Shruti Haasan: Your background doesn’t guarantee your success in South cinema
The actor, whose gangster drama, Yaara, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and co-starring Vidyut Jammwal, is getting released on Zee5 tomorrow, talks about her film
In a previous interview with us, Shruti Haasan had shared that the applause she got for a six-minute performance as a kid was the reason she decided to get into the field of entertainment. With her film, Yaara, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and co-starring Vidyut Jammwal, premiering on Zee5, I ask if she will miss out on audience response in the theatres. "Absolutely not," she replies, "Even when my films came out in theatres, I never went to watch them on the first day. Entertaining the audience is my priority, the medium isn't." She calls herself a big fan of the OTT platforms and says it is a blessing to have a release. "We shot for Yaara in 2016. That it is getting a release during such a turbulent time is a great thing. I believe our film will reach a wider audience now."
Shruti's character Sukanya is a 48-year-old for much of the film, and she attributes this as a big reason why she chose the project. "Yaara is a period film set in the 70s and then, in the 90s. Playing a character in her late forties excited me," says this “fangirl” of Tigmanshu Dhulia. "I love how he portrays his female characters." The actor did not think it necessary to watch the French film, A Gang Story, that Yaara is based on. “I never do that. I did the same with films like Ramaiya Vastavaiya and Gabbar."
Shruti mentioned in an interview that among the reasons for her sabbatical from cinema, was the uncomfortable realisation that she was trying to fulfill somebody else's version of herself as an actor. "I entered cinema without any idea of how the industry functions. Nobody taught me how to talk to heroes or producers. I was reluctant to connect with people and found myself in a shell. This, ultimately, made me lose opportunities. I didn't even know how to talk in interviews. So, slowly, I began accepting the version that people had of me in their head." Singing, she says, was a strength she was comfortable, but acting was a skill she had to learn in front of countless people. "I was sorted as a musician and a singer, since I knew what I wanted. I knew how to use my rather unique voice wisely. But in cinema, everything felt new."
She feels turning 30 (in 2016) opened her eyes in many ways. "Instead of running from anxiety, I let it pass through me, and began finding my peace in both my personal and professional life. I understood that it is necessary to communicate and connect with people. Now, I am in touch with a lot of people who I feel comfortable with," she says, and adds that she understands that not everyone grapples with such adaptation problems. “I low-key envy those who come in, so sure of what they want and how they want their journey to be. I am still learning and wish I had learnt such things faster. But I am at peace with my pace of growth."
In hindsight, would she give her younger self, who debuted with Luck, any advice? “I thought about this recently, but honestly, even if I had some advice for the younger me, she wouldn't listen. With insecurities, comes rebellion. I was full of insecurities back then."
Though Shruti Haasan has been keeping the singer and musician in her alive with live performances and musical tours, she hasn't returned to composing for films after her debut with Unnaipol Oruvan. "I want to take it up, but I understood that it’s a commitment that demands a lot of time. I will pursue it sometime later in my career," she says.
I ask her to weigh in on the ongoing debate on nepotism, and she admits that her entry card into cinema was on account of her father, Kamal Haasan. "The doors of the film industry opened for me simply because of my surname. It would be criminal to deny that. But over the years, I learned that things are different in Tamil and Telugu cinema when compared to Bollywood." She explains, "I made my debut alongside a star like Suriya in Tamil, an actor who also got his break because of his father, Sivakumar sir. And yet, his path to stardom was carved by his work. After that initial launch, every actor has to prove their talent and work hard to get their next offer, especially in Telugu and Tamil cinema. Your background stops being such an influence after your debut. I am not sure whether this is the case in Bollywood. I think it’s different there."
And now, the actor returns to South cinema, with projects like Krack and Laabam in the offing. "I am grateful that director Gopichand Malineni offered me Krack at a time when people started speculating that I have left the industry. Working with him and Ravi Teja after Balupu is a wonderful experience. Laabam on the other side will have Jananathan's brand of social messaging. I look forward to completing shooting for both films."