She came into films when she was just 19 years old. She did carry the baggage of being the daughter of actor couple Jeevitha Rajasekhar. Her sister Shivani was already making her mark in the industry. Shivathmika’s debut film ‘Dorasani’ with Anand Devarakonda (Vijay Devarakonda’s brother) in the lead was a hit and received rave reviews with everyone appreciating her performance. Shivathmika Rajasekhar indeed proved her mettle on her own accord, and was looking forward to a seamless career in film. But the reality was something else. While she continued to hear stories, she was yet to find roles suitable for her.
Her latest film with Ashok Selvan – ‘Nitham Oru Vaanam’ directed by Ra.Karthik is one such film she relates to. She plays Meenakshi in the film, and it continues to receive positive reviews, especially for her performance.
Currently she is busy with the promotions of her latest Telugu hit film – ‘Panchatantram’ – an anthology of five stories directed by Harsha Pulipaka. The story is about love, relationships, emotions and marriage based on five senses. “I found the theme very fascinating. I loved the story they narrated to me which is based on the sense of touch, and I fell in love with the film,” shares Shivathmika.
How did Panchatantram happen?
Akhilesh one of the producers is my friend, and he offered the film to me one day when I was walking out of a party. This is an anthology and there are nine other lead actors none of whom were signed at the time. I agreed to the film even before hearing the story. And, as it turns out all the five stories from the anthology are beautiful. And, when my part was narrated, I loved the idea. Until then I had acted in ‘Dorasani’ and finished my part in Krishna Vamsi sir’s ‘Rangamarthanda’ both of which were intense. So, I immediately liked the idea of acting for this lighter vein, subtle and simple story.
How has it been to be with this young team, and what are your views on anthologies?
These days I am increasingly being attracted to anthologies. There are the short impactful stories and you don’t have to be invested in the actors for long. It has its own charm. This is a special film because the entire cast and crew have been friends and it was joyful working with them. There was no one who was called sir or mam on the sets. We were all emerging actors. I had three long scenes and I finished shoot in three days. It was the shortest for a film that I have worked for. Even before coming on sets, we were chilling out and there was a vibe between us, which reflects in the film. While I like my parts I also love Divya’s and Swathi’s stories – the latter brings tears to your eyes. Mine is a cute story and Rahul Vijay acts with me in the story. I also learnt to drive on the sets as there is this scene where I drive a car. Harsha, the director is young but he tells these stories about love, relationships and marriage like a seasoned writer. Here is a small sweet film in the midst of massive films, which I hope does well, so that more people come forward to make such stories.
How has been the response to your film ‘Nitham Oruvanam’ / ‘Aaskasam’, and how did the movie happen?
I knew Ashok Selvan from his previous film and loved his work and had also sent a congratulatory note to him. When I came across information that Ra.Karthik is making a film with three heroines I presumed that atleast one of them would be a lesser known actress. So I sent my pictures and tried reaching out to him with no response. When I almost left hope, I connected with the film again in a strange way, which made me begin to believe in destiny. I was trying to reach out to producer Sagar when my agent said he is looking for actors for a film project. My mother knew him and offered to speak to him.
She came back to me and said they wanted to narrate a film to me, and this film already had Ashok Selvan in the lead, and that it has two other heroines for which Aparna and Ritu Verma were cast. My first reaction was if they were looking for casting me or Shivani because most of the times people get confused. Plus. I always undersell myself. They sent a picture of me for confirmation. Coincidentally this was the poster of my character in ‘Panchatantram’ that they saw and realized I fit the role of ‘Meenakshi’ in Kathik’s film – the same film which I have been trying for the past one and half months.
Kathik narrated the story to me on Zoom and I was amazed to hear the beautiful portion and immediately agreed. The character will get pregnant in the end, and he wanted to be sure I would be alright to do such a role in this age. I did not want to take any time that he offered for thinking it through lest he considers anyone else for Meenakshi. I wanted to do the role.
How was it shooting for the Tamil film?
I had earlier acted in a Tamil film ‘Anandham Vilayadum Veedu’. But this film spoiled me thoroughly. This was a film where I acted with all strangers, who later became friends. The girls – one a national award winner and the other an actress with a bunch of impressive films like Ritu Verma, ensured I had my space be it on the sets or during the promotions. The men on the sets dispelled my perception of men in the industry. They would ask my opinion about scenes and even consider them; this at a time and age of mansplaining. Ashok, the director and even DOP would want to know how Meenakshi would behave in a certain situation.
More importantly despite the fact that the length of my role is limited to the first half – audience, who came out of the theatre remembering my role and appreciating it is a big achievement for me.
How did ‘Rangamarthanda’ happen?
Krishna Vamsi garu saw my film ‘Dorasani’ and he called me for this role as Prakash Raj sir’s daughter just two days before the shoot. I had already planned a cousins’ trip to Singapore. I coaxed and cried with my cousins and postponed the trip, and got onto the shoot.
I was amidst stalwarts for the film. Vamsi sir would come upto me and say don’t be foolish and get married. Do not get distracted from acting. And, one of the best compliments that I think I will ever receive in my life is when he said – Continue to act – act until you become old – breathe your last only in front of the camera – you are born to do this. I feel no other compliment can beat this one. For someone who sometimes wonders what she is doing here, I will live by these words.
How is it to have two young aspiring actresses in one house?
It is a blessing. I wouldn’t have otherwise survived. This is tough life, and it breaks you. When I did ‘Dorasani’, I thought I had made a beginning and will now get one film after the other. But it was not to be, and I did not know what else I needed to do to prove myself. Shivani started before me. She waited long until ‘Adbhutam’ happened. I ask her how she managed to wait – and she would say there was no other option.
It is the same for me. I do not see myself doing anything else. Even after ‘Aakasam’ and ‘Panchatantram’ I wonder what I will do next.
Watching Shivani gives me confidence that I too will make it. We both have always wanted to become actresses and we always aspire for something that we do not realise how far we have come in our journey and career. And, that is the case with the best of actors and actresses who think they have more to achieve.
Being actors’ children – does it help?
Star kids atleast can reach out to people easily. I can use my father’s name to introduce myself; beyond that it is hard work.