Please tell us about your growing up days in Bengaluru. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
When I was growing up, I was an extra active child who wanted to be a part of everything. I wanted to sing and be a part of the choir group, dance, essay writing, speeches, debates, volleyball, badminton and all other sports and everything that we had in those days. There was nothing that I did not try. I was a kid who did everything and with all that I managed my studies too. Luckily my parents always supported and never interfered too much. I was also a TV buff and watched with awe and wondered how to get into the other side of the television and the camera. I didn’t have any guidance and all that seemed like a far-fetched dream to even reach there. Every movie I watched, I wanted to be in it. When I saw Aishwarya, Sushmita or Lara, I thought to myself I should have been there. When I saw Kalpana Chawla, I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer and I also dreamt of becoming a doctor or a successful engineer. I was nurturing multiple dreams in those days. We come from a middle class family where you need to have a stable job, so your bills are taken care of. When I grew up I had to take up engineering course from Bangalore and soon as I finished it I got a job with Accenture in Bangalore. My dreams were there but were somehow suppressed as I was working full time at this IT company. I was soon feeling that I wanted to do more and was almost suffocated, so I decided to quit after 22 months and I wasn’t getting any younger to pursue my dreams of entering the glam industry. Beauty pageants require girls to enter when they are young so I had to quit soon and enter this industry. My first bucket list was to get into a beauty pageant. So that’s when it all started and here I am today.
Bangalore is my second home, so wherever I go I have to come back to my home in Bangalore. My actual home is Mangalore, but now I live in Bangalore. I love Mangalore food and my favourites are kori roti, gassi, neer dosa.
How did shift from engineering to modelling take place?
Once I had access to internet and phone and I was following up on the registrations for Miss India and Miss Diva. I opened the form for a few years but somehow did not have the confidence to fill it. At the time I was working at Accenture, I decided this is it. If I don’t take the call for my life and go after my calling, I will be just working here for the next 20 years of my life. I called my father and told him I’m quitting my job and asked him will you support me? Luckily he agreed to pay my rents and told me to go ahead. It’s not that he was also in some great job, but he gave me that confidence and support required then. I worked hard on my body and got fit and brushed on my skills and entered the pageant. It wasn’t easy. I had to give so many auditions from Bangalore auditions to Mumbai auditions to reach the finals. The judges liked me and then Miss Diva happened and I was selected among the top 3 girls. The next step was Miss Supranatural and I was in for one month of training and grilling process. Luckily I won the international contest.
After winning the Miss Supranational 2016 crown, was movies a natural progression? How did you make your film debut?
After I won the crown, my pictures were all over the papers and internet. When I entered the pageant my focus was on winning that pageant. When I won it, my pictures were everywhere saying Bangalore girl won Miss Diva. Luckily at that time the KGF team was looking for a fresh face. They had gone through many profiles but they had not narrowed down to any one face. They saw my picture and they decided to meet me. At that time I had not even gone for the international contest. I got a call from them and I was in Mumbai then. I came to Bangalore to meet the director of KGF, Prashant Neel and the meeting went really well. Within one week’s time, I got a call saying they wanted me on board. I was very happy that everything happened naturally. I was thinking that maybe if I won the international contest I would come back, give auditions and start looking for roles in movies. But by God’s grace, it all happened organically at the same time.
Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema? Any challenges you had to face?
I was little sad that I started late as I had friends who started modelling at the age of 18 and I started at 23. People who want to enter modelling don’t really spend so many years on studying and college, but I had done that and so the years had passed. But I’m glad that I completed my engineering and also worked for a while. All these experiences completed me and gave me a lot of maturity and lot of insight for life and for my profession. I was also happy at the same time that things fell into place and I was offered a good movie, although when I signed for it, it wasn’t even a pan India movie. It was only a Kannada project, but the team had a vision. They had told me that this is going to be a blockbuster big budget movie. Yash was already a superstar in Karnataka and to be acting in a lead role with him was something I had not imagined. Also, Prashant Neel’s first movie had done really well in theatres and I was already a fan of his direction. So, I was very happy with the team. Is se behtar movie I would not have got at that time and so early in my career.
