In Her Own League - Samantha Akkineni

She made the cut in 2010 and has had a glorious run ever since. Leading lady of Tollywood and Kollywood, Samantha Akkineni needs no introduction! Her angelic beauty and supreme talent have given tremendous success in her 10-year solid career spanning over 45 movies. She’s now all set to enter the OTT space with her upcoming web series and is extremely excited about it. To know about her, her life and work better, we caught up with the powerful and evocative actress over a Tete-a-tete.

Let’s talk about how The Family Man happened…
The advantages of working in the digital medium is that you don’t have to play stereotypical roles, while in the commercial space, it is difficult to please everyone. I’ve always wanted to do a web series to explore different roles and be able to take more risk, and The Family Man gave me that opportunity. The directors of the show, Raj and DK were looking for someone from the South, and when they spoke to me about it, they didn’t think I’d do something like this, but I was very excited. It was an unconditional character, and I plunged into it. In fact, we started shooting the second season before the first season was aired, and with it doing so well, the expectation is enormous.

You have a Tamil movie in the pipeline…
Yes, I’m looking forward to that. Kaathu Vaakula Rendu Kadhal is an absolute entertainer, and during its narration, I couldn’t stop laughing - that’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Apart from that, I had been waiting for an opportunity to work with Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara. They are two brilliant actors with a phenomenal body of work. So all together it was an exciting package. 

You’re known for your selection of films. What is that one thing that makes you say yes to a script?
I intend to do something different from what I’ve played in the past. I guess somewhere deep down; I also get bored doing the same thing. So to keep it entertaining for me and the audience, it’s important to choose roles that aren’t the same. And, thankfully, that’s what’s worked for me. 

Another factor is to pick a script as an audience and not being greedy about what you want to do. You have to keep in mind if they’d want to see it, too.  

This year marks your decade in the industry. How would you summarise the journey?
I am extremely grateful for how my career has shaped up. We’ve all had a disastrous 2020, and this year has given us time to think. In introspection, I am very grateful for these magical ten years. Looking back, I don’t have an ounce of regret or anxiety about not doing something. I’m quite content in that aspect, on how hard I’ve been working in the years. 

How different is the industry now compared to when you began your career?
It is huge now! There’s a lot more exposure. We have a lot of influence from international cinema, everyone has their own subscription to Netflix, resulting in the tremendously increasing standards. This has caused people to do better - in terms of the quality of output and performances. Back in 2010 the performances and stories were mediocre, the quality was average, but now everyone is upping their game.

On a different note, how have the last few months been? 
As I said, I have been working every day since the past ten years, being at home for days on end - I had thought that I’d go crazy. I had been living out of a suitcase for all these years, and hence assumed that being locked up, I’d break down quite often. But surprisingly, that day didn’t come. I was waiting to have some level of anxiety with the amount of uncertainty there is, but nothing of that sort happened. 

Instead, this has been a self-awareness phase where I found time to think about what I like doing. I found a hobby! Earlier, when asked about my hobby, I’d say it was acting - and they’d correct me saying that was my profession! I’d be stumped and wondered what my hobby was, but I couldn’t help it as I didn’t have time for anything. But now, with this time at home, I’ve found out so much about myself. I understand I like being home, spending time at home. Even though this phase hasn’t been good for the world - it’s done me a lot of good. 

Has the quarantine time brought any changes in your mental space? 
I’ve always been a very anxious person. I think I built up anxiety to push me. This industry has high levels of competition where everything you do is judged - and all this comes with stress. So, to push yourself every day, you need something to push you. And for me, I built that up as anxiety and fear. When the world hit pause, I paused, and I needed that. It feels so refreshing not to have that stress of it all. I know the world’s going through its share of stress, but this phase has worked in the other way around for me. 

Talking about your hobby! You love gardening, how did you discover your passion for it?
I remember the day the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, Chay and I suddenly realised that we were not equipped for so many months. Until then, the house had seen us walk in and walk out. We needed to suddenly run to the provision store to get things we weren’t sure we’d consume. All the fancy shoes and clothes weren’t required; life suddenly was all about food and our loved ones being safe. The thought of not being able to get food easily shook me up. It was then I realised I’d not want to ever put my family in that place where we won’t have food, and the thought of growing it myself occurred to me. I started the terrace garden, which made us self-sufficient. Life suddenly got very unpredictable, and I created the solution to my problem on my terrace. Now, gardening to me is therapeutic. 

We notice you have a lot of yoga content on your social media, too. Were you always practising?
No. Yoga is also a new addition in life. During the lockdown, Chay and I realised we had enough extra time and hence wanted to find something to do together. We were hanging out together and watching things, too, but needed something more than that. After many years of being together, it’s nice to find something to do with your partner - and yoga was the answer. Now, the two of us enjoy it… We’re very competitive! 

What else has kept you busy?
Apart from the usual Zoom calls, binge-watching, cooking, there’s been my dog Hash, who’s kept me thoroughly entertained. 

Your social media shows that you have been cooking quite a bit… 
Oh, yes. It is interesting to see how the food we eat can affect your body. I can see a change in my skin and hair. I’ve recently understood what food could do - it’s not just about the taste anymore. 

Was it tough?
It’s surprising, but it wasn’t difficult. Chay was also shocked. Having said that, the recipes are simple - healthy food isn’t difficult to cook, is it? But yes, I’ve taken it well… it took me 33 years to try (laughs), but I think I have a knack for it. 

What were the last three shows you
binge-watched were?

Mad Men! I can’t believe I finally had time for it, so I’ve finished it. Apart from that, Medici and Mindhunter.      --- as told to Anahita