Aditi Rao Hydari eyes a larger stage beyond Padmavati
Celebrities are hardly alien to controversies. Ultimately, it is the manner in which they deal with things that gets our attention. Actress Aditi Rao Hydari gets some respect off the top for knowing how to hold her own, especially in the online space.In the wake of the recent Padmavati controversy, a Twitter troll went as far as to attack her with the words: “Brainwashed love jihadi victim”. But Aditi isn't one to play the victim card or buckle down. She replied with some spunk, “It’s not about religions or cultures or language or geography or gender... it’s about small-minded people who create hate and divide... and we can all choose not to be those people regardless of our names... #PeaceOut”.
A meteoric ascent
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus, Padmavati, might have been in the eye of the storm following outrage from various religious and political quarters, but that has not dampened Aditi’s spirit. When we asked the 31-year-old actress, who plays a crucial role in Bhansali’s epic (Mehrunissa, Alauddin Khilji's wife), she politely declined to speak about it. But she did make one thing clear: she will not tolerate brickbats from faceless online abusers. Social media woes aside, the last couple of months have witnessed a steady rise for Aditi, as she consolidates her position not only in Bollywood, but in Southern cinema as well. For Aditi, it was an actor’s dream to work with auteurs such as Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. She gathered many accolades, including an Asiavision Movie Award for Best Actress Tamil, for her portrayal of Doctor Leela Abraham in Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film opposite Karthi in Kaatru Veliyidai, and then bagged an important role opposite Ranveer Singh in Bhansali’s Padmavati.Apart from that, in the span of a couple of months, she shared screen space with Sanjay Dutt in Bhoomi, and with Farhan Akhtar in Wazir. A truly cosmopolitan actress, and a favourite with fashion designers who want her as their showstopper, Aditi also recently took time off to address the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 on ‘The future of cinema’. For a starlet with over 1.8 million followers on Instagram and the all-important skill of fending off online trolls, Aditi has clearly emerged as the girl of the moment.
The micro and macro of it
The names of Mani Ratnam and Bhansali dominate our conversation about Aditi's films, and she speaks of many a memorable moment with both filmmakers. “You learn every single day when you are on the set with such big directors,” she says. “I was like a sponge absorbing everything from what they said, be it a phrase or an experience. Both mentor, and nurture you.” Aditi explains that both Mani Ratnam and Bhansali had their own ways of challenging her as an actress. “And honestly, I love challenges!” she chimes. “I am lucky to have worked with them both back to back. It is such an adrenaline rush.” The actress goes on to explain the fine line between the two director’s approaches: “Both are passionate filmmakers, and both come from a very different way of approaching cinema — at times I joke and say that if Mani Ratnam is microeconomics, then Sanjay Leela Bhansali is macroeconomics.”Aditi has come a long way in short time. Even before she went to study at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi, she made her debut in the 2006 Malayalam film, Prajapathi, opposite Mammootty. And she certainly left a mark with the bold and feisty Shanti in Sudhir Mishra’s 2009 film, Yeh Saali Zindagi, which she agrees was a game changer for her. “After completing my studies, I decided to move to Mumbai and that’s when Yeh Saali Zindagi happened. It got me recognition as an actress, an award, and an Amul hoarding!” exclaims the actress. However, the going wasn’t entirely easy.“I didn’t really have backing in the world of films, but I think I have been able to do it my way!” exults Aditi, who’s also an accomplished dancer, having trained with the legendary Bharatanatyam exponent and Padma Shri awardee Leela Samson, the former chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi. Her initial stints were of supporting roles in big films like in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, to well-fleshed out ones like in Bejoy Nambiar’s crime thriller Wazir. Critics and audiences alike appreciated her portrayal of Ruhana in Wazir, where she managed to hold her own sharing screen space with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. To top it all, Kaatru Veliyidai cemented her position in Southern cinema. Aditi had well and truly arrived — in style.
No dull T-Town girl
A true-blue fashionista, Aditi has been defining the tenets of boho-chic, and was recently even recognised by an international magazine as one of the most stylish ladies in the country. She also graced the ramp for the designers Gaurav Gupta and Jayanti Reddy. Clearly, she's not all work and no play. So what’s she like when the cameras aren’t rolling? “I sing, dance and do a lot of yoga. I am constantly touching my nose to my knees, and busy doing all sorts of mad things. You know, most people don’t know that there’s a goofy side to me,” says Aditi, with a giggle. High up on her travel bucket list, meanwhile, is a visit to South America. “I also want to travel more in Europe, and strangely, I have never been to Berlin.” She’s also a self-confessed Hyderabadi with a massive ambition, as she got noticed at the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017, as a panel member alongside film producer Ronnie Screwvala, and Nigerian actress Stephanie Linus. Aditi went on to talk about the ‘The future of cinema’, while on day one of the first day of the event in Hyderabad, she also had her say on matters and concerns related to sexism. She went on to share news of her bagging her first Tollywood film, opposite Sudheer Babu, which she has started shooting for as well. “I was born in the city, and now I will be filming here. I’ve never really filmed in Hyderabad. Also, Mohan Krishna Indraganti is a strong director. When I heard the narration of the film, I was quite taken in by it,” says Aditi.Yet, she insists, there’s a distinctly cosmopolitan side to her that she would like to embrace. Although she hopes to remain chiefly a Hindi film actress, she's not likely to pass up on offers for regional language films. “As an actor, I want to do as much as I can — of course, the language is difficult,” she confesses, candidly. Any roles on her wishlist? “Like that of Amy from Gone Girl,” she says, adding that she's a woman of layers, who would prefer not to get typecast. And what does she have in mind before choosing her roles? “Most of the times, I agree to do a certain character because I vibe with it.I also look at the journey of that character and see if it excites me. It is an instinctive process. At times, I go with my own conviction, but if I am not sure, I put my faith in the director and completely go with their vision,” says the actress. She adds, “I have various layers to my personality, and I want it to show through the roles I choose.”
Mind without fear
That she has a face that can launch a thousand ships is somewhat beyond dispute by now. It helps to note her illustrious lineage. Akbar Hydari, the former Prime Minister of Hyderabad, is her paternal great-granddfather. Her maternal grandfather Raja J Rameshwar Rao was the erstwhile Raja of Wanaparthy family. And it’s that much more reassuring to know that in Aditi, we have also found a voice of reason — one that’s ready to speak up, as and when called for. The actress does take a firm stand against social media abusers, in particular — a subject we inevitably come around to. “The power of anonymity makes one feel that they can say whatever they want and get away with it,” reasons Aditi. “Most of the times, I try to ignore them, but there are days when I see something written about me or a filmmaker I like, and I don’t want to let those errant individuals get away with it,” she says. “There are times when I want to take the time out to put them in their place. It is the same as some man saying something lewd to you on the streets. We are all human, and there are days that it catches up, and you want to shut them up. One needs to learn how to talk to other human beings,” says the actress. That’s Aditi for you, a diva in the making, who calls it the way she sees it.