As Poojai, her 20th film, releases this Diwali, the fiesty singer-actor Shruti Haasan shares her core beliefs, her love for heavy metal, and how she lives life on her terms. By Rosella Stephen
Diwali usually calls for some family bonding with her mother Sarika and sister, Akshara. This time however, given the heady pace at which she has been working, and the Diwali release, Poojai, Shruti Haasan might have to settle for a spot of meditation wherever she is. “I am the most restless person,” begins the singer-actress who has completed 20 films till date. “Perhaps I should take some tips from Dimple (Kapadia), for she knows how to enjoy her work and her life.” The actor, 28, met Kapadia on the sets of Anees Bazmi’s Welcome Back and has struck up a strong friendship with her. “I am a people’s person,” she continues with an easy familiarity, reminiscent of her recent interview with lyricist and dialogue writer Niranjan Iyengar on his new show, Look Who’s Talking. On the show, Shruti went on to discuss everything from her “new age” Mylapore maami status to her weakness for sambar rice, her relationships and her nose job. The actress’ refreshing candour isn’t limited to just Iyengar, whom she has known for years. “I divide my life into private, personal and work. I don’t mind sharing personal details with my fans,” she reasons, before adding that advice — both giving and taking it — is not her forte. “One person’s advice never works for someone else,” is her pithy argument.
No stops, please
Recalling how she has found success in the Telugu industry and her intense roles in the Tamil Dhanush-starrer 3 as well as the Hindi D-Day, Shruti says she wants to do a musical, an action movie and “a mind-bending thriller.” For the moment, though, she has Mahesh Babu’s and Vijay’s next, Yaara with Irrfan Khan, Rocky Handsome with John Abraham and Gabbar with Akshay Kumar. “I want to meet as many writers and directors who have the courage to put me through my paces,” she shares. “My journey has been unique. I should be a little chapter in film textbooks, about how you don’t get a silver spoon everywhere you go despite having famous parents. I had a rough start in the industry, but with blessings and opportunities, I am here today,” continues the woman who admits to taking each day as it comes. Raised by her parents — actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika — to decide on what is ethical, she is answerable only to herself.
On the home front
“Both my parents are distinct,” says Shruti, who appreciates her father’s comprehensive work and her mother’s spontaneity. “I am not a trained actor. I don’t know the ‘A’ of acting and so try to go to as honest a place as possible when I am emoting,” adds the actor, confessing that she did not consider herself good looking enough for films. “Then music came and slapped me in the face, after which the acting career came and pleaded, ‘Love me, instead!’” Shruti’s dramatic statements notwithstanding, she seems to find the time for both. “I am a singer who acts, not the other way round. But this is my time to experiment with acting. I do a lot of playback too. As for an album, I see it happening, but I cannot wake up one day and say, ‘let’s make a video.’ In the 90s, artistes had a story to share in their songs and videos. I prefer that,” she declares.
“We artistes don’t survive, we flourish,” admits the young actress who is grateful for her father’s ‘rebel artiste’ tag as it gave her the freedom to experiment. Her scenes in last year’s Telugu hit, Balupu, many with the comedian Brahmanandam, indicate that the actress has a flair for comedy. “Some of the funny genes must have passed down from my dad, though I have not yet worked with him. The time will come. For now, it can’t be a family package, like ‘buy one chewing gum, get one free!’” An insomniac, she writes poems, songs and stories at night. “My father used to insist that I write something every day. I also read when I can, and currently it is Carlos Castaneda,” she reveals. Like many actors her age, Shruti is aware of the power of social media and tweets regularly. “It helps me connect with my fans, get to know the pulse of the audience, and to promote my films. Fortunately, I only meet people with love most of the time,” she observes. Talking about love, the actor confesses that there is no space for a man in her life right now. In the past, she had admitted to an attraction to “psycho achievers.” She has been linked to her 3 co-star Dhanush in the past and had called him “an important friend… and a comprehensive artiste.” There have been reports of other relationships as well but Shruti means it when she says, “I’ve never bothered much about what people say.”
Given that Akshara has turned actor too, with the Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush starrer, Shamitabh, conversations at the table are likely to centre around movies. “But isn’t that like most Indian families?” questions Shruti. That said, she has been raised to think independently, and prefers to categorise her movies by genre rather than language. As for her long-lasting love for heavy metal, it continues. “I like Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah and the American Lamb of God. And System of a Down. I have always been a fan of Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy. And yes, I would spend millions of dollars to take a plane and meet Tori Amos than splurge on any fancy bag,” chuckles the actor who started out with a band at 16 and admitsthat her most peaceful moments were on the road, with her bandmates. Incidentally, she has said that her mother’s collection — Pink Floyd and David Bowie — got her hooked to music, but that her earliest memory is of her father singing to her.
Back to fit
Shruti is in fantastic shape today, and this she attributes to a balance of work and exercise. “You give up on the over-exercising and you get sexier. When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time in the gym, and wasn’t a very happy person,” she shares. She has come a long way from her LA days, when she self-admittedly resembled “a hamburger.” She is much happier now doing old-fashioned cardio and swimming.‘‘Dad was into fitness for as far back as I can remember. There was kalari and silambattam happening at home, and the muscle memory helps me now, I guess. That and the dancing in films. Nothing gives you a workout like a big fat item number or a koothu song!”
Happy state of mind
Focussed on herself at the moment, Shruti created a stir when she was quoted saying she “wanted a baby without marriage.” Setting the record straight, the actor says she loves children, but that is all. Marriage is inevitable, but a long way off. “I have gone swimming with sharks, got myself five tattoos and someday will jump off buildings. But nothing is as crazy, dangerous and exhilarating as falling in love. Perhaps I will be ready when I stop loving myself more than anything else,” she guffaws, adding, “There is a nice balance in life right now, a strong centre. But I admit that you need some ‘nasty’, as everything can’t be candy!” Her plan right now is to play memorable roles that last, as “everything else is transient.” Thus the gaming she used to be addicted to has been abandoned — “too distracting.” And the last big holiday she took was four years ago. “My bucket list right now is to not kick the bucket,” she shrugs.
People say I am hot now, but I am still a grunge girl and love black. I have never been a fan of very short or revealing clothes. I believe that ultimate sexiness is in your head, not in your clothes. And I’m not a label person. Yes, I appreciate design, be it Balmain, Jean Paul Gaultier or Alexander McQueen. But I really enjoy what I buy at a Zara or Forever 21. I work hard for my money and I will think long and hard before I spend it easily on a luxury bag. Also, while I do endorse jewellery and hair products, I draw the line at fairness products, alcohol and tobacco. If there was one rule my father put down, it was the latter.
I love Ruby Sparks (2012) and the older Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Requiem for a Dream. I am a fan of Woody Allen’s later movies, be it Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. Of course, when I was younger and my dad would be watching Allen’s movies, I used to wonder, ‘who’s that creepy old man’ but now I like him. A friend recently introduced me to Gareth Evans’ The Raid. I lost my mind — it takes action to another level.