You were noticed for your role in KGF and then again recently made a mark in KGF 2. How was the entire experience and how tough was it playing this role?
Modelling is very different from acting. Part 1 of KGF was challenging as I was very new to the industry. I was still settling down and didn’t know anyone. Part 2 was amazing. By the time KGF Chapter 2 came I was very comfortable, we had a certain bonding and I knew everyone’s mood on sets. I knew the mood of the character and I knew exactly what Reena is and what she should do on screen. But in Part 1 I had no acting knowledge so it was a challenge. My director was my mentor and teacher and it was a learning ground for me. Initially it wasn’t easy to shift from Srinidhi and become Reena and try to understand and transform. But I settled with the role and the team by the second schedule of the shoot. All of us soon became friends and we were all like family, so the whole process became easier.
How was the camaraderie and chemistry with Yash on screen and in between shoots?
Yash was already a star and had acted in many movies before. He had worked with many other costars. I had seen him on screen in theatres and all of a sudden I saw him walking towards me as Rocky. I met him for the first time on sets and was shooting with him for the first time. When we shot the first scene in Part 1, I was almost star struck. I had to pinch myself to tell me that I was sharing the same screen space with him. In two days, I settled and understood that I was acting with him and this was all real and I had to get used to it and give my best. Yash was extremely sweet, patient and very cooperative. There was no air or clout around him that stars usually carry. He was very humble and even took that extra step to teach me at every step. He would tell me try doing this a certain way and I would listen to him. Those little tiny inputs from him really helped me. I’m so happy that I got him as my first costar and he will always be very special for me.
Everyone has loved your role in KGF Chapter 2, which was notches higher than the previous film and more significant too. Did you feel at any point in KGF 1 that your role wasn’t meaty enough that you had to tell the director to add more of it in Chapter 2?
When I heard the story initially, it was supposed to be one movie. So I knew this was building up towards my character. Back then we started with one movie shoot and soon as we started the shoot and we saw that the output was so good, we decided to make it KGF 1 and KGF 2. I knew my whole character arch and that this is how it would begin and end, but when it got divided into two parts, the better part shifted to Part 2. Part 1 had only the introduction to my character and people knew only the world of KGF like who was Rocky and who were the other characters. I was not disappointed with a small role in Part 1 as I knew the story that was coming and that my role was developing to be a better one in Part 2. I wouldn’t say I was very happy with my acting as I’m my worst critic always. I’m always critical about my work. I still feel I could have done so much better in Part 1 and also in Part 2, despite all the compliments coming my way for my acting in Chapter 2. That will keep happening as I feel that there’s always room for improvement. I knew from the beginning that KGF will be a good project, so I was never disappointed that I started with a small role in Part 1 as something bigger was coming for me in Chapter 2.
What was the preparation required for the role?
We had a couple of workshops for Part 1 to get into the soul of Reena’s character. By nature I’m very joyful and cheerful and I’m always laughing and having fun, but Reena’s character is very fearless and also a little arrogant. She is not scared of anyone as she herself is Don’s daughter, who is one of the powerful people in the film. So I had to be this powerful angry young woman who is not laughing all the time, like I usually do. Getting angry is not easy for me, so I attended a couple of workshops. Once I was in the mood of the character and in my costume, everything got kicked in and rolling well. Chapter 2 after the success of Part 1 became easy as my entire character, the story and my lines and mood was all in my heart and mind. Even if you would wake me up from sleep anytime and ask me to play Reena, I could instantly transform myself into her character.
Reena became a likeable personality that the fans started loving but none of us expected the kind of ending that the movie had. What was your reaction to it?
