1. Please tell us about your growing up days. Where are you from? Where did you study? What was your dream career in your childhood days?
My childhood was all about sports as I’ve been an athlete all my life. I have been training for swimming championships most of my life, up until 2018. I used to be a national level swimmer. I would wake up at 5:30 am for my swimming practice, go to school and then from school directly back to practice and then go home. My day would start early and end at 9:30 pm. I’m a proper Bangalore girl, born and brought up in Bangalore. I did my schooling at Baldwin’s High School and then I went on to study at Sri Kumaran’s. I did my graduation in Civil Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology. My dream career in my childhood days was taking up the UPSC exams.
2. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema? When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen?
I was always passionate about acting so I didn’t have any apprehensions. So, as soon as the first offer came to my dad from Director Duniya Suri Sir for Popcorn Monkey Tiger, he told me to go ahead. He wanted to give me a role in his movie which was to be a crime thriller and my dad told me to give it a try and it all depends on your capabilities. I thought of giving it a shot and see how it works. I won the SIIMA award also for this movie. We were shooting in 2019 and my first movie released in 2020.
3. How was your experience working in the South Indian film industry?
I’m very proud to be working in the South Indian film industry, specially the Kannada industry that’s making mark throughout the world. I’m a very proud Kannadiga and it’s amazing to be working with such talented people in this era. I’m blessed to be in this industry during this time.
4. How challenging was it initially and how did you overcome the challenges?
It was a bit challenging as I didn’t have prior experience of acting. I had not been a part of any acting school, so I had to learn acting through work. With work and experience one tries to learn and pick up at every step. It’s been a great learning process that will continue. I like to learn new things and want to keep learning.
5. Also share your experience working in Kantara and how did you get the role?
Kantara has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was the best learning experience as well. I got to be on the sets for the complete duration of the film, and learnt so much being a part of this prestigious project. I got the role through Instagram when Rishab Sir saw one of my videos for Karnataka tourism on Instagram. He called me thinking my character and looks will suit the role. It’s an experience that I will cherish and take forward with me for the rest of my life.
6. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
The highpoint is Kantara; also, the biggest superstars watching the movie and appreciating the movie and congratulating me on being such a big part of such a successful project. It broke records and made news not only in south India and the entire country and even internationally.
7. What does family mean to you?
Family is everything to me. They are my first priority. For every project I do, the discussion goes through my family. Whatever I am today is because of them.
8. What are your other passions and hobbies?
I read a lot. I love being active, not just in the gym but also playing all kinds of sports like football, cricket or badminton. Even if it’s a new sport, I love to learn and try it. I also love colouring and find it very therapeutic. I find colouring mandalas very peaceful.
9. What is your vision and dream in this field now?
I would like to play as many characters as possible and do justice to each one of them. I’m currently going with the flow of things, but my vision would be to give time and due credit to every character that I’m offered.
10. How has life changed after entering the film industry?
I still get nervous when I get onto a film set. I still wonder if I’m doing my job right. Every movie is still the same how I went into my first film. Not much has changed except that I’m getting a lot of good offers.
11. What kind of a person are you in your personal space? How do you like to spend your me-time?
I’m an extrovert. At social gatherings I like to speak a lot and make new friends, but when it comes to my own personal space, I enjoy my own company and can laugh at my own jokes. I like to spend my personal time with my friends, chit chatting, having fun and forgetting everything in the world. These friends are special and have been with me for the past 24 years. I love spending time with them.
12. How often do you take holidays and travel?
I love to take holidays and travel. Because of Covid, I couldn’t travel a lot, but now I do of course. Even if I’m going for a four day work trip I love to go out and explore. If I wasn’t working I would have been a hippie otherwise. Any holiday destination works for me, I’m not fussy. You take me to Mysore also, I will enjoy my holiday. Take me anywhere, I’m a travel buff. Even if I’m in Bangalore and you take me to a hotel for a staycation, I will enjoy my holiday. I love packing my suitcases and getting to the airport gives me a different kind of joy that I can’t explain. I’m a very hippie person in my soul. I’ve started travelling and am currently planning a lovely trip. I hope it works out.
13. How do you maintain a work life balance?
I don’t know if I’ve really learnt how to strike a work life balance. Some days the work takes over and I completely forget about my life. Even basic things like eating food or drinking water I forget. I’m still learning how to get that right balance.
14. Any memorable fan message you’d like to share?
My fans have been very kind to me. They’re the sweetest and love me immensely. They have showered so much love towards me and have accepted me like I am; the raw self without any pretentions. They call me Leela today and I accept it wholeheartedly.
15. Any memorable incidents you’d like to share with us during the shoot of some of your films? Specially recall some behind the scenes moments from the shoot of Kantara.
Probably the first day of shoot is something that every actor is nervous about. When I went into the shoot on my first day of Kantara it was raining. There was a caravan so I wanted to check it out. There was Rishab Sir and Arvind a cinematographer who were sitting there and they asked me to come in. For the first two schedules of the shoot, I was so scared and I couldn’t even look at Rishab Sir in the eye. I still don’t know how I did my first scene and then later Rishab Sir asked me why are you so scared of me and I told him probably it’s the respect for you that’s why I’m scared. After that every day on the set was super fun and it was amazing to have been a part of this project.
