Tamannaah on starring in Next Enti: I admire Kunal Kohli because he writes strong women characters
There is a lot going on in Tamannaah’s career in the last couple of years. Even though she has had only a handful of movies releasing in Telugu and Tamil, she has been extremely busy, even by her own standards.
“I’m a workaholic and nothing is going to change that. When I look back at 2018, I can’t explain how exhausted I’m. Right now, I’m operating on my last bits of enthusiasm. I want to go on a vacation so that I can work more and be productive. I’m not proud of saying this, but I can’t stop working,” Tamannaah laughs. Even on the day of this interview with Firstpost, Tamannaah had just returned from a long day’s shoot in the outskirts of Hyderabad, although she does not let it dampen her enthusiasm. Excerpts from the interview below.
Your upcoming film, Next Enti, is quite an urban-centric film which talks a great deal about relationships. What intrigued you when Kunal Kohli pitched you this script?
I really admire Kunal because he writes strong characters for women. Whether it’s Rani Mukerji in Hum Tum or Kajol in Fanaa, they all have strong roles to play. Next Enti too focuses a lot on a girl’s perspective. It’s all about her journey and life. I have never felt so connected to any of the characters I’ve played in my career. And I do feel that this is going to be one of my best performance in terms of what I got to do. During the script reading sessions, Kunal decided to name the character Tammy, which is my nickname in real life, because she’s so much like me. Sometimes, I get quite ambitious in terms of what I can contribute to the character to make it look more authentic. It was my idea to colour my hair red. It could have gone very wrong, but fortunately, the feedback has been quite positive.
Now that you have said that you have never felt so connected about any character, do you also share similar thoughts about relationships, love, and lust, like your character does in the film?
What I really liked about the script is that it talks a lot about how people are very judgmental in general and how they come with a lot of preconceived notions on the basis of how a person looks. That’s something I believe in too. How do you judge a book by its cover? You wouldn’t know much about anyone if you don’t interact with them enough. The film is quite modern and contemporary in the sense that it shows that the first person you see is not the first person you might end up with. You wouldn’t know who’s the perfect match for you, unless you kiss a few frogs, so to speak. (laughs)
You’ve never done a film which is so bold in terms of its content... isn’t it?
I feel a film like Next Enti would be quite appropriate in today’s time and age, when films like Arjun Reddy and RX100 have empowered the younger generation of filmmakers to put out content that they associate with. I feel those two films worked really well because they were real and were not just meant to titillate the audience. When it comes to watching films, I’m kind of conservative because I’m used to watching most films with my family, and I can’t serve content which I’m not comfortable with. When I first read the script of Next Enti, I kept wondering how am I going to do it, and that too in Telugu, because it spoke a so much about love and sex, every second scene. Surprisingly, I didn’t disagree with any segment in the film and we didn’t change anything in the original version to suit the sensibilities of the Telugu audience. I related to the character and felt that I could portray it convincingly. It’s not preachy at all. I love commercial films so much that I cannot do a sad or a drab film. I’ve to feel good after watching a film. Next Enti is one such film.
Did it help that you were also playing your age in the film?
Oh yes, absolutely! I think that’s also something that really excited me. Maybe, because I started acting when I was 15, I’ve always been projected as someone much older than my age, and my makeup too used to be on those lines. I’ve never played my age. I’m 28 now. I consider myself as Benjamin Button. I’m growing younger with time. I feel like I’m experiencing my teenage right now. My friends tell me that I look younger today. I believe that has got a lot to do with how you feel about yourselves. I’m in a very happy space and I guess that shows on screen.
I have to be honest with you and say that I hate it when people call you 'milky beauty'. You have been stereotyped way too much because of your complexion. Does that ever bother you?
