Between Action And Cut With Aditi Rao Hydari
She walks into the suburban studio 15 minutes before the appointed call time — and our Verve team, being used to stars arriving fashionably late, is pleasantly surprised to see her saunter in, dressed casually in jeans and a black tee. Greeting the photographer and stylist and after giving her outfits for the shoot a dekko, Aditi Rao Hydari heads to the make-up room to get ready to preen and pose for the Verve cover – a third time for her.
The last few days have been hectic; she has constantly been travelling, she tells me, and is severely under-rested. “But the moment the camera comes on, I forget everything. The time between ‘action’ and ‘cut’ is a magical space,” she says. And you can see this the minute she steps into the frame — posing for the camera is like second nature to her.
As we sit down for a chat after the shoot is over, Aditi relaxes, her tiredness at the end of the day is eminently visible, but the minute we start talking shop, her eyes light up and all fatigue is forgotten. Padmaavat — where she plays wife to Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji — is up for release the week after our shoot, delayed by controversies plaguing it since its making. I wonder what’s going on in her mind now. “I find it so amazing that for directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali — despite the kind of violence they face – passion surpasses everything else. Nothing can keep them away from what they want to do; I find that inspiring. It’s unfortunate that they are treated like this and I wish it didn’t happen. I’m happy that Padmaavat is finally releasing, it’s a film that people have been dying to watch. For film-makers, the intention behind telling the story is so important, and with people like Sanjay sir, you can’t and mustn’t doubt their intentions.”
Ask her about the experience of working on a movie with Bhansali, and her excitement while talking about the much-acclaimed director almost borders on reverence. “I’ve always wanted to work with him — since I joined the industry it was my dream to work with people like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mani (Ratnam) sir and Vishal Bharadwaj — of course now the list is longer. I had just finished shooting with Mani sir when I got the call from Sanjay sir. It felt really special. The way he writes and shows women in his films is incredible. I have a long cameo, and it’s a beautiful role. With people like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, you don’t think of a role as a title role or a cameo, because every single person in the film is important to the story. The kind of love and respect he has for his female characters is amazing. His passion and intention are clear in each and every frame. I think India as a country should be proud of him, and give him the platform and freedom to make the films he wants to make.”
Talking about making movies, Aditi’s journey in the industry has been quite unconventional — whether in the films she has picked or in her choice of roles. From playing Sonam Kapoor’s bua in Dilli 6 (2009) or the feisty journalist in Rockstar (2011), the strongheaded girlfriend in Murder 3 (2011) or the rape victim in Bhoomi (2017), Aditi managed to make a mark with each of her roles. “The way you look is sometimes how you get slotted, and maybe because I have a conventional, light-skinned face, there is the chance of being bracketed as the slim, sweet girl…. But I don’t like to be boxed into certain roles. I’m an actor, and between action and cut, I can be anybody and do anything. I don’t think choosing unconventional roles or movies has been a conscious decision, I didn’t start out with that kind of backing to have said ‘Today I want to do this’ or ‘Today you write this role for me’. Somehow, instinctively or subconsciously I’ve always picked movies that allow me to be different, those that challenge me. The struggle is not about getting work — there’s enough and more available — it’s to constantly push boundaries and work with people who inspire you. I always consider myself blessed that I’ve been able to work with a lot of amazing people. I’ve never shied away from doing a cameo, even though I’ve gotten many opportunities to play the protagonist. With a great film-maker, it’s fine to do a cameo as you get the experience and can explore something that’s special. If Jennifer Lawrence can do it in Hollywood, then it should be fine in this industry too. Today I can be the protagonist of a film and tomorrow I can do a 10-scene part; and it’s fine. It’s about my talent, and not an image you want to lock me into. It just needs to be about doing your job well.”
For Aditi — who’s currently busy reading three scripts, in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu respectively — it’s the magic of the film world that serves as constant inspiration, and it is the reason she joined the industry in the first place. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always had this love for magic, which transports you to another world. I think cinema does that. I love the fame, I love the love — as an actor, the kind of love you get is beyond anything you can imagine — and I think it outweighs the crap you have to deal with. I also really enjoy the fact that there’s timelessness to cinema, that it lives beyond your years.”
Coming to literal journeys, Aditi tells us that she’s more of a “chilled traveller”, not one to go hiking or dive into adventurous activities (although going skydiving is on her bucket list). But sitting in a hotel room or spa and not doing much else isn’t her idea of vacationing either. “I sleep very little when I’m travelling, because I like to utilise every second of my time. I love different cultures and people. I love London and I like Cape Town; it has everything — mountains, lakes, animals, great food. And Canada is fantastic too.”
When she has to de-stress after a bad day, facing the camera or dancing makes her forget all her troubles. And what is the one thing she wishes to be remembered for, long after she’s gone? “I don’t know how to say this without sounding stupid,” she laughs, “but I think I’d just want to be remembered as a beautiful person. The word ‘beauty’ is very misunderstood; it’s usually about what’s on the exterior. I mean it in terms of talent, and being kind and generous. It’s like when people think of Audrey Hepburn — I want to be remembered the same way, as someone who’s talented but also large-hearted!”