She has carved a niche for herself in Telugu, Tamil and Marathi films and the popularity of Bahubali (both 2015 and 2017 versions) gave her unprecedented recognition in general, while also paving her way in the Hindi Film Industry. She is a self-believer; a non-quitter and a star in her own right … Meet Tamannaah (born to a Sindhi family in Mumbai) who has raised the benchmark in the South Indian Films with her arrival and survival!
You made your acting debut with Hindi film “Chand Sa Roshan Chehra” in 2005 when you were
around 15 years old. Do you still remember your first day at your film’s shoot?
Yes vividly, the first shot I ever gave was playing a violin. I was nervous since I didn’t know how to play the instrument but after that shot I learnt to appreciate classical music a lot more.
After Abhijeet Sawant’s song “Lafzon Main” was released you got lot of attention. Do you think people were starting recognizing you after that video ?
I was a popular face then since I was doing a lot of modeling and the video definitely gave an impetus since it was more commercial and mainstream with lot more people recognizing me. Moreover I was at an age where your overall physicality is evolving.
Though you made your acting debut with Bollywood, what made you take up projects in Tamil and Telugu cinema?
For me it was only about acting and not about the industry. Intrinsically I was passionate about the 70 mm screen and the stardom and riches were just the by-products. It just happened that luck favoured me better in the South than in Bollywood and I took up projects there because for me language was not a barrier, the only thing I wanted to do was work and excel in the entertainment industry. That quest for perfection and excellence had to be met and the South Indian cinema accepted me well.
As you were too young when you ventured into films, on what basis did you choose films?
Age was never a hindrance for me. For my first Tamil Film, I had an option to choose between the antagonist and the protagonist and I chose the former. I wanted to take that risk and challenge myself. In the film industry people do not really take on a negative role as their first outing because it sets the tone for future work but I was so passionate about wanting to break conventions and the art of acting that I did it. I chose films where the script excited me and my role was beyond someone prancing around trees in the rain.
When did you feel you have earned your place in South Indian cinema?
I do not think I still have achieved any sort of benchmark. I continue to strive for that excellence because I will stop excelling the day I feel I have arrived. I think ‘Paaiya’ helped me achieve some sort of consolidated stature I wanted for myself in my sub-conscious mind. Now when I look back I feel really
proud of the fact that I have shot for some very interesting films so early in my life but I have a long way to go and personal benchmarks to conquer.
Who is your favourite co-star?
There are a bunch of favourites. I get along well with Prabhas and Dhanush and am very comfortable working with them
You worked in 2007 official remake of “Jab We Met”, Kanden Kadhalai, for which you were later nominated as the Best Tamil Actress,was it hard to portray a role played by Kareena Kapoor Khan which
was highly appreciated and is still one of the most adored Bollywood character?
I was taking the pressure very seriously.I was nervous that I would ruin the essence of it since I had a benchmark to meet and I had high regards for the style in which Kareena Kapoor Khan essayed the role.
Being an established star in the South Indian film industry, what inspired you to come back to Bollywood?
It was never a conscious decision to enter into Bollywood and I would not like to phrase it as a comeback but an accidental venture. I found the project interesting and I took it up since I had vacant time on hand as well. Generally I am working 365 days in a year and hence I couldn’t shuffle between the two industries. I like to put in my 100% in whatever I do.
How does Bollywood see actresses from down South? Were you treated as an outsider? If so, how did you deal with it?
I think people in Bollywood understand that actors from the South are very well trained and dedicated to the art. South actors are in fact very serious about their profession since the dynamics of the South film industry is very thorough. There is a lot of respect given to South actors in Bollywood.
Have you found your place in Bollywood?
Even if one does 10 good films, one is as good as the last film. I am still in the search of excellence and perfection, but I am not part of the rat race. I do not want to prove a point to anyone really. I want to make my mark on my own terms. Bollywood is a highly competitive platform and there is some
new talent springing up every second day so the key is to find your place and polish it every single day.
With success comes huge responsibility, do you think you have managed it all well till date?
It is a constant struggle for any public figure to strike a balance between doing what is best for society at large and doing what is best for oneself. I always try to inspire others and contribute to society at large when I am not busy shooting. I have worked closely with the Indian Government to raise awareness on social and environmental issues and will continue to do so since I believe change starts with oneself.