(laughs)... I hate it too. I take no pride in being a certain colour. It doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m fortunate that I’m conventionally good looking, thanks to my parents, but that’s not in my control. However, what is in your control is how you take care of your body and mind, and being fit. Thankfully, things are slowly changing for me ever since Baahubali released. Now, all my directors want to change the colour of my skin and make me look tanned. I guess it looks good on camera and it also suits period dramas. And I’m going to use the same colour tone in some of my future films too. Perhaps, the next thing I should do is go blue. That’s one skin tone that I haven’t tried before.
When you signed Anil Ravipudi’s F2, a lot of people were surprised that you were paired opposite Venkatesh. Did you have to think a lot about it before saying yes?
Despite being a commercial film with an ensemble cast, everyone has an important role to play in F2. When I heard the narration, I didn’t know how to say no. Because the script was so good, I had a strong feeling that people will like it a lot. It’s also important to be part of good films. There’s an evident age gap between Venkatesh garu and me, but then, I’m also acting with Chiranjeevi garu in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, and I’ve worked with Ajith sir too in the past. These days, it’s the character which is more important for me. I’m playing my age in Next Enti, and the same film has Navdeep playing an elderly gentleman. I believe that people are going to accept characters which are authentic, genuine and organic. I’m focusing more on that compared to what the age of my co-stars is.
You have been part of Telugu cinema for almost 13 years now. And every time you have a string of flops, I’m sure you keep reading comments that your career is going to end soon. What goes through your mind when you see all that on social media?
Oh, I love those tweets and gossip columns where they write that I’m finished and my career is going to end soon. Whenever someone says that I’m done, I get the maximum kick out of it because it gives me that sense of excitement to feel like a newcomer. It makes me want to do more work and I do it too. I am thrilled when I read tweets that I’m at my lowest low and I tell myself, “Yessss! This is what I’ve been waiting for”. The last when I was in one of those career lows, that’s when Baahubali happened to me. It always reminds me that no one can decide when your career is finished. Your work will end only when you, as an actor, decide that your career has come to an end. I became a star only through the love and respect that I’ve gotten from Telugu audience. Being an actor was my decision. That actor in me won’t die.
You have been part of some really huge hits and also, a lot of films have tanked. But there’s always been this perception that you don’t have a bonafide hit to your credit. How do you react to something like that?
I’ve done a lot of commercial films in my career. People have liked my characters in films which have a strong male presence. And I’ve found it very challenging to break the mould because most of the scripts we get are male-centric. In the last couple of years, I’ve been part of films which have lot more strong female parts, but the scripts still tend to be male driven. I’m happy that I’ve been able to build a space for myself even within this framework. People still talk about 'Dheevara' song, and me playing a warrior in Baahubali because that’s not been portrayed as much in Indian cinema, and a lot of people thought it was cool. I’m a team player and I’m not greedy at all when it comes to my part in a film. I want to be part of films which do well and if I can make a difference, then that’s great. I’m still around to do that one film that would work because of me. But I’m not pursuing it. When it has to happen, it’ll.
Quite often in Telugu cinema, there is a tendency where top actresses work with the same stars twice, or maybe thrice, in their career, and after a point, the combination is not repeated. Does that scare you that someone else would replace you sooner or later?
Not really. I’ve done a film each with most of the stars in Telugu. I haven’t done so called second round with my co-stars. It’s true that this tendency to repeat combinations for a bit exists and that’s how the industry works. Commercial cinema, especially the kind of films made in Telugu, demands fresh faces. It doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, I don’t know how interesting it’ll be for me if I have to play that sort of roles again. Considering the explosion of digital content today, there have never been so many mediums for an actor to create content. I get offered a lot of digital content. Since I do a lot of features films, the digital content has to be really exciting for me, but I’m definitely looking forward to doing something soon. It’s not daunting at all when I’m forced to think about being replaced by someone else. I’ve never considered myself as a star. I’m an actor. And till I want to act, there’ll always be a door for me. Now, when there are so many platforms, the opportunities are endless.
Updated Date: Dec 06, 2018 11:37:31 IST
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