Tamannaah: Being a star is not a choice
In this interview, Tamannaah discusses her upcoming OTT release, November Story, the booming digital space, her career choices, and more
There was a time, not so long ago, when cinema stars entering the television space to do serials or game shows was seen as a step down. Heroines doing special songs in films too was seen as a step down. Tamannaah, interestingly, has done both, and while being at the top of her game, no less. “People have always had opinions on how I shape my career. Fortunately, I have seen so much commercial success and gained a dedicated fan following. The only failure for me as an actor is when I don’t give audiences the content they can enjoy,” says Tamannaah, who is gearing up for November Story, her second sojourn in the digital space.
In November Story, Disney plus Hotstar’s upcoming Tamil series, Tamannaah plays Anuradha Ganesan, a daughter of a crime novelist who gets entangled in a murder mystery. Recently, she played a corporate honcho in Aha’s 11th Hour, and here, she plays a girl-next-door trying to prove her father’s innocence. “I want to tell stories that leave the audience with a feeling of empowerment. There are multiple layers to November Story, and I’m glad it is a web show because only this format could have done justice to the layers. Also, to date, I have mostly only played a glamourised or cinematic version of the next-door-girl archetype. Anuradha Ganesan gave me the space to play a typical Chennai girl; it’s a role that will feel relatable."
Although Tamannaah has played the typical commercial heroine in a number of big-ticket films in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, it is these ‘relatable’ roles that she tends to gravitate towards. While such roles have come far and few in between, Tamannaah is sure the tide will change due to the advent of OTT. “Even before the Covid-19 crisis happened, I said okay to this story. When I decided to take the digital plunge, there was hardly anyone doing it. I see that there is lesser judgment about the OTT space; there is more freedom to make unconventional, authentic choices. This is a natural progression for any actor looking to play different characters and explore their art further,” feels Tamannaah, who believes that it is still early days for the digital medium.
While the world does seem to be moving towards OTT content, Tamannaah is candid to admit that her short attention span prevents her from watching the web series format. However, she is quick to add that this came in handy while doing November Story. “In a theatre, there is implicit understanding that the audience will be spending two-three hours inside. With the web series though, it becomes easy for the audience to switch off and move on. So, I had to pick a script that was well-written, and one that had an interesting protagonist and had enough juice to hold interest,” says the Baahubali actor, who is lavish in her praise for the young team behind November Story. “Despite being a debutant director, Ram showed immense clarity. While the narration exhibited his potential, I was happier when I saw that he and his young team showed the same clarity even while shooting.”
The topic veered towards her rather unconventional debut in Tamil cinema, Kedi (2006), in which she played the antagonist, a year after her Telugu debut in Sri. Life seems to have come full circle for Tamannaah, with her playing a negative role in Maestro, the Telugu remake of Andhadhun. Tamannaah credits such choices to her evolving thoughts about people. “Human beings are innately flawed. I don’t see them as right or wrong. We are seeing more real people on screen these days. The audience does not want to see only ‘miss goody two shoes.' This understanding has entered the minds of content creators too,” says Tamannaah.
While OTT content and young filmmakers have stepped up in these spaces, Tamannaah is notable for making ‘offbeat’ choices even earlier in her career. Wasn’t she ever worried about these choices affecting her stardom? “Being an actor is a choice, but being a star isn’t. Stardom is either given to you or not. I only focus on what is in my control. If stardom, appreciation, or fan following comes my way, then that’s a bonus. Invariably, my quest for trying to make good content shall always go on.”
This quest has led her through a successful 15-year journey as a heroine, as she strives to reinvent herself with her choice of films. Her upcoming list of films, for instance, range from Seetimaar to Maestro and F3. “I’ve learnt in my career that one must always dive into opportunities. I then went with the flow. I went into each film with all my heart,” says Tamannaah, who ends the conversation on a rather philosophical note. “I believe you can attract what you want if you go in with clean intentions and a good heart. I have always harboured the purest intentions. What is happening today in my career, is a vision I have held for a long time. It’s finally happening now.”