Meet Shivani Rajasekhar, Tollywood’s new kid on the block
Shivani opens up about 'Adbhutham' and why she wants to be known as a people’s actor.
Shivani, the elder daughter of Dr Rajasekhar and Jeevitha, will soon be making her debut with Adbhutham, which also stars Teja Sajja. Directed by Mallik Ram, the film is set for a direct-to-digital release on November 19 on Disney+ Hotstar. The young girl opens up about the film and why she wants to be known as a people’s actor. Excerpts
What is Adbhutham all about?
It’s a cute love story that revolves around two youngsters, who have the same mobile number. It is neither based on reincarnation nor the theme of time travel. The film is unique and will give you a different experience.
Talk to us about your character in the film.
I am playing Vennela, who is crazy, stupid, funny and naive (smiles). She is full of life and it was quite challenging to portray this character.
Do you miss the theatrical experience?
Yes, I do, because we made Adbhutham for theatrical viewing. But a few things like the double lockdown, the weekly congestion at the box office, and the family audience still being wary of coming to theatres with their kids and elders have prompted us to choose a digital release. Also, the film features primarily newcomers and we thought it’s good for us to take our film to the home screens of the audience.
All these things aside, I do have the bitter feeling that my first film is not releasing in theatres. But times are changing and whether it’s a theatrical release or a direct digital release, it is a great feeling because the goal is always to take our film closer to the audience.
Your first film, Two States, was shelved. How did you deal with it?
It was really tough for me and I felt completely lost. In fact, my debut film in Tamil (with Vishnu Vishal) has also met the same fate. When Two States was shelved, I was apprehensive that people will write me off as an iron leg or bad luck. For a long time, I was frustrated and went into depression. Our industry is a place of sentiments and superstitions. People around me suggested we perform some poojas to overcome this bad omen. Initially, I wasn’t convinced, but over a period, I started believing that I have some bad luck. It was really hard for me to get over this. I have always heard my father (Dr Rajasekhar) telling me to have an alternate career choice and never feel low in our life. It was then I understood the importance of his words. I am currently pursuing my third-year degree in medicine. I felt really happy to have a backup plan and never had the fear of my future. Now I am passionate about both these career choices.
Looking back, what was that moment when you realised you wanted to be an actor?
I remember singing, dancing and dressing up well when I was a kid. I am passionate about films and always wanted to be an actor from a young age. I went to film shoots and was raised on the sets. Also, I saw my parents thoroughly enjoying their work and I had so much fun on the sets.
How did your parents react when they learnt about your desire to join the film industry?
I never went and told them nor did they ask me. They understood that my sister and I wanted to become actors and always encouraged us to choose our interests. My parents weren’t surprised by my decision and have always been a pillar of support. When the time came, they did a photoshoot and helped me send the portfolios, meet directors or producers and attend the auditions. I am glad that my dream is coming true in a couple of days (smiles).
Were you nervous on the first day of your shoot?
Yes. I felt restricted on the first day, but from the second day, I went all out.
The trailer is out and what reactions have you received from your friends and family?
They liked the concept and are waiting for the digital premiere. Despite some delay, they are happy that I am coming up with a good film and are excited to see my debut film. My parents have watched the film and are happy that I am breaking the jinx with this film (smiles).
What’s your equation with your sister Shivatmika?
We are like best friends and we complete each other. Even now, we share the same room and help each other at work. I feel lucky to have her as my sister and viceversa.
With the digital medium, there’s a large number of new actors stepping into the industry along with star kids. Do you think the competition is only getting tougher?
I never had the perks of being a star kid. For me, getting opportunities and the struggle to sign a film is almost similar to the people who don’t belong to the industry. My family back-ground or my association
with the industry has never worked to my advantage. I must tell you that I gave auditions and faced rejections as well. It’s been a long wait for me because my first film, Two States, which was supposed
to release in 2018, got shelved. And this film, Adbhutham, was supposed to hit the screens in 2020, but Covid-19 has changed the plans. The film industry is a competitive world. Nowadays, a YouTuber or a Tiktoker is as popular as a film actor. If you have talent and luck, you will sustain. Otherwise, things will be difficult.
Do you aim to be a superstar or just want to be known as a good actor?
I cannot predict it. But I want to be people’s favourite for sure. If you see Radhika Apte; she is a great actor, whereas Deepika Padukone is a superstar. They have their own space, right? I want to be liked by
people for my talent and my hard work. I always want to give my best and I want to see how people
Among your parents, who has been a bigger influence on you?
People always refer to us as a family pack (smiles). Not just my parents, my sister (Shivatmika) influences me equally and I have learned a lot from the three of them.
How prepared are you for the criticism?
I understood that we will be scrutinised, judged, and criticised for sure. Without facing hate or criticism, we cannot prosper as an actor. I will try hard to get acceptance and impress people, but I will never give up.
What’s next after Adbhutham?
My second Telugu film, WWW, is ready for release. I also completed shooting for two films in Tamil. One is Nenjukku Needi, the remake of Article 15, and Anbarivu with Hiphop Tamizha Aadi. I also have a film each in Telugu and Tamil in preproduction.