When Pawan Kumar’s Kannada thriller U Turn made a splash in the theatres a few years ago, the world stood up and took notice of a pathbreaking filmmaker and the equally capable lead actor who showed no nerves, was a gritty performer who could don an on-screen persona with a relative effortlessness in her very first film. Shraddha Srinath had clearly arrived and how! While some were reminded of another Nithya Menen in the making, her distinctness as a performer was rather apparent film after film, language after language. A series of impressive performances and clever script choices later arrives Krishna and his Leela, her very first OTT release across Aha and Netlfix, where she steps into the shoes of Sathya, an urban-bred girl who has a voice of her own. LetsOTT.com catches up with the actor…
Is it good to be in the news for a movie and back in the thick of things after a lull? The meetings, the media rigmarole seems to have rejuvenated you…
It was very unexpected (the film release). Ravikanth (Perepu) had hinted that the movie would most probably be releasing on OTT and many weeks later, confirmed that in a Whatsapp group that our (Krishna and his Leela) team was a part of. He added it would release on the 25th and Seerat (Kapoor) presumed it was July 25 and was excited for the time we’d get to promote it. We had to be alerted that it was June 25 and there were only three days left for the release. It happened in the very last minute and took us all by surprise. I never thought that a movie of mine would be releasing on OTT and I would be sitting at home with my laptop and promoting it. It was great in many ways. I had lost touch with my profession and it’s good to be back in action in some form.
Krishna and his Leela was the first Telugu film that you had signed many years ago. How has your outlook of Sathya changed over time?
To be honest, I still look at Sathya the same way. I think she is a well-written character and felt that a boy would be very lucky to get a girl like Sathya. She is a lovely girl whom I aspire to be and I see a lot of myself in her too. When I look back at my performance, I wonder if I would have done something differently, given the experience I have as an actor now. Back then, I was very new to the industry, be it performance or even styling. Would I have tackled a few things differently? Perhaps yes. Thankfully, the movie and the character are getting rave reviews. I am really happy that it is receiving great feedback and I wouldn’t want to think much about it now.
Photo Credit: Rohit Sabu
If you were to pitch a role like Sathya to another actor and describe her, how would you do it?
I guess Sathya is not all about love and relationships. She values her space and her partner’s space equally, especially when they get together for the second time. That’s what people look for and a few even lacks in their relationships. She likes the fact that Krishna isn’t as clingy as he used to be in the past, there’s unspoken freedom that the couple has in their relationship. They are together, but they are two different entities.
Like Sathya and Krishna in the film, do you feel is it possible to strike a rapport with an ex minus the awkwardness?
I feel it depends on the person. If your heart has been broken and your ex wants to be friends with you a few years later, it may still be awkward. If you haven’t moved on from your past yet, it’s sad. It’s wonderful if you have moved on and you’re better off than before. I wish everybody gets that closure and realisation that, ‘It all happened in the past and I’m beyond it now’. It’s still great if you can reconnect with your exes and laugh about it. It’s like looking back at our younger pictures and laughing about our fashion sense. Your exes are your past and you may have made mistakes, it’s good if you can accept that.
What do you think would have happened between the phase where Krishna opens up that he’s in love with two women at the same time and your subsequent marriage?
Krishna is two-timing when he clearly announces that he’s in love with two women at the same time. I feel Sathya couldn’t have dealt with a man who’s asking these questions. Though she may have appreciated the guy’s honesty, it’s very well possible that she finds the idea ridiculous because she’s at the receiving end of the two-timing. It’s a phase where she probably realises stability is not a bad thing to have and ends up marrying the right man. I guess like us, characters too mature over time. Krishna may have come to terms with the fact that being in a relationship with multiple women may not be practical after all. He would love to have it the way he wanted to but in a parallel universe.
Photo Credit: Rohit Sabu
We heard you wrote notes about the various facets of Sathya on sets. Is this a common practice with every character you play?
I do it for special characters, those roles that require extra thought. Sometimes we just go and play something, do whatever is appropriate for it that moment and return. However, Sathya was more poetic that you wish to write her facets down on paper to understand her better. I did it for Vikram Vedha as well when I played Priya. It works like a journal that I’m feeling about a particular character and makes for great memories when you look back at it later. I don’t know if it helps, but I like to write occasionally and document my feelings about them.
Do you read them every day before you step out for your shoot?
I make the effort to read it when the shoot commences i.e. the first day and grab as much as I can about it. In the later days, I do a quick, five-minute meditation and try and repeat whatever I’ve written. I didn’t do it in the past but of late, I talk to myself. It’s something like an affirmation where you tell yourself that you’re grateful for everything. I felt like repeating to myself about my character and that ‘I’m going to do great today’. I try to talk to myself, in a trance mode of sorts and get on with the day.
Photo Credit: Arjun Kamath
Given a choice, which other would you have liked to play in Krishna and his Leela?
I think I would love to do a female version of Krishna. I don’t think the day would be too far when we make films with such a female protagonist. I love Sathya, but I would like to do a Krishna too. The other two female characters are great too, though my heart lies with Krishna.
The very idea of releasing the film on two major streaming platforms like Aha and Netflix proved to be a distinct advantage…
We all know that Netflix is a premium streaming platform. I remember when I posted on my social media about Krishna and his Leela’s release on Netflix, I got a lot of DMs asking for my username and password as a joke. I don’t know how many people have a Netflix account, but it’s definitely expensive and there may be users who don’t want to pay that much. Aha, on the other hand, has a specific target audience, streams only Telugu films. It’s a lot more economical and trying to encourage a new trend of OTT watching. It’s like a sign of things to come and a reminder theatres aren’t our only source of entertainment. The release on multiple platforms has helped us cover all bases. No one can tell us that we didn’t have the reach or that it would have been ideal to have released in the theatres. This is anything but a limited release. It was a wonderful move by producers and it couldn’t have been planned any better!
Did the openness with which the film was received surprise you? The reception was nearly unanimous…
I always had a lot of hope for this film, but the massive response is a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. Maybe if there was no COVID-19 or no lockdown, I am not sure how successful we would’ve been. We’re at this phase when everyone is looking forward to consuming new content. The success is equally about the film’s relatability as much as its timing.
And it looks like it did change your perception about OTT platforms…
Certainly and I am more excited now for OTT than before. We live in an industry that’ll be quick to judge if a mainstream heroine opts to do a web series and there would be a perception that she may not have been getting enough work in films. It’s as if her value is immediately lowered when she enters the webspace. A movie that’s universal in its treatment, as well packaged and technically sound as Krishna and his Leela, one that has good performances and someone like Rana Daggubati spearheading it and making all the deals, made all the difference to the perception about OTT content. It’s a film you can place on a global platform and those are the projects I would love to be exploring. OTT is a good space to be in, you can leave no stone unturned and be extra expressive. I would love to do more of it. I feel like the apprehension surrounding an actor’s entry into the webspace is slowly disappearing.
The film also did well to shed the notion that you were fit only for serious roles…
I’m so glad you pointed this out. I and my manager were joking about the number of serious films I’ve been getting. It was only yesterday that we were wondering why I was always getting the serious, emotional roles. I love rom-coms, both as an actor and an audience. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I feel I can really kill it in this space when I’m offered a meaty part. I relate to these characters and they come very naturally to me. If people have realised that I could pull off the lighter vein films well too, that’s a big achievement for me.