That was the whole beauty of it. Before it was released people were making stories and theories about how it would shape up, but no one ever thought that Reena would get killed. No one’s thought process worked towards that tangent as it was the most unexpected. Because Part 1 does not have more of Reena, Chapter 2 there’s a lot of her character that you can see. Even I was sad when I heard the story back in 2016 and I told the director – you’re killing me in my first movie? He replied, don’t worry we will show it beautifully. After his mother, you’re the ray of hope in Rocky’s life. He was turning into the monster but you’re the one who calms and controls him. But when he loses you, he loses his world completely. He destroys himself and everything that he created. I think the dying part was important to get that last bit of intensity and conflict.
There will be a KGF 3 right as the director has left a hint at the end of the film?
Yes, there is a hint towards that at the end of Chapter 2 in the post credit scenes. I’m not sure about my role. Since everyone loved the franchise so much that we had to come back. So it is like a ray of hope for our fans that there will be a KGF 3. None of us know as yet how the story will pan out. I’m not sure if I’m there in it yet.
What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
I did not take up any other project when I was working for KGF so KGF has been my biggest highpoint so far. I have worked on Cobra and it will be releasing soon. To act in a movie that is released in 5 languages that makes an impact not just across the country but worldwide has been a huge achievement for me. I’m so happy and take immense pride in the fact that I’m part of this project. This is the biggest gift one can have. We travelled to Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi to promote our film but it has done well even overseas theatres.
What has been the reaction of your family and close friends after watching you in KGF 2?
My family was very happy as they have also waited this long for the movie to release. We all met and watched the premiere show together in Bangalore at Urvashi theatre. The people were crazy and whistling and we had so much fun watching with everyone. Everyone loved it and congratulated me for it.
Tell us more about the experience acting alongside Yash on screen and how was he off screen?
For me he will always be very special. I started my first film with him and have learnt so much. He has been very kind on sets and I was never stressed as he used to always give me lot of time. When we were working he would give me his suggestions on how I can handle certain scenes. But off screen he was always very reserved and quiet, so we didn’t speak much apart from work. He was always dedicated and focussed on his work and was always working on how he can improvise his act and character. I used to watch him and always tell myself, even I want to be like that and always stay focussed. Since the shoot was so long back and we had finished it before the pandemic itself, it’s difficult to remember any incidents as such, but we did have a lot of fun making this film. The whole world was shut down after that and the movie release had to be postponed. But what I do remember was our small chit chats whenever we sat behind the monitor looking at the shoot recording after the scenes and discussing them with the director and other actors. We had our own time to laugh and talk and share some good moments together.
Would you like to recall where all you went to for the shoot of KGF?
We shot some scenes at KGF, the Kolar Gold Fields and few portions were shot in Bangalore and Mysore. We also shot at Ramoji Film City and Rajendra Nagar in Hyderabad and the Aluminium tin factory and also at the Falaknuma Palace.
Did you shoot in Dubai?
No that was shot here in India only.
Any memorable fan messages you’d like to share?
I’m just so thrilled and so grateful with millions of fan messages. Everyone is pouring such beautiful messages from all across the country – there are Telugu, Tamil, Malayalis, Kannadigas and even north Indians sending such sweet messages on social media that I feel so blessed. Everyone is pouring so much endless love. They love Reena and telling that Reena should not have died. They’re all saying that Rocky and Reena should have had more scenes and a happy ending. It’s very emotional to read all that. Allu Arjun tweeted today morning itself about the film and acknowledged and congratulated the entire team. It was very nice of him.
What kind of a person are you in your personal space? How do you like to spend your me-time?
I love to be alone. Whenever I come from work and am at home I like to be alone. I don’t like to make dinner or party plans. I like to relax and listen to music or maybe read something. I don’t like to go crazy or plan too much.
What are your other passions and hobbies?
I love playing badminton. Off late I’ve been busy with the movie promos so I haven’t got the time, but whenever I get time we book a court and go to play badminton. I also love swimming. I like doing something that drains one physically. I like playing and getting so tired that I come back and crash.
What is your fitness and skincare regime?
I’m not one of those lucky people who don’t work out and still be in shape. I have to eat healthy and work out regularly to be fit. I have to mix it all up – do some kind of cardio and weights every day.
