Neha Sshetty: It's a big compliment to be called 'Radhika'

The DJ Tillu actor talks about her reference points for the upcoming film Gangs of Godavari, embracing her ‘Radhika’ image post DJ Tillu’s success, and more
Neha Sshetty: It's a big compliment to be called 'Radhika'

Neha Sshetty has been working in Telugu and Kannada films since 2016. However, Neha had a major break only in 2022 with the film DJ Tillu, in which she played the femme fatale Radhika. The actor, who is largely known for playing modern, city-bred characters in mainstream cinema, is fondly known as ‘Radhika’ among her fans ever since.

However, Neha states that her upcoming release Gangs of Godavari shows her in a different light. Talking about her role in the upcoming Vishwak Sen starrer, she says, “Bujji is a beautiful, elegant, and vulnerable girl. At the same time, she is a strong woman. There is a surprise factor about my character in the film.”

Gangs of Godavari is a period drama, set in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Neha Sshetty recalls discussions with her director, Krishna Chaitanya, where the filmmaker gave her specific references for Bujji’s look. She elaborates, “For the 90s look, I was given reference of Shobhana Gaaru, especially for the hairdo and saree look. We did a lot of homework to put it together,” adding that she kept a uniform hair colour and styling for the entire period film was on floors. Neha also explains how Bujji is an ode to the quintessential heroine characters of 90s Telugu cinema. The actor elaborates, “If you observe those characters, they were delicate yet very strong. There was a blend of vulnerability and strength in those roles, which we have tried to capture.” Neha further elaborates on what made those characters stand apart, “They mostly expressed themselves through their eyes rather than their actions.”

The shoot for Gangs of Godavari lasted for over a year, the actor recalls, from one summer to the next. The entire team faced many weather-related barriers during the shoot, facing peak Rajahmundry heat. However, Neha adds, the weather occasionally worked in their favour as well. She recalls an instance when it began to drizzle when the team was shooting a romantic sequence with her and Vishwak. “On that day, it felt like nature was on our side.”

The first song of Gangs of Godavari, titled ‘Suttamla Soosi,’ which was released last year, became very popular. To date, the song has over 56 million views on YouTube. The actor says that she has been very lucky with songs in her career. She adds, “Thanks to my directors, I keep getting these songs. I believe songs are as important for the audience as the films.”

Talking about her Gangs of Godavari director Krishna Chaitanya, Neha describes him as ‘an utterly soft-spoken man and a man of few words.’ She adds, “He is a great human being. Also, the way he wrote and executed this film, it is hard to believe that such a quiet, soft-spoken man could conceive a story of this kind!” Neha also takes a moment here to dispel any notions about Gangs of Godavari being a violent action film. She states, “Many people are assuming that this film contains a lot of fights and killing, going by the trailer. However, this film balances a lot of genres and emotions—romance, drama, comedy, thriller.”

Neha Sshetty has two other projects in the pipeline, including one where she is paired with actor Bellamkonda Srinivas. Talking about her criteria for choosing films, Neha asserts that she has been very selective in her signing of projects of late. Explaining her choices, the actor says, “Audiences are not coming to theatres for many films like earlier. So I want to give them something interesting. If I am doing a film, it has to be something different.” Neha also mentions that she has not been receiving many interesting scripts from the Kannada industry, where she began her career, and that she remains equally keen on working in all industries, adding, “My focus is on cinema itself, whichever language it is.”

As for Neha, the 'Radhika' tag from DJ Tillu seems to be following her. The actor chooses to perceive and embrace it as a sign of the audience’s love for her. She adds, “Being remembered by the name of your character is the biggest compliment for any actor. I got the ‘Radhika’ tag so early in my career. Even now, if anyone calls me ‘Radhika', it just makes my day."

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