Steps to Success - Aditi Rao Hydari

Having begun her career in filmdom with a cameo in a Malayalam film, it was her dancing skills that first got Aditi noticed. An actress by profession, Aditi belong to two royal lineages, that of Muhammad Saleh Akbar Hydari and J. Rameshwar Rao of erstwhile Raja of Wanaparthy family. With dreams of working with top Bollywood directors, she moved to Mumbai, determined to conquer the industry. The result has been nothing less than expected!  

After starting off in the South, you moved into mainstream Bollywood cinema. Was the transformation rough or smooth?
I always wanted to do films in this industry because I know the language and I’m well-connected with the ethos of the Hindi film industry. I started with the South Indian industry because of my connections with dance. I had been a dancer since I was five, and the director needed a dancer for his film. It was a double role in a really good film. In fact, it went on to win the National Award too. I think that was what attracted me to play the part, plus Saroj ji was choreographing it. But otherwise, I had no intentions of staying in the south and continuing to do films there.

I wanted to work in Mumbai, but I never knew how it would happen, since I had no connection with the movie world. There are thousands of people who come to Mumbai, trying to make a mark. So I hoped and prayed that I would somehow be able to do it. But I didn’t know how... I seriously believe in what Shah Rukh Khan says,  that, “aap agar kuch sachche dil se mango toh aapko who mil jaata hai”. That’s exactly what happened with me.

And now you’re working with all the top directors.
I always had this thing in my mind that I want to work with good people on good projects. I wanted to do things that I believe in, and these are the filmmakers whom anybody would give an arm and a leg to work with. For me, they are all wonderful filmmakers. Even though I had smaller parts in their films, I have shined with my acting credibility. From what I have seen, if you really work hard and with honesty, people notice your efforts and appreciate you. Obviously, I would have loved a big launch, but then everyone has their own unique journey. I had mine; I started in a very unique manner, and maybe that’s what got people to notice me.

There’s an inherent amount of substance in the roles you pick. Has that been a conscious move?
Obviously! I am not here to be a showpiece. I cannot do justice to a role which needs me only for the dancing. I will never even take up a role like that. Because of my repertoire, I think the directors also know that I am averse to such kind of cinema, so they don’t approach me with roles like that. It’s great in a way. People say I have the sensibilities that Tabu had at this stage of her career. I take that as a compliment, because to me, Tabu will always be the epitome of dignity and stand-alone powerhouse performances.

So no masala films for you?
I am not averse to masala movies. I did Boss, which was a complete masala potboiler. But you need to understand what I mean: I want a substantial role. And it’s sad, but in today’s day and age, although people are crying hoarse for women-centric films, they make up only about 2% of all the films that are released. How many films like that are made compared to the usual Bollywood films, where the sole protagonist is a man? Very few! I am open to working with the biggest superstars, too, but they also need to compromise on their role, and my role needs to be at least impactful.

Is there any character portrayed by a contemporary actress that you wish you had done?
I guess it would be Kareena’s role in Jab We Met, Rani Mukherji’s role in Yuva, or Vidya’s in Parineeta and Kahaani.

How about a director that you are craving to work with?
Oh my god, there are so many! I want to work with Aditya Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj, Sudhir Mishra, Karan Johar, and the list goes on! I want a mix of the best because I don’t want to be put into a box. I want to do good work, which comes in different shades.

What do you feel are the essential characteristics for an actor?
Being able to express yourself to your audience is the most essential ability that any actor should have. And to achieve that, one must work really hard. Glamour is also synonymous with the industry, so there has to be a hint of that in order to strike a chord with the masses.

What are some of the qualities that separate you from your contemporaries?
I think I accept who I am and I build on that positively. Plus I have an old world feel to me, yet I am contemporary in my own way.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received so far?
Bhatt saab called me the 21st century Nutan. That was the best compliment I’ve received from anyone.