Indian-American actress Avantika Vandanapu is taking America by storm with her latest Disney movie, Spin!
'It was insane to work with Abhay Deol, he plays my father in the movie,' says teen actress Avantika Vandanapu
Abhay Deol's next release titled Spin, a Disney Original, releases this weekend. It’s the story of a family— a father who runs a restaurant and his two school-going children who at times pitch in to help their dad. While Abhay may seem like the biggest draw of this movie for the Indian audience, it’s actually his on-screen daughter, teenager Rhea, who is the protagonist. Portraying the role of Rhea is the young talent Avantika Vandanapu who was previously seen in the Telugu film Bhramotsavam and in the Hollywood flick Moxie!
With Spin, Avantika finally gets her first major global release, and from the trailer, it seems like this is going to be a breakout movie for the young actress. It follows Rhea, an Indian-American teen who wants to pursue her passion of becoming a DJ, and Avantika says her character is very similar to her real-life personality. “Both of us are very determined, we are loyal to our friends, and we are also big dreamers. Just like how I was struggling to navigate multiple things, Rhea is also struggling to juggle coding, DJ-ing and waitressing. I had struggled trying to do everything from dancing, and acting to playing badminton in real life. We both were also overwhelmed with all that we were going through. But eventually I learnt to balance it all and you will see how Rhea also learns to balance everything. The difference is that she has a goofier sense of humour, while I am sarcastic, and she is slightly more introverted than I am,” explains the actress who was trained in DJ-ing and in waitressing before she started shooting.
Though Avantika has acted in quite a few commercials in India, and has also starred in American TV shows, her experience is Spin, particularly acting with Abhay is something that she will cherish for a long time, “Abhay Deol plays my father, and it was so insane to work with an actor whose films I have watched while growing up. There are so many good-looking fathers, so he could also play a dad. I think in the Indian film industry only actors of certain age end up playing roles of fathers, mothers and aunties and uncles, I think we need to destigmatise that. Abhay was an absolute delight to work with! He is extremely grounded and humble, and has a great sense of humour. He was like my father figure on sets and I learnt a lot from him,” enthuses the actress. But then the 16-year-old also got to work with the well-known British comedian Mira Syal (The Kumars at No 42), and Avantika says it was an eye-opener to work with the veteran. “I look up to her a lot and she’s a great entertainer with a wicked sense of humour. I had mainly watched her as a comedian, but while working with Mira, I discovered she has so much to give as an actor. She was great during emotional scenes and now I look at her differently,” she says.
Spin is an interesting take on the Indian community living in America, particularly of Gen Z. It isn’t reinforcing stereotypes, instead it explores how they have discovered their unique identity that’s a blend of American and Indian peculiarities. It’s these nuances that have been portrayed through Rhea’s story and that’s what makes it interesting, says Avantika. “I related to the story a lot. I feel like people of colour are becoming more comfortable with their culture and heritage. America in my opinion is a country of immigrants and is so diverse. With Spin, shows like Never Have I Ever, and personalities like Hasan Minhaj and Lilly Singh really embracing their identities, it makes me so proud to be a South Asian in America, and I am really glad our community is taking steps in the right direction,” she concludes.
If not an actress what would you have chosen to be?
A chef or a psychiatrist. I love cooking and I think food is a way to make people happy. If not this, I would have pursued criminal psychology, I just find the way brains and emotions work really interesting.
A FOB (fresh off the boat) trait that you are really proud of?
How good we Indians are with money.
Who are the other Indian and desi artistes in America that you admire?
I love Priyanka Chopra, Mindy Kaling and Riz Ahmed.
Since you are a Telugu, which are the three native dishes that you just love?
I love dosa and chutney, it's a classic. I also have to eat sambar rice, it's my comfort food, and I can never get enough of roti and bhendi.
Which are your favourite places in America where you would probably take your Indian friend?
I will take them to the beaches in Los Angeles. I will also take them to Alaska to see the glaciers and to Hawaii to show them the culture of the place.
Do you get recognised in America?
Not really, I get recognised more in India. But whenever people have recognised me in America, it felt good!
What does Kamala Harris mean to you?
Kamala Harris means a lot to me. I grew up in a community where so many young girls wanted to be a Senator or Vice President, and Kamala Harris has made their team come true!
August 15. On Disney+Hotstar