Tamannaah on cinema, fitness and why she thinks beauty is more than just skin-deep
Tamanna Bhatia, known professionally as Tamannaah began her career as an actress at the early age of 15 in Shabah Shamsi’s Hindi film Chand Sa Roshan Chehra in 2005 and soon after that debuted in Telugu films with Dasarath’s Sri. Within a year, she appeared in her first Tamil movie, Jyothi Krishna’s Kedi, marking her entry into Kollywood as a leading actress and by 2007, she was one of the most popular names in South India thanks to films like Sekhar Kammula’s Happy Days in Telugu and Balaji Shakthivel’s Kalloori in Tamil. More recently she has been praised for her roles in epic fantasies like SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali (2015 and 2017) multilingual franchise and Telugu historicals like Surender Reddy’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (2019). She’s also well-known for her Hindi films, including sleeper hits like Himmatwala (2013), Humshakals (2014) and Sajid-Farhad’s Entertainment.
This Mumbai-born and based actress is known for her versatile choice of roles and doesn’t want to “ever be stereotyped.” From a career in genres such as comedy, horror, mythology and romance, Tamannaah recently made her foray into the crime and thriller genre with the web series November Story on Disney+ Hotstar. The series that released on May 20, 2021 is trending on the streaming platform and is winning accolades for the actress’ performance. We catch up with the 31-year-old Tamannaah to discover the many sides of her. Excerpts.
Firstly, congratulations on November Story! The show is getting quite the rave reviews in Tamil Nadu. How did you decide to shift to OTT? This is after all, your second OTT outing after 11th Hour on Aha?
Incidentally, November Story was the first OTT show I decided to do. We started filming in 2019. It took over two years to release thanks to the pandemic and the back to back lockdowns. I was looking at working on a web series at that time because it seemed like a natural progression, the right decision to make. I have had some lovely work when it comes to feature films and here was an opportunity to reach out to a growing online audience. That said, I also knew that web series can offer you roles that are tough to come by in the feature format. November Story was so well written — something that I think is very important if you’re looking at engaging an audience successfully. Indhra Subramanian (the director) just had so much clarity about the show, as a debutant director (at that time), his confidence made me believe in it. The cast and crew were super young and that reflected in the way the show was made. It was made for a younger audience. That’s probably why it’s doing so well.
We all know about Tamannaah the actor, but what are the other things that you are interested in — do you have other passions that you follow and if so, what are they?
I am actually quite happy doing nothing. Most of the time, when I find some me time, I prefer to just chill at home. If I am not working, then I am working out. I love my yoga sessions. Yoga means so much to me. It helps me destress. This lockdown has also drawn me back to reading. I got back to reading during the last lockdown but that habit took a beating when I went back to work, because I get back to work quite aggressively. I’m happy I am back now. I’m reading Karma: A Yogi’s Guide to Crafting Your Destiny by Sadhguru right now and if I am not reading these days, I’m watching television and online content, because there’s so much available out there!
You are often complimented on your appearance; could you tell us what it takes? Any beauty secrets that you would like to share?
I think it’s important to understand what really works for you on every level. Food is really important and plays a huge role in your physical appearance. What you eat really matters and that’s what determines the quality of your skin or hair. It’s always easier to just apply something on your skin or hair and hope that it will work its magic and sometimes they do work, but they can only help temporarily. What really makes a difference is how you keep your system from the inside.
You are definitely seen as a fashion icon — what would you define as your personal sense of style and what does fashion mean to you?
Style and fashion comes naturally to some people. They have a very strong and visible sense of style and a resolute sense of self. The idea of an expression of fashion or style is just an extension of how you choose to express who you really are. For me, it was a journey. It took me a while to understand who I really was and how I want to express myself through fashion and my personal style. I had to discover my comfort zones and discover what I enjoy wearing and whether I feel good about myself wearing something — those questions posed to myself, helped me discover my own sense of style and my choices in fashion. I’ll be honest; it was not something I cracked in the first go. Today, I can say I know I like feminine things and I oscillate between the very preppy and the absolutely casual. My stylists are always there to help me follow trends, but my innate sense of style and fashion stem completely from me.
You haven’t yet made an entry into Malayalam cinema. We’ve also seen you in just a few films in Kannada and Marathi — are you open to working in these other industries or is it going to be just Tamil, Telugu and Hindi for now?
Language has never been a barrier for me. I am happy to do any role in any language as long as I like the script. The more languages I act in, the better my audience and more pan-Indian it will be. And which actor doesn’t want to be seen and known more? The industries these days are pretty much the same, the only real difference is in culture — like you know, some things work in Tamil and not in Telugu and the same for Hindi. Being clued into a language and its culture helps.
Who are your biggest inspirations in life?
I am not seeking inspiration externally anymore. My inspiration stems from within. I hope that’s an energy that I can feed off from, for now.
How has the pandemic affected you or changed you as a person?
I think it was a huge reality check for all of us. Everyone is now focusing their energies on stuff that actually matters to them. We were all affected by it — the whole world — and that kind of reminded me that we’re all one. We’re all fighting this together. It made the world a smaller place.
What can we look forward to from you, next?
I have a sports-based film called Seetimaarr in Telugu, I have the remake of Andadhun called Maestro in Telugu too; and I have the remake of Love Mocktail, a Kannada film, being remade as Gurthunda Seethakalam, also in Telugu. Then there’s F3, which is the sequel to F2, which is under production right now (Telugu) and I have two pan-Indian films that are in the pipeline, but I can’t really talk about them.
QUICK 12 WITH TAMANNAAH
First thing you do when you wake up: Oil pulling.
Last thing you do before you sleep: I scroll through my phone, unfortunately. Not recommending this behaviour.
An ensemble you think you look the best in: Salwar kameez. The simpler the silhouette, the better I look.
Five products that are a must in your beauty regimen: A good moisturiser, a good night repair cream, a good foundation, a blush and mascara.
Your miracle food: Amla juice. It’s packed with vitamins.
The one drink you swear by: I’m a total coffee person. I really enjoy coffee and believe it or not, sometimes I drink a cup of coffee to fall asleep.
Your guilty pleasure: Anything chocolate-y. I love brownies and chocolate fudge.
Favourite place to travel to/holiday in: Back in the day it was Paris, but now I just want to go to Lokhandwala market (a suburban market in the Andheri area, Mumbai). Everything is relative, no? (laughs).
Your comfort food: Sev puri.
Your favourite way to exercise: I love lifting weights. I shouldn’t be doing it though, because it doesn’t suit me. But I am naturally inclined to it!
Your one mantra for mental health: Talking about it. You need to address it. You have to talk about it so you can deal with it. Bottling it up is the worst thing you can do to yourself.
Your animal spirit, and why: A puppy? I think I’m pretty puppy-like (laughs).