Actor and singer Shruti Haasan, daughter of National Award-winning actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika, started her journey as a child artiste with a guest appearance in her father’s film. She made her Bollywood debut as lead actor in 2009 with Luck; later spreading her wings to Tamil and Telugu cinema. In a candid chat, she looks back on her career in the Indian film industry. Excerpts:
Twelve years, 44 films... What’s the journey been like?
Unreal! Would you believe, I did my first film, Luck, so I could have money to pay for band rehearsals. We were a rock band and I wanted a drum kit… A Yamaha mixer… And I wanted to move out for which I had to be able to pay rent. So, I literally made a sheet with calculations on how much money I needed for this.
It was so funny in my head back then because I was approached by Imran Khan, my rakhi brother, for his first film, Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. I heard the script, but I wonder now if I really heard it because I was only thinking of my balance sheet. (Laughs) So, my career in films started as a hustle. I thought I would do this one film, and by the time it was released, I would be the only rockstar in India.
Then, slowly, very slowly, I fell in love. And acting, which started like an arranged marriage, is now the most successful marriage ever. But back then, music was my mistress, and I had to keep reminding myself that I couldn’t let people know how passionate I am about my music.
You are punished for wanting to be multi-anything. It’s taken me 12 years to work up the courage to be honest about what I want and like. I got thrown into the deep end. People were like, “She’s so and so’s daughter, she knows it all.” But I didn’t grow up with a starry vibe at all. My parents [Kamal Haasan and Sarika] are down-to-earth, and we were in this little bubble. Yes, I would go on my dad’s sets and invariably, I would be assisting. That helped. But at the end of the day, I was still the boss’s daughter, right? Getting into the industry as an actor was a huge learning curve. I was really out of place… I still am.
Why do you say so?
Well, to start with, I did not even know how to explore the language of acting. With music it’s very fluid and natural. It’s like an arm or a leg, not outside of me. But acting was another beast altogether. It took me a long time to understand its language.
I always said I didn’t care about comparisons, but I did. I got scathing reviews and it was demotivating. It was as if I was this Olympic gold medalist’s daughter, who had messed up her pole vault. The critics ripped me apart, which is fine. I’m not whining about it at all, but in those early years, I did not have the wherewithal to fathom and deal with it. So, I was not able to proceed in the right direction.
But somewhere along the way, things turned…
Yes, it was like a big cog, moving really slowly, one millimetre at a time. And with films like D-Day, 3, Srimanthaudu, I started finding myself, who I am as a person, because that’s where the art comes from. And slowly, I grew to enjoy telling stories through this medium of cinema. But funnily, just when the cog fell into place, when everyone thought I would hit the ground running, that’s when I took a two-year break so I could really process what this journey meant to me. I know everyone said I was crazy then, but it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
Now, you are back with a huge, ambitious film, Salaar. What’s it like?
(Laughs) Well, it’s a huge, ambitious film, that’s what it’s like. But seriously, I’ve seen many film sets in my life, but when I walked into this one, I was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s definitely on the list of huge productions. The director [Prashanth Neel] is amazing. His vision is so clear, almost pristine, like the water in the Maldives.
His humility is so genuine, it comes from understanding himself. That’s what makes him so confident and appealing to watch in cinema. We are shooting in Hyderabad and the other day he asked if he could send over some food from home. I said, “Sure”, and he sent across 42,000 dishes. (Laughs) I looked at them and told him this could feed the entire crew of Baahabuli. He is the sweetest co-star ever.
What else do you have up your sleeve?
I am currently super excited about my Amazon show, Bestseller She Wrote (based on a Ravi Subramanian novel). We are into post-production and it should be out soon. I also have to finish a bunch of my music videos and soon, will be coming out with some singles too. And I will start gigging again. There are some films in the pipeline as well, but nothing I can speak about right now. (Laughs) I’m actually being careful.
You’re also careful when it comes to choosing your projects…
(Laugh) I am now. In the past, I was miles away from careful. But you grow up… You learn.
Your father, Kamal Haasan, got into politics, stood for elections and put up a really good fight…
My dad is a real rockstar! Nothing gets to him. As a daughter, I know what he went through to realign his point of view, about himself and the world. He just wanted to make a change. I am so proud of him.
And you’ve found a strong, fun and compassionate partner in Santanu Hazarika...
Santanu and I have never looked at this as a relationship, we still don’t. Our loyalty to each other lies in the form of friendship and creativity. And I think that’s what has kept it fun.
Since both of you are in the creative field, is there a possibility of the two of you collaborating?
Yes, there will be collaborations coming out soon.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)