Samantha Akkineni, Naga Chaitanya on what sets Majili apart and working together after marriage
“I woke up at 2.30 am on the day of Majili’s release and couldn’t stop crying after hearing that the film had opened to a positive word of mouth,” Samantha remarked at the recent success meet of the film. Her reaction isn't surprising, so to speak, considering that there was a lot riding on Majili, directed by Shiva Nirvana. It is her first film with Naga Chaitanya after the duo got married in late 2017. At one point of time, the two weren’t keen on working with each other after their wedding. “We have already worked together in Ye Maya Chesave, Autonagar Surya, and Manam. We knew that the expectations would be quite high if we teamed up once again. Besides, I didn't think anyone would be eager to watch us on screen if the story was about how we fell in love with each other at first sight. It had to be a different attempt if we were to work together, and I’m so glad that Majili happened. There is a love story in the film, but it’s also about ups and downs in a marriage. That’s what made it so interesting for both of us,” Naga Chaitanya confesses.
Admittedly, it was Naga Chaitanya who expressed his wish to work with Shiva Nirvana, who had made his debut in 2017 with Ninnu Kori. “I really liked how Shiva dealt with the climax scene of Ninnu Kori. It was quite honest and realistic, and that’s the kind of flavour that I was looking for in romantic dramas. When I asked him if he has a story like that for me, Shiva got back to me after couple of months and pitched the story of Majili. It was only after listening to the first narration that I felt that Samantha would be apt for the lead character,” Naga Chaitanya reveals.
For Samantha, the reason behind taking up the film was a lot more personal, and it all goes back to how much her life had changed post her wedding. The two were in love with each other for quite some time before their wedding; however, by her own admission, the idea of love changed a lot after tying the knot. “Love isn’t just about telling your partner that you love them on a daily basis. My life has changed a lot in the past couple of years. There is a lot of security, peace and calm into my life, which I didn’t have before I got married to Chay (Naga Chaitanya). I used to wonder why no one was showcasing this aspect of love in films. And it was around that time that Shiva Nirvana came to me with the script of Majili. It touches beautifully upon several relationships including that of a wife-husband, father-son, father-daughter. This is a story that needed to be told, and I felt blessed and lucky to be part of Majili.”
The characters that the two actors played couldn’t be different. As Poorna, Naga Chaitanya had to channel all his innocence (and aggression in the later stages) into his character, whereas Samantha as Sravani had to show inner strength without talking much. In Naga Chaitanya’s case, what particularly helped were his conversations with Shiva Nirvana. “He must have narrated the script to me at least 30-40 times before we went to shoot. Once we locked the script, I completely surrendered myself to the director. He knows Vizag really well, and a lot more about the lifestyle, middle-class upbringing, obsession with cricket in the city. That helped us a lot. I’m terrible when it comes to playing cricket. So, I had to undergo coaching for four months to at least play for camera,” he says.
On the other hand, Samantha had a different challenge to overcome. In the first half of the film, the entire drama revolves around Poorna (Naga Chaitanya) and Anshu (Divyansha Kaushik); and Samantha’s character, Sravani, appears only before the interval. “The motto of my life is to be better than who I was yesterday, but not as good as I will be tomorrow. I need to have a new layer in my role which I haven’t played before. Sravani is a simple girl, but my challenge was show strength without dialogues. I had to make an impact with less screen space, and communicate mostly through gestures. Sravani needed to create an impact right from her first scene and show her character right from the first frame even though people know nothing about her. This is what I loved about the role,” the actress reveals.
Having their real-life partner as a co-star in the film made things easier for both of them, although, Naga Chaitanya says, Samantha gave him a scare. “She thinks more about me than herself. It’s always been the case. Both of us play intense roles in the film and it was important that we understood each other’s body language, timing, strengths and weakness to enhance our performance, and having Samantha as my co-star helped me a lot. But there were so many instances where she would run to the monitor to see how I had done and everything was right. I had to remind her that the director will look into it and she needn’t worry too much (laughs).”
“Neither of us like to take our work home, and we rarely discuss films once we wrap up the shoot. However, we did make an exception for the climax sequence which has a lot of dialogues between Poorna and Sravani. We rehearsed for that sequence at home, and I’m glad that the audience too appreciated that segment,” Samantha says. The film has plenty of heated arguments between the characters since Naga Chaitanya’s Poorna is portrayed as a man who has failed both personally and professionally. “Throughout the film, Shiva Nirvana focused more on middle-class relationships. Every scene starts with humour, then there’s an emotional turn, and it ends with an argument. Every scene has all these flavours, but Shiva took care that it didn’t seem drab,” Naga Chaitanya adds.
The film has already turned out to be one of the biggest hits in Naga Chaitanya and Samantha’s career, and Samantha couldn’t be more thrilled with the result. “I had a strong feeling that Majili was going to be a milestone in our careers, and I’m glad that everything has fallen into place for us. I got the best advice of my career from Mahesh Babu while I was shooting for Dookudu with him. He said that I should treat every film like it’s my first and that I should never slack when it comes to work. At one point of time, I used to do 4-5 films at the same time, but now I’m content if I do one good film at a time, but I still get tensed about every film that I take up,” she says.
Post Majili’s release, Naga Chaitanya has already moved on to shoot for his next film, Venky Mama, which also has Venkatesh, Raashi Khanna, and Payal Rajput in lead roles, and on the other hand, Samantha is awaiting the release of her next comedy film, O Baby, and she’ll soon begin shooting for the Telugu remake of C Prem Kumar’s 96. “I’ve always wanted to do a full-fledged comedy film and I’m happy that this dream is coming true with Nandini Reddy’s O Baby. A lot has changed in the past few years when it comes to characters offered to women. It’s not just the directors who are coming up with well-etched roles, even the audience have changed. The number of women watching films has grown substantially and they are demanding better content. They want characters that they can relate to,” Samantha avers.
So, will Naga Chaitanya and Samantha team up once again, post Majili? “Why not? If the script is good, then it’s a yes from us,” the duo signs off.
Updated Date: Apr 13, 2019 14:28:15 IST
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