Rashmika Mandanna: Every language is equally important to me

The actor talks about working in multiple industries, her rise to stardom and the road ahead 
Rashmika Mandanna: Every language is equally important to me
Rashmika Mandanna: Every language is equally important to me

The journey of Rashmika Mandanna, from being a new face in the Kannada film, Kirik Party (2016) to becoming a pan-Indian star now who has an upcoming film with Amitabh Bachchan (Goodbye), has almost been miraculous. What immediately catches your attention, as you sit down for a conversation, is how self-aware she seems to be. “I am a jack of all trades and master of none,” says Rashmika, summarising her stint in the film industry across languages. “Sometimes when I talk, I end up saying a sentence with words from Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and even Hindi! It’s on account of all my travelling and shooting.”

The actor, whose recent Tamil debut, Sulthan, has met with a lot of appreciation, particularly among fans of ‘masala cinema’, shares that the Tamil film industry makes her feel extremely comfortable. “It is strange. I know I am just one film old in Tamil, and I don't even know the dynamics of the industry completely. But something about the language, food, culture and the people makes me feel happy.” She attributes part of this comfort to her experiences with actor Karthi and director Bakkiyaraj Kannan. “They are too nice to exist,” she says, laughing. “The world needs more genuine people like them.”

In Sulthan, Rashmika plays a village girl called Rukmani. “I wanted to make my debut with a rural role. This was very much a calculated choice.” The actor believes that it is crucial for an actor’s success that they keep the future in mind while picking a film. “It is important for actors like us to not just be caught up in the present. I am constantly thinking about my progress and my other releases, when signing more films. This helps me make sure that my films complement each other.”

The actor’s upcoming releases include Pushpa with Allu Arjun, Aadavaallu Meeku Johaarlu with Sharwanand in Telugu and Mission Manju with Siddharth Malhotra, apart from Goodbye in Hindi. These aren’t all; however, she is not at liberty yet to discuss some others she has signed. She talks though about how working around the clock across languages, has eaten away at her personal time and social life. “I don't spend enough time with my family or friends. In fact, I don’t have any friends in the industry, as I don’t stay in one region for too long. But I consider all of this to be a sacrifice for career growth. I am aware that I am in a race, but I am running it in a path that feels right to me.”

Looking back at her career, Rashmika feels that she should have been less nervous about some of her choices and avoided stress. “In fact, that would be the advice I would give to my naïve self of 2015, if given a choice. I remember overthinking each step and asking myself constantly if the people would like me.” But she states that the last five years in the industry have taught her plenty—especially about how it’s important to be comfortable in her own skin. “Today, I am more real and transparent. I draw energy from people around me and reflect it back to them. Perhaps that's why the audience finds it easier to like me now.”

In Karnataka, the place that marked the arrival of Rashmika, there’s some grouse from her fans that she has ‘forgotten her roots’ and is occupied with films from other languages. Rashmika clarifies, “No language is less important to me. As I am working across multiple languages now, it is impossible for me to do three or more films in each of them.” The actor is keen that her work do the talking, not empty statements. “I am aware that I am what I am because of the love my Kannada fans showered me with during my early days. But I don't want to keep giving statements to show how much I love them. Instead, I want to show them what they mean to me with my work.”

A glance at Rashmika's filmography establishes that she has worked at creating an interesting portfolio in each of the languages she has stepped into. However, her characters have not really demanded that she transform herself physically or explore negative shades. The actor assures that this will not be the case going forward. “I am game to lose or gain weight, or even shut myself into a dark room for weeks on end, if it were to benefit a film. However, I don't believe in experimenting for its sake. Should a filmmaker be willing to give me written confirmation that my role will be noticed and celebrated by the people, sure, I would give it everything.”

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