Speaking a cinema language of her own

RIGHT INTENT: Aditi Rao Hydari
RIGHT INTENT: Aditi Rao Hydari



AN INTERESTING cinematic journey has seen Aditi Rao Hydari mix up genres and languages with all the skill of a seasoned professional.

The popular actress hasn’t been afraid to take on challenges and has been equally comfortable balancing lead roles with strong supporting characters. The multitalented movie star, who has acted in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films added to her impressive list of achievements by making her Malayalam debut in new release Sufiyum Sujatayum.

She plays a speech-impaired character in the romantic drama, which premiered on Amazon Prime earlier this month, and delivered another knockout performance. With more movies in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi on the way, the accomplished actress, singer and dancer continues to be unstoppable, but has had to take a pause during lockdown.

Eastern Eye caught up with Aditi Rao Hydari to talk about Sufiyum Sujatayum, her inspirations, taking on challenges and life in self-isolation.

How have you been handling the Covid-19 lockdown?
Lockdown has been hard on everybody, but I feel I live in a country where, one cannot even fathom how difficult it has been for the majority. It is obvious to me today how protected I am by my privilege. It doesn’t take away from the difficulties of lockdown and the anxiety that comes with the uncertainty, but it makes my lockdown way easier than most in our country and I am very grateful for everything that I have.

Has the lockdown taught you anything?
I think in this lockdown I have learned to be grateful. I am generally empathetic and sort of a sensitive person, but this has also taught me to just be more generous and I hope I stay that way. I hope a lot of people stay that way because I think as humans we can be very nasty, mean and have created a lot of chaos in the world. I hope this is an opportunity to sort it out, except that I don’t know if we really will.

How do you look back on your acting journey, where you have mixed up languages and genres?
I am not one of those to look back on a journey and pat myself on the back. I generally tend to look forward to things. It is more about what I am looking forward to or hoping for. The dreams one has! So for me, it has always been like that. Having said that, because I am in lockdown and at home in Hyderabad, I am almost reliving my childhood.

What do you mean?
It is because I am safe and protected. I am not running around like a headless chicken shooting. I have a chance to do things I haven’t been able to for the past eight-nine years, which is dance, do my yoga, sing and reconnect to all the things I did as a child. So, this has been that kind of time, but it’s mostly about things to look forward to.

You have become an expert at acting in different languages. What was the experience of doing your first Malayalam movie Sufiyum Sujatayum?
(Laughs) I wish I could confidently say I have all the languages sorted, but I really don’t. I am determined, so manage. I have had good teachers in Mani Ratnam in Tamil and Mohan sir in Telugu. Malayalam I did because I play a speech-impaired woman so didn’t have to learn any dialogues, which was a huge boon. That also meant I had to connect in a very different way in silence, so it opened up a whole new feeling and world to me. It was beautiful because you create your own little world and dreams, and express yourself through that world. You use your eyes and face.

Tell us more about that?
I think there is nothing more powerful than the way you connect with the eyes. I feel all of us hide behind language and so many things, like posture that we don’t look at each other when we speak, but when you actually look into people’s eyes you see a lot more than any words can ever express. Somewhere, I feel like this film kind of made me see that. I think it was quite special in that way.

What else did you like about doing Sufiyum Sujatayum?
The fact it was a very simple, innocent and pure love story. That is the other thing. This film makes you realise that true love quite often is burdened by other people’s situations and perspectives, whereas actually true love is just that, it’s simple and just two people who truly love each other. There is nothing more beautiful than that. It was all these things I sort of lived through while shooting this film with my character Sujata.

Sufiyum Sujatayum

Would you say it was your most challenging role?
You really enjoy your work and search for directors who challenge you. Films that get you excited, but at the same time you feel fearful and have butterflies in your tummy. A lot of us, at least I tend to pick films like that. Every part is challenging, so there is no more or least challenging. If it is not, I wouldn’t even be there! For me, individually, it doesn’t matter if my part is 20 minutes or two hours. I try to be very fearless in picking my parts. I’m very happy to let the hero take centre stage as long as in those 20 minutes I am an equal partner in the story and the audience takes me home with them in their hearts. Give me a challenge and I am up for it.

How does popular Malayalam star Jayasurya compare to other great actors you have worked with?
One thing I really don’t like to do is compare directors and actors because each person is unique. Without comparing, I can tell you that I think it was amazing for Jayasurya sir to do this film because of the kind of part it is and the fact it kind of revolves around the girl. Around Sujata and her life! So it was amazing of him to have done this film. When you are on set figuring out what you need to do, you go with the flow and do your scene. I very rarely look at the monitor, but sometimes I did and realised how a skilled actor can elevate the simplest scene. With Jayasurya sir and other experienced actors on set they did that. With a simple look or gesture they took a scene and what they are trying to say to another level, so it was amazing working with really good and experienced actors. I am one of those sponge kind of actors. I observe, listen, and enjoy doing that, and that’s why I love being on set.

How do you feel about Sufiyum Sujatayum being released onto a streaming site?
I will be very honest. When I was first told about it my heart sank because I love the magic of a theatrical release. That collective energy of first day, first show in India is a big thing. The lights go out and it is magical. This was of course made for a theatrical release. But we have all grown up with theatrical releases and grown into the OTT platform. I think today, more than any other time, is when we realise the true value of the OTT platform – what it has given to us in the form of amazing entertainment and content. There aren’t any other trappings or baggage with OTT and content is what they are selling. The OTT platforms are here to stay, so is the theatre, and both will co-exist wonderfully when the lockdown is over and things are back to normal.

You stood by the decision of Sufiyum Sujatayum being released on Amazon Prime and must be happy it is the first big Malayalam film to get a release like this on Amazon Prime?
It’s great to be right there and up in front to take that very courageous decision. There are films made just for the theatre, like a forthcoming Telugu release I have, because of the way it is made. There are films like Sufiyum Sujatayum that would look very poetic in theatres, but are also very intimate and work well on the OTT platform. The number of people it will reach is huge. I have been told Malayalam films have a huge following on OTT. So, it made sense for this to do it. I’m glad there are some courageous people who have made this decision. I’m happy Amazon has been so good to us and so excited about our content. It’s a good feeling.

What inspires you?
I think passion and intention. I think they are very underrated qualities. I feel if your intent is pure, honest and clean, there is nothing that can stop you. There is a kind of fearlessness within you. I think that passion and intention are what really inspire me to be the best version of myself – to be there for other people and do my work to the best of my ability! To love to the maximum and be fearless in the choices I make. I can’t control anybody else, but can put that out there – my intention, passion and ability to live in the moment, and choose happiness every single day. That attitude keeps me going.

Sufiyum Sujatayum is available on Amazon Prime now