my mother and father used to sing. Then in my teenage days, for some reason I started to become conscious and felt that I don’t have a nice voice. I became shy to sing. However my friend Avina who I did the ‘Kudi Main Mean’ song with, heard me sing one day and told me – Elli you’re good, we should sing together. She pushed me and believed in me, so I told myself, ‘Life is short, why not just do it?’ We did it and got great reviews. Soon I started getting called for more songs, but to be honest I’m here to be an actress. Singing is a passion of mine and I do have a few songs that I have written, but I haven’t produced them yet. Maybe I’ll do them one day to express the creative side of me.
9. Please share your experience working with Selvaraghavan?
It has been a dream. Selvaraghavan literally pulled out the actress in me. The kind of scenes he made me perform, were like a dream come true. He made me portray such heavy emotional scenes and I feel blessed to be directed by him. He is definitely a film maker I would love to work with again. I’ve mentioned this earlier and will continue to say that I would love to do a woman-oriented film directed by Selvaraghavan sir. That would be amazing. He’s so clear what he wants from an actor and from a scene. I admire that. His vision is beautiful. I hope to do it again soon.
10. Also, how was your experience working with Aamir Khan for Har Funn Maula?
Working with Aamir Khan was something that I had never dreamt of. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with him as we all know how rarely he shoots for a new project and that too for a special dance number. Something like that happens once in a blue moon, so when I got this offer, I was so happy. The response that I have received for Har Funn Maula is amazing. People have loved our chemistry together on the screen. This is something that I find super cool, as it was Aamir Khan that I got to romance with on the screen in this super sensual song. This will definitely be something I’m going to look back on and something that will surely make me smile when I’m a grandma. He’s also a wonderful person and I would love to do a film with him one day.
11. Also your experience working with Amitabh Bachchan and Rashmika Mandanna?
Getting to act with Amitabh Bachchan once again was a dream come true. I had never expected this to happen. It’s not everyday that a script will come to you with the stalwart where you really fit the part. This is another project of mine that I’m super duper proud of. Just to see how Bachchan sir is as a person, how professional he is and how much he loves what he does. That was really amazing to see. To see him perform live is also really special. That’s the reason why Goodbye will always be a special film for me.
Also, Rashmika is a sweetheart. She’s really adorable. She’s a very sweet and simple girl. I appreciate that about her.
12. What does family mean to you?
Family for me means everything in life. I’ve grown up in a very strong belief system that family is important and should always stick together. We believe that family members should always keep meeting each other. In earlier days, we would keep meeting at my grandparents place and we would eat together and chat and spend the entire day together during the weekends, like one big fat Greek family. If you’ve seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, that’s pretty much how I’ve grown up. Families are very important to us. During the lockdown I was away from them, but we were in touch on FaceTime. My little cat Charles and I were my family in Mumbai, but I kept myself busy. I was dancing and cooking and enjoying sunsets. I was staying away from all kinds of negativity. The best I could do was stay safe and stay at home. So I did that and stayed positive and helped my friends to stay positive too. The reality was really sad. I tried to entertain my fans and a lot of my fans wrote to me how they loved my stories where I was dancing and also showing my cute cat Charles to them. I felt that was important. As an artist the best I could do was to entertain and spread love and light to my people who love me so much.
13. How has life changed after entering the film industry?
A lot of people know me now. Other than that I’m just the same little Elli who is still doing what I love to do.
14. What kind of a person are you in your personal space? How do you like to spend your me-time?
I’m a person who loves to have conversations with people. When I’m in my personal space, I’m someone who loves to stay in silence, be in my own thoughts and just embrace my surroundings and the nature around me. I love to be with my cats and dance sometimes. I like to be in my own little bubble. Sometimes I like to do nothing and that’s also very important for me.
15. Any memorable fan messages you’d like to share?
There are many of those. There are so many beautiful messages from fans where they have expressed what they feel or something that I’ve done that has changed something in their lives. One thing I still remember strongly was on my 25th birthday where I got a lot of gifts from my fans. Three of my fans had made 25 heart shaped cards where in each card they had put separate photographs of me, my mom and dad and me, my grandmom and me, my brother and me and they had written personal messages on each card. It made me cry that there are three people out there who know me as much as I would know my siblings. That got me very emotional and made me feel blessed.
