Worth The Weight

An eleven-year-old girl who aspired to be an actress one day has made that dream come true by winning the Miss AP 2010 pageant, which helped pave her way into the glam industry. Nandini Rai tells You & I about how she went from college student to film personality.
Tell us how you got into modelling.
Becoming Miss AP really helped me get into the profession. I got many offers after I won the pageant. My first ad shoot was with Rajeev Menon, and then I got an opportunity to work with Nagarjuna for Kalyan Jewellers. I have modelled for about 30 ads so far, and through these I was able to bag my first Tollywood film.
How long has getting into this field been on your mind?
When I was in my seventh grade, I was fortunate to work with actress Soundarya for an ad, and I was enthralled by her charisma. People were mobbing her to get a glimpse of her and take her autograph, and many bouncers surrounded her to protect her from the crowd. That stuck in my head, and since then I’ve dreamt of “lights, roll camera and action”.
You’ve acted in many languages. In your opinion, which industry is the best to work with?
Honestly, being a Hyderabadi I’m more comfortable in Tollywood because I know most of the people here and I’m close to home. And I’m very fluent in Telugu compared to other South Indian languages, which makes it easier for me to work with the Telugu industry.
What was your experience like when you worked for the Bollywood film, Login?
I did not work much in Bollywood. I just did one film a long time back when I was in the final year of college. And frankly, I didn’t really feel like I was working for a Hindi film, because the director and the crew were a Telugu-speaking lot.

How different did you find the Telugu industry from Tamil?
In my view, they are very different. Now that I’ve worked in both, I realise that Tollywood is more about glamour and being skinny, whereas the stress in the Tamil industry is on being more natural and very realistic. I had a tough time shooting for my Tamil film, Grahanam, because I had to be trained in acting and learn the language and the dialogue delivery within three months. I was also asked to put on 8 to 9 kilos for the film. I had a complete makeover for the movie.
How did you manage to put on so much weight? And what is your take on putting on and losing weight in a short period of time?
Honestly, it is difficult to lose weight. But putting on weight is like going to a feast; you can eat whatever you want without restrictions and, moreover, you are getting paid for putting on these extra pounds (laughs). But on a serious note, drastic weight loss and gain is not good for the body – it goes for a toss, but we actors and actresses have no choice but to shape ourselves according to the description of the character.
What are your plans for this Sankranti?
I always prefer to celebrate Sankranti with family. My mom makes amazing sweet dishes, and my brother is one of the best at kite flying. I’m not good at it, so I always stand behind him holding the manja. All my relatives and cousins gather for this festival.
Who is your favourite actor?
I’m a huge fan of Rajinikanth and I literally worship him. Though I got an opportunity to meet him when I was working for Grahanam in Chennai,
I couldn’t take a picture with him.
If you ever wanted to spread a rumour about yourself what would it be?
(Laughs) Well, maybe that I’m dating Akshay Kumar.    

--- as told to Sneha