Shruti Hassan Opens Up On International Movie Debut, OTTs And More
Shruti Haasan Discusses International Movie Debut, OTTs, Finding Purpose At Work And Off It

She sings, she had her own rock band, she worksacross Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu-language cinema,and now, she is all set to go international. What fuels Shruti Haasan’s passion?The actor bares it all

Shruti Haasan has owned a piece of my heart ever since I watched Nikhil Advani’s 2013 film D-Day. It was a brief appearance in a movie that boasted powerhouse performers like Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, but her scar-faced fragile beauty, her piercing silence, and those haunting eyes lend the poignancy required to play Suraiya. Her understated performance made the character stand out. Underrated, understated, she has been a jack of many trades, multi-lingually gaining fans across cinema landscapes, not to mention her passion for music and her singing, which, she says, is her priority.


And now, Shruti Haasan is all set to make her international movie debut. The actor, who had already played the recurring character of Nira Patel, an assassin, in the American television series Treadstone, is
still tight-lipped about this new project. “I can’t currently speak about it much. But I am really excited. This is my second international project. I have studied outside India, I have done gigs around London; I think with technology, the borders are fading,” she tells me over a phone call. But her next release is a song. “The song is a collaborative effort, and it is the first video under my production house, so I am excited,” says the singer-songwriter, who also used to have her own alternative rock band, The Extramentals, had put out her first original song video, Edge, during the lockdown.


Being the daughter of National Award-winning actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika Thakur, acting was always in her genes. But she is also a bonafide singer.



A still from Treadstone


“Music, for me, is a career, it is work. It is not like yoga or meditation that helps me destress. It is another artistic form of expression,” says the singer-songwriter. In fact, Haasan had actually started her career as a playback singer in the Tamil film Thevar Magan. She was just six years old then. Haasan later impressed the country with her vocal skills when she sang Chupadi Chupadi Chaachi for the 1998 film, Chachi 420, and then the Rama Rama song in the 2000 film, Hey Ram.


Haasan had taken a short hiatus from her acting career, between 2016 and 2017, to redirect her focus to her music. For Haasan, who has been working non-stop since her debut, this one-and-a-half-year break was a much-needed one. Calling it one of the best decisions of her life, she explains: “I was working non-stop without a break and I needed to recalibrate. I wanted to reassess the things I was doing, and how I was doing then, and refocus on my music.


“I went to the UK, and set myself up there for a while. I was writing music and working with music producers trying to explore my sound. I was also performing; I did multiple shows in and around London. So, it was essentially a break from acting,” she says. However, it wasn’t easy to hit the pause button on her acting career. “Yes, at the back of your mind you are always thinking if a hiatus would adversely affect your career, but to not be able to reinvent is a sure shot way to fade out. I also needed a break because I was feeling burnt out,” she says.


Making a career in music has its own set of challenges. “I write in English and it is alternative music, so it is not easy. But I am not looking for ‘easy’ either. In fact, I don’t see things from the perspective of ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’. Today, though, with social media and streaming platforms, you have more avenues to put out different kinds of independent music,” she adds.



Haasan with Sarika Thakur on the sets of Hey Ram


Completing 13 years in Bollywood (although she had a cameo in Hey Ram as a child artiste, her first film as a lead actor was Soham Shah’s 2009 crime thriller, Luck), Shruti Haasan made her full-blown OTT debut earlier this year with the Amazon Prime Video original, Bestseller. The psychological thriller/revenge drama, based on Ravi Subramaniam’s book The Bestseller She Wrote, saw her showcase her range and prove her mettle as an actor as she slipped into the character of Meetu Mathur.


About the emergence of the OTTs, the actor says: “Yes, technological advances have helped but beyond technology, it is about the stories — human stories need to be told in a human way. Technology is helping in making these stories accessible to a global audience.”



A still from Bestseller


According to her, the rise of pan-Indian cinema due to the OTTs is not a random isolated event, but rather a process. OTT platforms have worked as a catalyst. “I just find it fascinating that in a country as multilingual and multicultural as ours, it took this long. I am a product of a home where my mom is from Bombay and my dad is from Chennai. As much as you want to split it up, I don’t see the North-South divide. Even eight to 10 years back people would say that South cinema is different from Bollywood, the audiences are different for both. I never believed that then, and I don’t believe it now. There are no static formulae in cinema.”



A still from Ramaiya Vastavaiya


“Since the very beginning, I have been working in multilingual films. Almost all of my Tamil and Telugu films have been dubbed in Hindi and would be shown on various television channels. There was an
audience for these dubbed movies. People would have seen a Ramaiya Vastavaiya or a D-Day but a majority of them would have also watched these dubbed movies and knew those characters as well. There was always that love for these movies. What has happened with the OTT platforms is that now they can choose which movies they want to watch. Baahubali played a huge role in breaking the doors. Its huge success proved the commercial prospects and the finances for these films improved,” says the actor, who has a slew of projects lined up back home as well, including Salaar opposite Prabhas, Chiru 154 opposite superstar Chiranjeevi, and NBK 107 with Balakrishna.



A still from D-Day


Asked about the recent dominance of South cinema, she points out, “I can’t compare the South movies with Bollywood. But what I have seen from my experience is that down South, there is a huge connection to the soul of the story. The filmmakers are very aware of their strength in storytelling and stick to that as authentically as possible irrespective of the commercial aspect. But there are great works happening in Bollywood as well.”


“It is the same with any form of art, be it cinema or music or writing, the more you are able to tune out the outside noise and find your own frequency, the more your work will resonate with people,” she concludes.


(Featured Image: Shruti Hassan)

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