16. Who are your close friends from the film or entertainment industry?
Rishab Sir, Pragathi Mam, Dhananjay, Poorna, Shanil guru, Yogi Sir, Karthik Sir and a few others. I go to get advice to these people and they always help me.
17. What is that one favourite role that you would like to play?
Probably a warrior queen. Because I’ve been an athlete all my life, so I feel I can play the part well and do justice to that character. Another one would be a complete romantic love story.
18. What are the projects you’re working on currently? Please share about all of them in detail.
I just finished the Vaccine War with Vivek Agnihotri Sir. Next I have Kaali that I have shooting for with Abhishek Ambareesh under S Krishna Sir’s direction. I had an amazing time on the sets of Vaccine War. The Vaccine War’ is based on Indian scientists and on the people who have sacrificed their days and nights for over two years to develop a vaccine against Covid. It was a new language for me as it’s a Bollywood film in Hindi. Other projects are still under discussion so I can’t really share about them now.
19. What is your view about films in the OTT world of today? Also your views on social media and how much time do you spend on it?
The OTT during lockdown helped us, especially during those times it was the only source of entertainment. People started watching movies in all the languages like the K dramas and even Japanese and German movies and that came through OTT for us. The cinematic experience of watching a movie in the theatre is never going to fade. One can never have that kind of experience on OTT at home, but OTT has given everyone an opportunity to connect to a lot more people. Social media is like a daily part of us. It is a subjective thing. I’m on social media but I don’t let it get to me. If there’s someone giving love to me or laughing at me, I just don’t let it bother me. The real world comments matter more than the social media world.
20. Please share your views on love?
Views on love are always nice. I love love and the feeling of love. I love people who are in love and getting married to the people they love. I love to see love around me, but right now marriage is not on the cards. Love is always nice, as long as it does not get toxic. Again toxicity is very subjective. But for me love is something that one shares with another, it could also be with family and friends – the kind of love I’m looking for is something that comes out of respect and friendship – the kind of love that doesn’t mistreat you or leaves you guessing. One shouldn’t be always left wondering if this is real love, it should always be true and genuine.
21. The Kannada film industry has given you love and affection? What do you have to say about the other South Indian film industries?
Kannada film industry is my industry. I’m a kanndiga and Kannada movies will always be my priority, even if I’m working in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies. I’m proud of my Kannada language, a language that I’m the most comfortable in, so I’ll always come back to my industry, to my roots. I have been receiving offers from all the other industries and they have all been very kind and welcoming and I’m looking forward to acting in all the languages.
22. How would you like to describe your fashion statement?
Be comfortable and want to be comfortable even if I’m wearing an 8 kgs lehenga. I can handle the weight as long as it doesn’t poke me. Comfort would be my fashion statement.
23. Your fitness and beauty regime?
Doing any kind of physical activity atleast for an hour or an hour and a half a day and doing some kind of workout atleast five times a week. I messed up my skincare routine so badly so I’m trying to get it back on track. So for now it’s cleanse, cleanse and moisturise and use sunscreen. These are basics but if you stick to these your skin will be good.
24. What are your future plans?
Doing justice to all the roles and characters I play. I’m looking forward to a very busy working year this year and coming out with a lot of movies that I’ve signed up and going to sign up.
1. Your dream role?
A warrior princess or a romantic love story.
2. Dream director?
Selfish actor and want to work with all the good directors out there.
3. Favourite actor and actress?
Rishab Shetty Sir and Ramya Ma’m.
4. Your pet peeve?
Someone chewing very loudly.
5. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Sunscreen, chewing gum and a backup charger.
6. Yoga or gym?
7. Indian food or global cuisine?
8. Closest friends from the industry or outside?
Rishab Sir, Mridula, Ankush, Vinyas, Vishwas, Dhananjay, Krithika, Priyanka, Shanil guru, Pragathi.
9. Beaches or hills?
I love both, so it doesn’t matter as long as you’re taking me out on a holiday.
10. Veg or non veg?
11. Fame or money?
Neither or both.
12. Indian wear or Western wear?
13. Straight hair or curls?
14. The last good film/web series you watched?
Love today on Netflix.
15. A movie you’d recommend?
16. First thing you notice about a person?
17. One thing that makes you feel beautiful?
18. Politics, religion, business, sports or entertainment?
Sports and entertainment.
19. Are you a Late night or an Early morning person?
20. What does social media mean to you?
Connecting to a lot of people at once.
21. How would you define love?
22. The top three things you’re looking for in a life partner?
Friendship, honesty and communication.
23. What’s your idea of a perfect date?
Get me a lot of food, put on a rom com or play a sport like badminton with me.
24. Your first love?
Was when I was studying engineering in college.
25. Your most treasured childhood memory?
When I was six or seven, my dad used to wake me up and both of us used to go for a jog together at the Koramangala grounds and since then I’ve been enjoyed being an athlete. That’s my most treasured childhood memory and that has kept me fit and active till date.