Even though I’m tired, I make sure that I never sleep with makeup on. I clean my face first, remove makeup and moisturise before sleeping. It’s also all about eating and drinking water. Keep your skin clean, drink lots of water and get lots of good sleep and your skin will naturally glow.
How would you like to describe your fashion statement?
Comfort comes before fashion and style for me. Whatever I wear it has to be comfortable and I think confidence comes with comfort. My go-to outfit is kurta, specially now in summers, a nice soft breezy cotton or linen kurta, or even denims and shirts. Style is what you create and for me comfort is what fashion is all about.
How much time do you spend on social media and do you look after it yourself?
I do have someone who share my credentials and look after my social media since I’m also busy and sometimes can’t post on time, so they help me out.
How often do you like to take holidays and your favourite holiday destinations?
When I won Miss Supranational 2016, I had to travel to United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Slovakia and numerous trips around Poland and India. But ever since pandemic struck and my work did not release, I really was not in any mood to travel. But now that the movie has released, I’m still not in a mood to go on a holiday. I like to go out with friends or family to a nice hill station and just chill. I’m still waiting for Cobra to release and after that I will plan one.
Any message for your mom on Mother’s day that takes place in the month of May?
I lost my mother when I was 14 years old. I was in the 10th standard and have tons of memories with her. She is and will always be my heart. If she was here she would have been really proud of me and with the success of my movie. She would have loved to see her daughter doing well in her career and acting in movies. Whatever I am today is only because of my parents. Their upbringing has really helped me shape the person I am today. I’m very grateful to have spent the precious 14 years of my life with her.
Tell us more about your experience acting in Cobra.
It is slated for sometime in June or July this year. Cobra experience was beautiful as we have Ajay, a very passionate director and his passion reflects on screen. You will also get to see Chiyaan Vikram who is such an amazing talent and a legend with 30 years of experience. Watching him act on the sets of Cobra was such a wonderful experience for me. You will get to see a different of me. Reena and Bhavna, the character that I play in Cobra are poles apart. They’re both very different. If people have loved me as Reena, I’m really hoping that they will also love me as Bhavana and I just can’t wait for movie to come out now.
What are the projects you’re working on currently? Please tell us about the preparation for your role in Cobra? Any other projects you’re looking at?
I have not signed anything else yet. I was waiting for my two releases – KGF 2 and Cobra. I’m listening to a few scripts and projects and meetings are going on, some of them are interesting but nothing has really narrowed down where I have signed anything yet. Hopefully I will like something and sign up soon.
What is your vision and dream in this field that you have made a mark for yourself in?
I would like to work in some great projects so that 10 years down the line I’m happy with the choices that I’ve made. When I look at my filmography I should be proud of the work I’ve done. I definitely don’t want to regret on doing something that I should not have done. I want to choose the right characters for myself and not just do something for the sake of doing it. I really hope to try and do that, but everything is not in our control. My dream is to keep improving and get better everytime and entertain people.
1. Your dream role?
I want to explore everything.
2. Dream director?
I want to work with all the directors in all the languages.
3. Favourite actor and actress?
Yash and Vikram. Madhubala as I’m quite an old school actress.
4. OTT Platforms?
Digital revolution is great as it has given opportunities to so many people.
5. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Lip balm and moisturiser as I have very dry skin. Also my charger.
6. Yoga or gym?
7. Indian food or global cuisine?
8. Your most treasured childhood memory?
Every moment spent with my mother.
9. Beaches or hills?
10. Veg or non veg?
11. Fame or money?
12. Indian wear or Western wear?
13. Straight hair or curls?
14. Your first love?
15. A movie you’d recommend?
16. First thing you notice about a person?
17. One thing that makes you feel beautiful?
I’m alive, so my existance itself.
18. Politics, religion, business, sports or entertainment?
Entertainment and sports.
19. What’s your idea of a perfect man?
Someone who gives space, have mutual understanding
20. What does social media mean to you?
Medium of entertainment.
21. How would you define love?
22. What’s your idea of a perfect date?
Since I’m a foodie, I love to sit and eat and maybe top it up with a nice movie.