Though she’s related to a Bollywood superstar (Priyanka Chopra), Mannara has made a name for herself purely on merit. She debuted in 2014 with the Telugu film Prema Geema Jantha Nai, and then went on to do three other films – one in Bollywood and two others in Tollywood. Her latest film, Rogue, is currently running successfully in theatres. In a candid conversation, she talks to us about working with one of Tollywood’s greatest directors – Puri Jagannadh, and much more.
Your latest film, Rogue, hit the theatres recently. What’s been the public reaction to the movie so far?
The reaction has been great, much better than what I expected. Apart from myself, the film features mostly newcomers; nonetheless we’ve received a great response. I even went to some local theatres to watch the reaction of the mass audience, and everyone was going absolutely gaga over the film. And although there are other films with huge star casts that released around the same time, our advantage was that it was a Puri Jagannadh movie. He can be called the Karan Johar of Tollywood. I feel blessed to have worked with him. The film is running successfully in theatres, so please do go watch it!
What’s it like to work with Puri Jagannadh?
It was a whole different experience. To be honest, I met him up in the air – on a flight – when I was returning to Mumbai from Hyderabad after an award show. And he was sitting next to me. I was so mesmerised and shy that I couldn’t even talk to him until we landed. And before I could introduce myself to him, he took my name. We exchanged numbers and after a couple of months when I was in Hyderabad, I auditioned for one of his films. But I never heard back from him, until a few months later when I was asked to give another audition – this time for the lead role. He was very happy with my performance so he offered me the lead role for Rogue.
From your first Tollywood outing to the third, how has the transition been?
It’s been a huge transition. I’ve done three films in one year, and although I was getting more offers I didn’t take them up. I’m soon going to sign more films in the south as well as Bollywood.
What projects do you have lined up?
I’ll be starting to read scripts soon. I’m looking for something challenging. I started with a thriller and then worked in a comedy film, and now I’m playing the role of a singer in Rogue. I want to do something different and continue to experiment while I still can. I don’t want to be a cute, bubbly girl all the time; I want to play variations.
What about other film industries?
Rogue is a bilingual film. It was released in Kannada and Telugu simultaneously, and will soon be releasing in Tamil too. So if you look at it, I’m actually debuting in two other industries with this film.
What’s your personal style like?
My style is very minimalistic. I prefer to go with a no-makeup look. I want people to actually recognise me whether or not I have makeup on. I like wearing flowy clothes, and my current favourite for the summer is anything in white.
What are you most comfortable wearing?
My all-time favourite is sports shoes, denims, and a white ganji.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
I like the typical Indian food because I stay on my own in Mumbai while my family lives in Delhi. And I travel abroad very often, so I don’t get to eat Indian food much. I always crave my mom’s homemade food.
How did you first get into films?
My cousin-sister, Priyanka Chopra, is a big movie star, and she’s always been my inspiration. Right from my childhood I’ve been interested in creative arts like painting, extra-curricular activities, singing, skating, basketball, etc. I’ve always been inclined towards the creative field, and this industry gives you a complete package. That’s how I decided to get into the film industry.
Who’s your biggest inspiration?
Priyanka Chopra…every girl in today’s generation is inspired by her. I’m a fan girl like the others. In fact, often girls come to me and give me letters to give to Priyanka (laughs).
Would you like to follow her footsteps and branch out into Hollywood?
Of course, I’d love to work in all kinds of industries. My first assignment was in China, where I sang in front of a large audience. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself.
--- as told to Niharika