Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Popular south star Aishwarya Rajesh known for her unconventional roles in Tamil cinema is set to make her Hindi cinema debut with ‘Daddy’. She plays Arun Gawli’s wife Asha Gawli in this biopic. A simpleton who’s clear about what she wants – Aishwarya opens up about her debut here and shares why her journey hasn’t been easy….

How did you get on board for ‘Daddy’?
Firstly I got a call from the A.D of the film, and she said we’re looking for actors for a Hindi film, she said I will send you a script so, do an audition and send it to me. I was already doing a Tamil film that time. She sent me a sample video of it and 4 pages of dialogues. I don’t know Hindi at all, so I thought how I will be able to read four pages of dialogues. It was a like a press conference scene. I could just do one para of it. I sent it to her and never got a call back for 2-3 days. Arjun was going through a lot of auditions, so he said just show me the remaining videos. They told him I can’t even speak Hindi, but he liked my audition and called me. I totally forgot about it. I thought it must be a prank call, but then he’s like it’s me only. Then I came down here and I didn’t know who Arun Gawli was. Later I was told, I was considered for Asha Gawli’s role. That’s when I realised that this is going to be something powerful and challenging. Then they did a couple of look tests and I was on board.

The language must have been a tough part for you then?
Yes, the toughest thing was the language because I know just minimal Hindi. That was the most difficult thing for me. And I didn’t even know who Asha Gawli was; I didn’t know her body language or anything. Even people here wouldn’t know how she would be. There was an assumption always – that she might be like this, she might be like that, and nobody was sure. It’s a very sensitive subject as well, so you can’t just really go and ask people. But my director and Arjun had done a lot of research and they guided me a lot. The director could manage to get some of her earlier pictures. In the film, my portion starts from the age of 15-16 and goes on to 50-55 years. The film is about Arun Gawli but obviously she plays a major role in his life. Our director had some photos of her; she was very stylish in terms of her sarees and blouses. Her daughter came on the set and they told me, you resemble my mom. Whether we do a small or big character, it’s important how you match up to the character, especially since it’s a biopic. But I think it just all happened slowly.

How do you feel about making your Hindi cinema debut in a rather unconventional role like this?
I feel happy about being launched like this. Many dream getting started with a glamourous role, but very few get something like this. According to my knowledge, most times only experienced actors get to play something like this. So, I’m very happy about that. I have done about 20 Tamil films of which 9-10 films would be where I’m natural and wearing no make-up. I’ve played a mother of two kids, a housewife in one film, and a college girl in one film – so I’ve done different kinds of roles and have never done just one kind of stuff. I have never done anything commercial; I’ve never danced for a song also because I choose my films like that. I can’t do random stuff like, just come and dance for a song, look at the hero and smile. I can’t do that. I have got so many offers like that in Tamil, I’ve never thought of doing something like that. I want to be Konkona Sen Sharma, I want to be Smita Patil, or Vidya Balan. I want to be a good actress.

“I feel Hindi films have always had such strong roles for women, I don’t even see that in the south”

Have you always loved cinema and been influenced by it?
I’ve loved cinema always, I’m a big fan of Kajol as well, she was always my favourite actress, and SRK was my heartthrob, and then I started liking Vidya Balan. I feel Hindi films have always had such strong roles for women; I don’t even see that in the south. I wonder why they don’t have brilliant roles for females in the south, like in Hindi films.

Tamil cinema, with some really unconventional choices and now a Hindi film…how’s it all been so far?
I’m a Madrasi from Chennai itself, but I had a lot of struggles. It was not easy for me to become an actress in Tamil cinema also. It had started from a scratch and it was very difficult. So, today, doing a Hindi film is a very big thing for me. Many actually criticised me saying I wasn’t a heroine material. I was called dusky. Many films are obsessed with a heroine’s look and complexion. I had many issues even in the south. I proved myself there and I’m doing something like this here, is a big thing for me. So, I need to put in my 100 per cent, and not give up. Whatever role has been offered to me, I feel I’ve done justice to it.

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