Kajal Aggarwal: Satyabhama is not a woman-centric film

The Satyabhama actor talks about the many ways in which her upcoming film attempts to break stereotypes, the importance of encouraging new filmmakers, and more
Kajal Aggarwal: Satyabhama is not a woman-centric film

Kajal Aggarwal plays a police officer in the upcoming action-thriller Satyabhama, which debutant Suman Chikkala directed from a screenplay by Sashi Kiran Tikka. This is the first time Kajal plays an action-packed character, a challenging task that she says carries plenty of responsibility and challenges. “When you wear a uniform on screen, it comes with a sense of responsibility. For one, your entire body language and mental state have to change,” says Kajal. The actor recalls doing a lot of practice and workshops for the action sequences in the film. In fact, even her kalaripayattu training for Indian 3 and her mixed-martial arts training have come in handy for Satyabhama. She adds, “It was a big challenge, yet a very exhilarating process.” The actor also praises her action choreographer, Rabin Subbu, for designing stunts in a way that suits her physical persona. “The action in Satyabhama is realistic, impactful, and believable,” she says while adding on a lighter note, “If I punch men and try to act like a typical hero, I will look like a fool.”

Kajal Aggarwal also says that she has been waiting to do an action role for a long time. “I was looking for a chance like this, with a good script and a trustworthy team. This is just the right time and phase of my career for it.” She recalls receiving female-oriented film offers, which did not go very well. Elaborating on her lessons from those experiences, she says, “For such films, which are different and new for me, one requires trustworthy filmmakers onboard. With Satyabhama, I am happy with the team, which is young and sharp-minded and has new ideas. I am very happy with the outcome.”

For Telugu cinema, Satyabhama is a rare mainstream film driven by a female protagonist. Kajal, however, asserts that it is not a women-centric film. She states, “Yes, a woman is the headliner. When you watch it, you will understand that Satyabhama is very commercial. Just that the protagonist happens to be a female cop.” Discussing whether she feels the pressure of being a headliner in a film, Kajal states, “The word is responsibility, not pressure. I am excited and feel responsible. After a long time, I have butterflies in my stomach before a film’s release.”

The actor draws parallels between her Satyabhama character and her off-screen persona. She says, “I get very affected by certain incidents and take them personally. I am quite opinionated and feel it's important to talk about things and strongly voice one’s opinion. It’s not okay to stay quiet about something wrong, regardless of your life situation. Otherwise, you remain a co-conspirator.”

The actor talks about the many ways in which Satyabhama is going against stereotypes. Talking about the themes explored in the action-thriller, Kajal mentions that the film attempts to shatter myths around religion-based stereotypes and preconceived notions. She adds, “We are trying to metaphorically tackle the idea of how things are not always what they seem.”

Kajal takes objection to the notion that actresses after marriage begin to focus more on their personal lives, strongly asserting that the times have changed. She states, “My personal and professional lives, since forever, have been distinctly different. I don’t let one influence the other. Also, I feel blessed that my audience and industry haven’t changed their perspective towards me.”

Satyabhama marks the directorial debut of Suman Chikkala. Kajal lauds the director for his strong-headed approach, even in his first directorial venture. She says, “He was very clear in his point-of-view, didn’t get intimidated by anyone, and stood by what he believed in. To handle one’s first film in such a difficult genre would be very challenging, but he handled it very well.” 

Satyabhama is produced by Sashi Kiran Tikka, who has already directed two successful action films: Goodachari and Major. Kajal acknowledges the filmmaker’s contribution and his large-hearted decision to take the backseat and let a newcomer helm the project. Also admiring his creative involvement on the project, Kajal says, “He is very attached to the film and gave many creative inputs, including some from a birds’ eye perspective. He gave us suggestions wherever necessary.”

Kajal also talks about her own willingness to work with newer filmmakers and fresh talent. She notes, “When you have the ability to encourage somebody, why not? If established people do not encourage new talent, how will the industry ever grow? I am actively seeking good scripts and new enthusiastic directors—people who want to work hard and create something new.”

At the same time, Kajal clarifies that she cannot explore film production. She elaborates, “My plate is very full right now. I don't have any time, energy, or bandwidth to explore anything else. My focus remains on my job, child, and family. I will probably think about production in the future, because when I do something, I want to do it with all my heart and contribute to good cinema.”

When it comes to future projects, Kajal Aggarwal clarifies that she plays a very different role in the upcoming Kamal Haasan-Shankar film Indian 3. “I hope you recognise me in that film. It’s fun to take on different projects. After 60 films, I am ready to do different things,” the actor signs off.

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