Aditi Rao Hydari is living her dream. For a girl with absolutely no Bollywood connections, she’s made fabulous headway into the industry. Within a short span of six to seven years, she has already had legends like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mani Ratnam directing her. After last year’s Kaatru Veliyidai, she’s now also part of Ratnam’s upcoming Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, which she’s currently filming in Chennai.
“I want to work with Mani Sir again and again. If I had the choice I would do all the films made by Mani sir,” says Aditi.
She was about nine when her parents took her to watch Mani Ratnam’s 1995 classic Bombay. “I don’t really know how and why they took me to watch this film,” recalls Aditi, adding, “people around me were discussing the issues in the film vehemently but all I could see was Manisha Koirala dancing to ‘Kehna Hi Kya’. I just wanted to jump into the screen. I didn’t know too much about films then, but I just knew that I wanted to be doing that in future, and when I started working with Mani sir it was so surreal for me.”
“I was once again blown away by Manisha’s performance in Sanjay (Bhansali) sir’s, Khamoshi. Bombay, Khamoshi — these are the kind of films that have drawn me towards cinema,” she adds.
But one filmmaker who Aditi will forever remain grateful to is her mentor and National Award-winning filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. After a cameo in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 (2009), Aditi got her big break in Mishra’s gritty drama, Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011) which kind of cemented her position; and, yet again, Mishra has trusted her with a challenging role in his upcoming Daas Dev (releases on 27 April).
In Daas Dev, which is modern day adaption of legendary epic romantic drama Devdas set against the turbulent political backdrop of Uttar Pradesh, Aditi’s character plays a politician — the ones that walk around the corridors of power, fixing deals and manipulating.
“The core of my character, Chandni is very similar to Chandramukhi, she’s very pure and selfless, but then, she’s a fixer. She’s an MBA dropout who has got into politics. She’s constantly proving to herself and to the world that she is capable of every task. She’s also kind of mysterious and knows everybody’s secret. Also, she’s the narrator of the whole story and from her point you see these very twisted, dark, selfish, characters. The core is similar to Devdas, but the film deals with intoxication at different level. Of power, of greed, of substance, of love…the film is actually a political thriller of intoxication,” says Aditi.
Aditi says that like in Mishra’s previous film, she couldn’t relate to this character as well. “On the first day of the shoot I completely freaked out and told Sudhir sir that I just don’t know this girl and I am just following you. But sometimes it can be quite exciting when you don’t know something at all. You are like a sponge, you are soaking in everything,” says Aditi, furthering, “Sudhir sir trusted me with a difficult part when I was a newcomer and I had just come to Mumbai. I had faced the camera before that but I wasn’t a professional actor then and was just dabbling in it for fun. I was studying. So, I didn’t ask him any question when he came to me with Daas Dev. He said, ‘I want you to do it, and I was, like, absolutely’. With Sudhir sir, even if he had wanted to play a broomstick in his movie, I would have readily done it,” laughs Aditi.
She is all set to collaborate with Mishra for the third time in his film on the life of Renu Saluja, one of Bollywood’s top-notch editors of the ’80s and ’90s, who passed away 18 years back. She was Mishra’s live-in partner and he collaborated with Saluja on award-winning films like Dharavi (1993) and Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996).
Aditi may not be able to tell whether her performance has gone several notches higher after working with these stalwarts, but she has got a lot of appreciation whenever she has worked with Mishra, Ratnam or Bhansali.
“It is an amazing feeling when you can explore and try different things. I am pretty spoilt by that way. I keep craving that experience again and again,” says Aditi, who also longs to work with Vishal Bhardwaj, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu and Sharad Kataria. “It is a great time for actors. I don’t look at films as commercial or arty, I just look at the story. If a film says a good story and the character is going to be memorable, I want to do it,” she says.
Aditi feels that she’s forever pushing and challenging herself which stems from her training in Bharatanatyam that has inculcated a certain discipline in her right from her childhood. In fact, her Tamil debut movie Sringaram (2007), in which she played Devdasi, beautifully portrayed her dancing skills.
When asked if this was the best phase of her career, she says, “It would be presumptuous to say that because as an artist I am greedy. The day I feel that I am doing my best work, I will never do any better. I am always inspired by people who keep pushing boundaries. But somewhere I am quite hard on myself. I have been learning dance since I was five, it is a difficult discipline because you are never allowed to be complacent, you are constantly pushed and challenged and when I am not being pushed I feel I am not working hard. I crave that experience.”
An aspect of this industry that annoys Aditi the most is “unnecessary controversies” as there have been numerous stories on the cold war between her and her Daas Dev co-star Richa Chadda, who portrays Paro. “I don’t know why in 2018 people still want to write about so called cat fights. It is sad. We are all hard working professionals supportive of each other. It is so derogatory for us women. Is this what people think about women’s behaviour? I don’t like to come out and speak about these things because why should I explain? Why explain? Whoever wants to write, it is their problem, it is all in their head and it shows their mentality. Neither Richa nor I have spoken about it,” says Aditi.