Aditi Rao Hydari jokingly says that working across industries means getting mixed up between languages many a times. “Because it’s all happening simultaneously, I’m always confused. When I’m supposed to speak Telugu, I start speaking Tamil. It’s such a big mess. But I really enjoy it,” she told indianexpress.com with a laugh.
Aditi was seen in movies The Girl on the Train, Sardar Ka Grandson, Maha Samudram (Telugu) and Netflix anthology Ajeeb Daastaans (Geeli Pucchi) in 2021. “What I’ve gotten out of it is a big adventure. I’m very grateful for everything good that’s happened amidst the chaos,” she said.
Tagged as a pan-India actor, Aditi has been active for over 15 years, proving her versatility in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and other languages. Her popular Hindi films include Yeh Saali Zindagi, Wazir, Bhoomi and Padmaavat, apart from Sammohanam, V and Psycho in south India. She even sang “Kaathodu Kaathanen” along with Dhanush in Jail (2021).
Aditi added that when her directors manage to create a strong work environment, it is easy for her to slip into her character, be it any industry. “When I walk onto a film set on the first day, I don’t know anything. I enjoy that feeling because it’s that time when you’re open to every single stimuli on set. You are just like a sponge, absorbing everything that is happening around,” she elaborated.
Aditi played a woman in Geeli Pucchi who’s torn between her marriage and an unconventional relationship with another woman (Konkona Sensharma), and how it ends up being a twisted tale of patriarchy, casteism, sexuality and privilege. Aditi shared that with the project, she “tried to be more expansive and fearless” in her choices, as it helped her in picking “something that I’m almost fearful of doing in a good way.”
“I’m happy that there were two girls headlining that film, and that it did good. So it is important for me to make fearless choices. When it pays off, it’s great. As an actor we do our best,” Aditi said.
We, however, quizzed her about how she reacted when her other projects The Girl on the Train, Sardar Ka Grandson did not receive much audience love. According to her, the priority is to have the right intention towards creating a memorable character. “What happens to that film, how it gets made and received, you can only hope for the best. We have to respect the audience response and then possibly figure out how to make it better the next time.”
Aditi has over the years worked with ace filmmakers like Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sudhir Mishra. Calling herself lucky, she gushed that it is exciting to live up to their expectations. “If I’m not challenged every day, if I’m not biting my nails before I go on the set, I feel like I’m not doing enough,” she said.
For Aditi, working with Mani Ratnam was however, more than a dream come true. She revealed she entered movies with the desire to work with him one day. “I wanted to be a Mani Ratnam heroine, and that’s what made me want to join the movies. But it was just a dream and I thought if I want to do this, I’ll have to be able to speak Tamil and be able to work in another language because that is Mani sir’s first language. But that thought was subconsciously there.”
“I moved to Bombay in around 2010-11 and started doing Hindi films. I was fumbling but somewhere my dream was very strong. And then ultimately I did get to work with Mani sir in 2016,” she said with a smile.
Aditi has so far worked with Mani Ratnam in two movies – Kaatru Veliyidai (2017) and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (2018). “It was reaffirming of what I always wanted to do when I got chosen for Kaatru Veliyidai. The kind of learning that I had there opened something in my understanding of how I want to work. I realised it’s so important to be authentic to who you are.”
Aditi’s turn as a mute girl who’s a Kathak dancer in Sufiyum Sujathayum, also received much praise. Having being trained in dance since the age of five, Aditi said it was a great experience, also because she did long shots due no dialogues. Calling it a delicate love story, she said, “For the first time I was working in another language where I had the freedom to allow camera to just roll for very long shots. Generally, I mug my scenes and be prepared to do a full master in a language that I don’t know. But in Sufiyum Sujathayum, I literally used to come to set and be okay with the camera just rolling. There’s a scene where my grandmother passes away, which was shot in one take. It was very fulfilling.”
For Aditi, the experience of making the audience feel the emotions of a story can happen in any language. “So why limit yourself?” She asserts that if big directors see her as part of their vision, “I want to live up to that challenge.”
She agreed that when she entered the industry as an aspiring actor with no godfather, there were many people who out of concern, advised her about “a factory prototype of what is expected of you where you need to fit.” But she believes following that meant being unkind to her strengths.
“As we grow, we realise it’s so important to function from the place of authenticity, to understand who you are, and then push yourself into uncomfortable spaces. But for that you really need to be kind to yourself. That’s what keeps me excited, that childlike curiosity to keep learning and growing.”
Aditi is now awaiting the release of Tamil film, Hey Sinamika, alongside Dulquer Salmaan and Kajal Aggarwal. She said at this juncture in her career, she wants people “to look beyond just my appearance”. She wants them to love her more for her characters.