16. What has been one of your favourite roles that you have played so far?
Madhuri in Naane Varuven. It was a complete dream role. I absolutely enjoyed it. Another role that I enjoyed was Jesse in Malang as it is in complete contrast to how I am in real life. Recently when I was in Chennai there were so many people who wanted to take a selfie with me. It was so amazing to see how so many people came up and told me that they loved to see me in Malang and that they wanted to see me in a sequel of the movie. It was quite a challenge for me and I love challenges.
17. What is your view about films in the OTT world of today? Also your views on social media?
The OTT world of today is giving a platform to so many people in the creative field. We are discovering so many talents in the industry because of the OTT platforms. I think it’s a beautiful space that we are in.
Social media is work. I love Instagram although sometimes I feel I should stay away from it as I’m addicted to it. It’s so much easier to connect with me on Instagram than on Whatsapp. I have to sometimes learn to distance myself from it. I love to stay in touch with my fans and these platforms are great to connect with all the fans. It’s also another medium to entertain, spread joy and also spread awareness about many things. It also has its drawbacks like everything else in life.
18. Would you like to share something romantic that anyone has ever done for you?
One was when I was gifted a star with my name. I have a real star in the sky with my name. I have a certificate with that star dedicated to me. Also, once when I was 17 years old, there was a boy in the neighbourhood, who was only nine years old. He peeped into a window and spotted me getting ready. Ever since he was completely mad about me and took my mobile number. He also bought a very cute teddy bear for me. He kept begging me to give him a chance to take me out for a date. He just didn’t want to understand that this cannot happen as he was nine and I was 17.
19. What are your plans for Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
I’m hoping that either my parents can come to Mumbai or I can go to Sweden this Christmas. I may be working on New Year’s Eve, but not on Christmas for sure. Christmas is a holiday time for me with my family, as it is a big festival for us. I’m looking forward to the Christmas celebrations.
20. What are the projects you’re working on currently? Please share about all of them in detail.
I’m acting in Ganapath. My role is a very different role this time. The whole look is something to look forward to and I’m sure you’re going to love my look in this film. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a December release. I’m excited for all my fans to see my character in Ganapath. I’m also excited about another regional film that I’m working on. I’ve dubbed for myself and it’s a new language. I wish I could reveal more but at this point of time I can only say that this new project will be very interesting too.
1. Your dream role?
2. Dream director?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali
3. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Lip balm, mascara.
4. Yoga or gym?
5. Indian food or global cuisine?
6. Closest friends from the industry or outside?
From outside the industry.
7. Beaches or hills?
8. Veg or non-veg?
I’m trying to become a vegetarian, but then I’m a non-vegetarian for now.
9. Fame or money?
10. Indian wear or Western wear?
11. Straight hair or curls?
12. A movie you’d recommend?
Devdas. Also Goodbye and Naane Varuven.
13. First thing you notice about a person?
If they can dare to look me in my eyes.
14. One thing that makes you feel beautiful?
15. Your most treasured childhood memory?
The time I spent with my grandparents. They would cook my favourite food and all the chocolates they would get for me.
16. What does social media mean to you?
Work, entertainment and connecting with fans.
17. The top three things you’re looking for in a life partner?
He has to be entertaining and make me laugh a lot. He has to have a lot of depth and should be intelligent. He has to have a big heart.
18. What’s your idea of a perfect date?
If someone tells me I want to take you out on a date I may just freak out. I like to take it a little slow. One has to really pursue me. It’s difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone.
19. Your favourite festival.
20. A message you’d like to share.
Anything you love doing in life and anything that truly excites you, go ahead and pursue it.
COVER SHOOT PHOTO CREDITS
TEXT BY NAMITA GUPTA
Photographer: Adwait Singh
HMU: Tereza Sofie Sherpa
Stylist- Adeeti Patil
Outfits: Vero Moda & ONLY