Shriya made her acting debut in 2001 with the Telugu film ‘Ishtam’, followed by ‘Santosham’ which earned her the first Filmfare Award for Best Actress. The extremely talented actress without restricting herself to any particular industry also starred in Tamil, Kannada and Hindi films. Her performance in Rajinikanth’s ‘Sivaji-The Boss’ was highly acclaimed, too. Here are the excerpts from the conversation.
As you juggle between work and personal life, what does the normal day look like?
I wake up early in the morning because Radha (her daughter) wakes up early. She is my alarm clock and then we go for a walk, come back and we have our breakfast. Then if I have to go for a shoot, I get ready and Radha will say, ‘Bye Bye’ and then it’s straight back home. When I don’t have to go to work, I practice Kathak, do yoga, go for a walk, run and play with Radha. Sometimes I trouble her and most of the time, she troubles me (chuckles).
Just a few weeks ago, you crossed a personal landmark, celebrating your 40th birthday. How have you managed to retain the good looks? Is it due to your fitness mantra?
For the longest time, fitness for me seemed to be about looking like other people. Even though I wanted to look hot, which I still want to, now I feel I am more confident and I want to look the best the way I am. I love yoga and dance. That keeps me happy and that is what I do.
You are a trained dancer but the audience has hardly seen you dancing or performing in films?
When will that side of your personality come to the fore on-screen?Yes, I am a Kathak dancer and it’s my dream to dance on the big screen. I really want to dance. I love Kathak and I have always been a dancer. My first teacher was my mom and then I learned to dance from Guru Shobana Narayan. Now I am learning from Nutan Patwardhan ji, who is from Mumbai.
You relocated to Mumbai in August 2021 along with your husband Andrei Koscheev and daughter Radha. How do you feel when you get back to work leaving your child at home?
It is very hard to do that and that guilt is always very prevalent in all mothers when they go out to work. I wasn’t fully aware of this feeling, but once I got a call while I was on the sets and the nanny from my house informed me that Radha had just spoken the word ‘mumma’. And I wasn’t home at that moment, so I ran home. But, when kids start speaking, one word may just come out once, and they will not repeat it again. Because for them it’s just a sound, something that they are learning. And I was sitting there, holding Radha but she didn’t say ‘mumma’ again. And I felt that I missed out on something.
The next morning, when I was leaving for work, I told myself that I will make it worth it. That I will work hard today and one day when Radha sees my films and watches me, she will feel proud of me. She will love my work and I will give my best today. Because if I am not at home and missing a beautiful moment then I want to go to work and give it my best. And I feel like that’s what I did. When I was on the sets I was at it and I wanted to do my best. I feel like, leaving her behind gave me the strength to work harder and she gives me the strength to be better at what I am doing.
That’s fascinating. Please continue.
It is really hard to leave her home. I try to spend as much time with Radha. When I am home I am with her. My parents really help me, they make sure that she is really fine. I have a lovely didi (nanny) who really loves Radha and I am blessed. Andrei is very helpful and supportive. We really try to be around Radha and she is a very special kid. She is beautiful and loving and she is kind and very naughty.
Your recent big hit Drishyam 2, and the franchise, has featured you playing a mother, too. How close was your character to your real self?
I am so not Nandini. I am the first person to wear shorts and T-shirts when I get out of my house. But I love wearing sarees, too. My mom was a chemistry teacher and she used to wear a saree to school every day. So many kids had a crush on her because she was very beautiful. It was literally like ‘Main Hoon Naa’ happening in school in real life. I learned how to wear a saree from my mom and look graceful in it, too.
What’s the best compliment that you have received from your husband Andrei?
When he saw ‘Drishyam 2’, he said he was very proud of me.
Andrei and you kicked up quite the storm with that kiss at the Drishyam 2 premiere. Does the trolling bother you much?
I don’t know. They (trolls) really don’t do that to me. They are really kind to me. When they write some stuff I feel very funny but in a way, most followers are very kind. I am blessed that nothing annoying has been written about me so far.
Do you discuss the trolling and comments with your husband?
If it’s funny, Andrei will read and we will laugh and discuss it with a cup of coffee but recently something really bad was written about him. They said, “Gore se kyun shaadi ki?” Andrei really got offended, he said that he is a human being first. I consoled him and told him, we laugh at the funny trolls, so we will have to deal with these ones as well and just let this go. From then, it’s almost become like a ritual that we both don’t read anything that is written about us. He doesn’t Google me and I don’t Google myself. We don’t read the comments unless they are written by our family and friends. Otherwise, we don’t read, we don’t care.
The success of Drishyam 2 has given the film industry renewed hope. Were you expecting it to become such a big hit, considering audience tastes have diverted towards OTT in a big way?
When one works hard, he or she wants the film to do really well. There was a good vibe on the sets of Drishyam 2. Everyone liked being on the sets and everyone enjoyed it. Nandini is a very complicated character to play. She has many layers but I really loved playing it. I am really enjoying that people are loving it on big screens. I hope people adore it more. And I hope people will keep watching it. I think ‘Drishyam’ is a movie that has great treatment. I love being Nandini. I love what Abhishek (Pathak, director) has done to it, the treatment he has given to the film is really great. It is also written very beautifully. So I really feel that the credit goes to the two writers, while as an actor, I really feel that I am blessed that people are loving my performance.
How was your first day on the sets with the same cast reprising their roles? It was the same set but with a new director. Did you miss the late director Nishant Kamat who directed ‘Drishyam’
On day one when we were shooting for the first shot and we were sitting across the table for the break-fast scene, suddenly I said, ‘Nishi sir’ and then I realised that he is not around. It was a tough feeling because he directed the first part beautifully. Our characters, Vijay Salgaonkar, Nandini, Anu, Anju, Mira and Gaitonde, are all so popular and everybody knows them. But wherever Nishi sir is, I know he is blessing us and giving us all his good vibes. Abhishek has wonderfully filled his shoes. He has done a great job and he absolutely knows what he wants. He is a great director to work with, very patient, and very calm and it was lovely to collaborate with him.
How was the experience of working with Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna?
Ajay sir is a very intense actor. He gives so much to his co-actor to work with. His voice is so beautiful. You hear his voice and you know it’s Vijay Salgaonkar. He speaks with his eyes and they are very intense. He is very collected, and calm in what he is doing. He is just an amazing co-star to work with and it’s always a pleasure to collaborate with him. I had worked with Akshaye Khanna before. He has a very different way of approaching the character. The scene where he enters the house and where Nandini feels everything is over is very intense and well-written. I think that’s the scene where all her emotions come out. That scene shows how suffocated she is and that she is unable to say anything to anyone. I really loved doing that scene with Akshaye.
You had another huge hut recently, SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR‘. A lot of fans thought there were similarities between your characters and their relationships in both films
I don’t know. When SS Rajamouli called me and said they are doing a film, all I knew was that Ajay sir was going to be part of the film but I had no idea about what exactly his role would be. I love Rajamouli sir’s films and his work. I have said this before and I will say it again, I will do any role, small or big, it really doesn’t matter. It is just that the impact he’s able to create and the way he shoots is so beautiful. I am so happy that I did ‘RRR’.