ThinkEdu 2022: It was my talent not good looks that brought me fame: Actress Shraddha Srinath

Shraddha of ‘Maara’ fame reflects on the challenges of being a female actor, straddling multiple industries and her excitement on being part of the OTT era
Actor Shraddha Srinath. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)
Actor Shraddha Srinath. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

At an airport, a fan spotted Shraddha Srinath and exclaimed several times how ‘normal’ the star looked. "That was enough validation for the choices I make every day in my career to be perceived as a ‘real’ celebrity," revealed the actor at a session titled ‘Women and Cinema: New Beginnings’, at the 10th edition of the ThinkEdu Conclave 2022, hosted by The New Indian Express in Chennai.

Shraddha articulated how an undue and relentless obsession with women’s bodies and appearances could affect a female actor’s peace of mind. She said that her choices from the outset of her 11-year-long acting career helped her take a stand on the kind of actor she wanted to be. “Heroines are expected to look ethereal and otherworldly which is not an achievable look. By casting me in U-Turn, Director Pawan Kumar took a chance that proved to people that a female actor can look like anybody and she can act. Playing a real woman who approaches a colleague to ask him out, not someone being pursued.” That paved her path and defined her choices of roles, she said.

The actor also shared that her Vikram Vedha co-star Madhavan’s praises helped reaffirm her choice in wanting to be an actor and not a heroine. “Maddy told me I act so well. You don’t need to dance around trees, he said.” She added that even when a character is sold to her as a relatable one, she knows it isn’t usually the case. “People know I won’t pick a role if I don’t find it realistic. But when I read the script, I don’t find depth. I want people to remember what I did in the film.”

When asked about how she adapted to the individual requirements of each film industry, Shraddha shared, “Networking isn’t my forte, which is required in Bombay a lot more than in the industries in south India. I believe that my talent speaks for itself. If they like my work, they will approach me.”

With repeated rejections for roles and heightened social media scrutiny taking a toll, the actor shared that she doesn’t take the industry too seriously. “Post Milan Talkies (her Hindi film debut), I received calls, and auditioned too, but I never heard back. We are not even told if we have made it or not.” What does she do to keep herself grounded? “My parents, sister, niece, and theatre friends accept me for who I am - they are my safe space. I also limit Twitter engagement for my sanity,” Shraddha shared.

Crediting hard work and destiny for her accolades and success, Shraddha voiced, “As a lawyer who was also dabbling in theatre, I used to finish rehearsals in the morning, go to office, and then proceed to nighttime rehearsals. When I improved some aspect of my performance in a rehearsal, I would feel good. I knew I could act then, and that I was a misfit in law. Did it come easy, I ask myself? That’s when I see myself today and I know I worked for it.” Change may be slow for women in the film industry but progress is definitely there, feels the Filmfare Award-winning actor. Welcoming more women writers and filmmakers, she said, “When women can be at the (scripting) table making decisions, they lend something else…to the characters that male writers cannot understand or see.”

With more actors embracing work opportunities on OTT platforms, it has upped the ante for actors to prove themselves further, the actor explained. “On a level-playing field like these platforms, there are no superstars. You get ten seasons to prove to the audience you're worth their time and attention. To survive there, you have to retain interest.” Shraddha also shared that she was looking forward to being part of an upcoming entirely female-led Telugu film, alongside a Tamil film on caste and a sci-fi Tamil project. “I’m so happy to be alive at a time where there are exciting OTT projects and female writers,” she signed off.

ThinkEdu 2022 is the grand tenth edition of what has consistently been India's biggest education conclave for a decade now. March 8 and 9 will see some stalwarts of India's academic, economic and political ecosystems bring ideas, ideologies and reflections on the past, present and future of India's education system. The sessions will be viewed by a live audience, in addition to the 2,750 registered users on the Conclave's digital space. Over the last nine years, the Conclave has seen some true stalwart thinkers such as former Presidents, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr Pranab Mukherjee, MPs Jairam Ramesh, Smriti Irani, former CM of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, NITI Aayog's CEO Amitabh Kant and spiritual guide Sadhguru.

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