You have been adored for your natural beauty many times, how you feel about this?
I am blessed because of my parents’ conventional good looks. There is a lot of maintenance that goes into grooming yourself and it comes with a lot of discipline. You can be gifted with conventional
beauty but you have to take care of it just like a flower in a pot.
You made your Bollywood re-debut with Sajid’s Khan, “Himmatwala”, opposite Ajay Devgan, How was
it working with a huge Bollywood actor?
He was very easy to work and he never intimidated me on sets. We shared a great camaraderie on sets and I learnt a lot under his guidance.
After Himmatwala, you did ‘Humshakals’ and ‘Entertainment’, which did not fare very well at the
box office. Did you feel like giving up on Bollywood at that time?
Box office success does not excite me or dishearten me. There is no sure shot success formula for any film. I have seen both sides of the coin and I can handle failure just like I can handle success really well. It is important to focus on the take-away rather than the end product. I did not let any sort of failure define who I was. If I mulled over every failure I would not have been an actress. The film industry
makes you strong in that sense. Personally I am not a quitter and I do not pay heed to the naysayers.
You always wanted to work with S.S Rajamouli. What was your reaction when you got to know that you are selected for Baahubali: The Beginning?
It came to me at a very crucial juncture when I was at a low point. The film gave me a chance to prove myself as an actor and I am really grateful to S.S Rajamouli for reviving my career.
How did life change for you post Baahubali?
It opened up my universe and made me experiment with my choice of cinema. I am not sticking to one kind of genre and I want to diversify in my role portrayals. It made me more aware and responsible of delivering quality cinema that my audiences could consume. It definitely had a positive impact and I’m grateful that it happened.
So far, which is the most challenging role you have done? Was there a role for which you really had to go beyond your capabilities and challenge yourself ?
There was a Tamil film called Devi which was called Tutak Tutak Tutiya in Hindi and Abhinetri
in Telugu. That role was challenging.
What do you like the most about film industry? Also, what baffles you the most?
The industry brings out the most ingenious side to a person which even the person wouldn’t be aware of. It makes you unravel the inner depths of your soul. You present a make-believe world of dreams and happiness through your cinema to complete strangers which is such an uplifting feeling. On the flipside, the industry is very judgmental, vacillating and cliché. You are constantly made to question the way you conduct yourself and sometimes being yourself poses as the biggest challenge.
Share something about your future projects.
I have signed up couple of films recently, one of them being a Telugu movie called Naa Nuvve with Nandamuri Kalyan Ram. I am also there in the Telugu remake of Queen. I have signed a project with Seenu Ramaswamy starring Udayanidhi Stalin. I have a series of releases coming up this year since I have been working on some interesting movies last year. Kunal Kohli’s film with Sundeep Kishan is the prominent among them. I’m doing strong female centric films which I am quite happy about.
What kind of films or roles do you wish to do?
I definitely want to be part of a dance based film with professional dancers, something like ABCD or something similar. I have always been very inclined towards dance.
How would you describe Tamannaah as a person?
I’m just another girl next door and with minimal whims and fancies of a starlet. I’m quite simple and domesticated but at the same time I’m also bohemian and creative. It’s quite contrasting but it fits well into my ethos.
How do you start your day?
Prayer to the universe followed by some yoga and coffee
What do you like to do when you are not shooting?
Sleep because I do not ever get enough of it and beauty sleep is always recommended.
How does your family react to your stardom?
They are very normal about it and would be proud of their child like any other parent would be. I have been given a very normal upbringing so neither me nor family get affected by stardom. We continue to be the same people we were 10 years ago.
Who is your role model?
When I was young and starting out, it was Madhuri Dixit but as you grow old your ideologies change and now I want to be the best version of myself.
How important is fashion for you?
It’s a great way of expressing yourself. A lot of my moods reflect in my clothing . Fashion lets you express your core persona. However style is more important than fashion because style is more internal while
fashion trends fade away quickly.
Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
I don’t think too much about the future to be honest. I like to live in the present and enjoy the moment. I just hope I’m in a happy, content place since that is more important.