Tamannaah Bhatia: Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy's Lakshmi is my most intricately-designed character

The actor sheds light on her preparation process for the film, working with megastar Chiranjeevi, the shrinking divides in Indian cinema, and her upcoming remake of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen
Tamannaah Bhatia: Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy's Lakshmi is my most intricately-designed character

Tamannaah Bhatia was wary of signing another big-ticket period film after Baahubali. A part of it was down to the sheer enormity of such projects, involving long schedules and intensive physical prep. Her bigger concern, however, was something else. “It’s easy to get stereotyped,” she says, referring to a flurry of similar-sounding roles that came her way in Baahubali’s wake. “I was getting offered a lot of period films. But nothing excited me.”

This changed when director Surender Reddy approached her for Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. The film, which hits screens tomorrow, stars Chiranjeevi as freedom fighter Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy. Tamannaah, who has worked with Surender before on Oosaravelli, commends the director for writing strong female characters in his films. “Sye Raa may come across as a male-centric film because of its cast, which features the biggest leading men from their respective industries. However, when I heard my part for the film, I was excited by my strong connection to the plot.”

In this conversation, Tamannaah sheds light on her preparation process for the film, working with megastar Chiranjeevi, the shrinking divides in Indian cinema and her upcoming remake of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen.

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about your character Lakshmi in Sye Raa. Are you playing Narasimha Reddy’s wife?

I can’t reveal that just yet. There is a historical basis to the character. At the same time, it has also been dramatised. To be honest, it’s my most intricately-designed character. I’ve not played someone so complex before. Lakshmi’s graph is amazing, with multiple layers. Although based in a different period, she is relatable to the women of today, who are strong and fierce.

We know you are playing a classical dancer…

Yes. My prep was focused on Bharatanatyam. I am not a trained dancer so it was a challenge. When you touch a classical dance form, you want it to look authentic. People train for 14-15 years to learn these styles. I had to brush through it in a matter of weeks, using whatever time I could get. But I love dancing so it was a lot of fun.

How is Chiranjeevi as a co-actor?

He is extremely humble for the kind of stardom he has experienced. What amazed me was the hardwork he has put into this film. Despite his seniority, he left no stone unturned to attempt physically-challenging action. He did not shy away from doing his own stunts. I remember watching him do some underwater scenes with so much ease. When I had shots that were similar, I was struggling.

Having worked in two massive period films, do you feel large-scale filmmaking in India is matching up to world standards?

Firstly, everything boils down to money. You need those kinds of budgets to execute a certain vision. Anything that involves VFX is expensive. Previously in India, there was no precedent of investing so much money into period films. Probably because a Baahubali came along and did well, people started believing in such productions. Of course, the film has to have a lot of other elements to make it commercially viable. So the math is still complex, but there’s more openness to attempting visually extravagant films.

Are you amused by the North-South box-office clash between War and Sye Raa?

If production houses and distributors are putting out two big films on the same day, it means there’s a genuine market for consumption. If that wasn’t the case, I’m sure the makers would have refrained. Today, we have enough screens and exhibition space for two big movies to be released simultaneously. Also because War and Sye Raa are such different films, I’m not worried about either of them losing out on business.

You have finished shooting for That Is Mahalakshmi, the Telugu remake of Queen. How is your character different from Kangana Ranaut’s version?

I am a huge fan of Queen and the character. The idea was to make the film authentically Telugu. I felt the original version had a distinct Punjabi vibe, along with some great humour. My duty with That Is Mahalaskhmi was to make it palatable to Telugu audiences. They should feel it is their Queen.

You’ve worked in pretty much all our major industries. Do you feel the regional gaps in Indian cinema are finally shrinking?

What’s mainly changed is how we consume content. Digital technology has helped unify cinema. People don’t care anymore about what language they are watching a film in. Another benefit of being a pan-Indian actor is that I get offered a variety of roles. I can do a huge film like Sye Raa and then star in something small and lovable like Bole Chudiyan, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui. I am loving this phase in my career.

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