What makes Aditi Rao Hydari the Meena Kumari of the Millennials?

If beauty is an integral part of an actress’s life in Indian cinema, Aditi Rao Hydari has a face that reminds us of the era when the likes of Madhubala, Waheeda Rehman, Nutan and Meena Kumari dazzled the screen with their intense performances and captivating beauty. And, it’s little wonder that Aditi is mostly offered characters like Shanti in Yeh Saali Zindagi, Mehrunisa in Padmaavat, Ruhana Ali in Wazir, Sujatha in Sufiyum Sujatayum, among others. One common thread in these women is that they are intense, they are lovers who are at times heartbroken too!

“I am mostly offered such intense characters because that is how a filmmaker looks at me. If you say that I am beautiful, that is how you look at me, it is how my presence, my beauty is interpreted. But, I do not feel stereotyped at all. Playing an emotional character on screen, using my eyes and face to portray the passion brings immense joy to a performer like me,” Aditi shares.

However, Aditi also insists she is equally interested in playing a strong-woman character, and is waiting for someone to write it for her. “I think it is also the way a filmmaker is tapping into different sides of my personality, because as a person I am happy, at times intense, angry and vulnerable, too. It is about the emotion I am getting a chance to portray, and the layer I am bringing out. I can confidently play a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or a Gone Girl, but is there anyone writing that for me and seeing me to play that?” she questions.

As her journey continues with more films in pipeline, more intense characters to play on screen, when asked if she feels like the ‘Meena Kumari of the millennials’, pat comes the reply, “Those are some huge words. I know I look ‘nice’ when I cry on-screen because I am told so, but Meena Kumari ji, Waheeda ji are legends. Even today, when one looks at their photos, one could find something new, mystic and magnetic. Look at their films, those scenes in which they help the audience captive with their silent presence... they were magic and their presence did miracles in our mind. I am a giggly girl!” The edge of innocence

At a time when building an image and utilising the power of mainstream as well as social media tactfully to maintain the status of a celebrity is a real task for actresses, Aditi has opted to protect her inner child. “I was a sensitive child, and I would put all the emotional energy into my dance and music. Trust me when I say this, I am still doing the same and protecting my inner child. Even though as professional actors, we are always surrounded by people and living in the shoes of other characters that we play on screen, it is important to stay in touch with our emotions, from where all the art and performance stems. When I am not working, I keep my phone away and spend time with my family. I listen to instrumental music or dance before my favourite audience like my best friend and people who have known me since childhood. And, when they clap at my performance, I feel the same excitement I did when I was five-years-old. That is also a way to refuel myself,” Aditi shared.

But, this happy, giggly girl also becomes grumpy at times. “Firstly, I am not a person who gets angry and yells at people because it’s exhausting, and the whole day gets wasted. So, I usually don’t get angry and shout. But, yes, I feel uncomfortable with people who are chalu, who will say one thing on face and mean something else... I rather prefer to have a conversation with people who are straightforward. Also, I am someone who does a lot of homework before going on set, inefficiency just puts me off,” Aditi adds.

The colour purple

Aditi comes from a respected family of royal linage. She is the daughter of the Indian classical singer Vidya Rao, from the family of Raja of Wanaparthy, and the great granddaughter of Akbar Hyderi, the former Prime Minister of State of Hyderabad of colonial India.

While talking about her childhood, Aditi says the best days were the ones she spent with her grandmother, whom she visited every year during summer vacation. While the importance of being humble and earning respect is the most important learning she had in her childhood, it is her ‘Amamma’ who nurtured her imaginative mind.

“Amamma, my maternal grandmother, is my angel, I was very close to her. She taught me cycling and would play badminton with me. She was such a good storyteller that I would believe the characters from the folklore she narrated to me actually existed in real life. Amamma would tell stories in a certain voice that I would start living with those characters. We used to do small plays for which she would dress me up as one of my favourite characters, and I would act like that...these are small things, but those are the best memories I have. Since I used to dance and sing from my childhood, imagination was quite a strong element I had. And Amamma’s storytelling nurtured that even further,” smiles Aditi.

Even though dance, music and other extracurricular activities were a part of Aditi’s life, watching Bollywood films was not on her daily dose of entertainment list. “I used to watch children’s film back then with Amamma. Our favourites were Home Alone, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and The Sound of Music. I was more of a running-around-child than sitting-in-front-of- the-TV kind,” she recalls.

Destiny’s child

Even though acting in a film was not part of her plan while growing up, Aditi has always been a performer. And, she credits Indian classical dance for teaching her the nuances of portraying emotions through facial expressions. But, the acting bug bit her when she was a teenager.

“I was blown away after watching Manisha Koirala’s wonderful performance in Bombay. I was overwhelmed and emotional, and said to myself that someday, I want to be on screen, portraying such a gamut of emotions and creating an impact. I told to myself, ‘One day you will be a Mani Ratnam heroine’,” smiles Aditi while recalling the memory.

She continues, “But, I did not know how to be there, I did not know how to even get my toe into the film industry. And, I never told anyone that I wanted to be an actress. I got my first acting job because I was a dancer, but then I came to Mumbai and started looking for an opportunity as an actress. I got roles in films, but the dream was still the same: To become a Mani Ratnam heroine.”

Aditi made her on-screen debut with the Tamil film Sringaram in 2007. Her journey in Bollywood started with Delhi 6 followed by Yeh Saali Zindagi and Rockstar, her dream came true in 2017 with the Tamil film Kaatru Veliyidai, directed by her favourite Mani Ratnam. Today, she is a popular name in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film industry having delivered powerful performances in films like Delhi-6 (2009), Rockstar (2011), London, Paris, New York (2012), Khoobsurat (2014), Wazir (2016), Fitoor (2016), Kaatru Veliyidai (2017), Sammohanam (2019) and Padmaavat (2019) amongst others. The actor, who received rave reviews for her performance in the recently released, Ribhu Dasgupta’s The Girl On The Train, will be next seen in the Netflix film Ajeeb Daastaans, which is releasing on April 16. Apart from this, and an untitled movie with John Abraham, she has two Tamil films, Hey Sinamika and Maha Samudram coming up.

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