A true blue Chennai girl, Samantha started her career in the Tamil industry with Moscowin Kavery. However, it was the Telugu hit, Ye Maaya Chesaave, directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon, which catapulted her into becoming an overnight sensation. The actress reveals that 28 is a very special number for her, since her birthday also falls on a 28. Although she is a top-rung heroine in Telugu today, this year, Sam is making a comeback into the Tamil industry with a bang with two of the biggest stars one film opposite Suriya (Anjaan) and the other, Vijay (Katthi).
There were the ups and downs too, concerning her relationship with Siddharth, which is under the scanner now, and her skin problems. In this exclusive interview with DC, she comes clean on her relationship status admitting that she is in one why returning to the Tamil film industry makes her nervous, why she will never act in Bollywood films and how starting from scratch has made her realise the ‘joy of giving’.
Sam says that the first thing she will look into before signing a film is the director’s previous record of films. “Before choosing a script, I will definitely take a look at the filmmaker’s previous outings. Next, is the script itself. Only then other things come into consideration. I get excited more about the director with whom I am going to work than the hero,” she says.
You were considered a jinx in Tamil, but you are the most wanted star here now, we say. She smiles, “Being born and brought up in Chennai, it was but natural that I wanted to do good films in Tamil and succeed here in my own home town. However, I feel it is important to learn from the mistakes I made in the past and try not to repeat them. Even now, I am a little nervous about whether Tamil audiences will accept me. (shrugs). Although Naan Ee, which was released a year and a half back, was a big hit, it was not a straight Tamil film. My first released film was in Telugu,Ye Maaya Chesave, directed by Gautham Menon, which brought about a change in my fortune. I was welcomed with open arms in Tollywood. I didn’t have time to mull over the past as I’ve been keeping extremely busy. Apparently, this year seems to be my year in Tamil as I have been getting good flicks with big directors and heroes,” she says.
Samantha has a clear eyed view of fate having a bearing on life, referring to the fact that she was forced to opt out of two big films, made by Mani Ratnam and Shankar. “Everything in life happens because of destiny. I believe in fate. It is not because of my decision making, but sometimes it is bad luck and destiny which are stronger than hard work. I know a lot of people who work very hard, but they are not successful. In any other profession, success is gradual, but in cinema one becomes a superstar overnight. As far as those projects by Mani sir and Shankar sir are concerned, they were not meant to be. I hope I work with them, if I am destined to,” she adds.
Now that you are back with films with Suriya and Vijay, looks like you have changed strategies, like getting bolder and more glamorous, we say to the actress. “I was very comfortable in that space,” she remarks. “Earlier, I wanted to venture into more and learn more, be everything when directors tried to cast me. I did not want people to say ‘it will not suit her’. Mine is not a conscious effort to turn glamorous. Please understand that Anjaan is a commercial entertainer, and that hot look that was seen in the still, was required for a song sequence,” she clarifies.
On working with Lingusamy, a delighted Sam says, “I have always wanted to work with Lingusamy sir. He has given me quite a solid character. He changed my body language, voice modulation, and that was a new experience for me.” About her co-star Suriya, she says, “The other name for ‘gentleman’ is Suriya. He is so punctual, doesn’t mind doing 15 to 16 takes and is totally dedicated.”
Prod her about which she gives greater priority, Tamil or Telugu films, she replies, “Tamil or Telugu, heroines do not have many opportunities in a commercial films to prove themselves. Rarely does one get films like Ye Maaya... and Eega where I had substantial roles. Manam, which I am doing now, is equally impressive. As an artiste, I should push ahead and do good movies. I started getting nice offers after Neethane En Ponvasantham. I am putting equal amount of work in both the languages.”
The svelte actress is ready for experimental roles and art films as well. “I don’t mind reducing my salary for such movies. In fact, I have done Eega and NEP at half my market price,” she reveals.
People say that you are the numero uno in T’town, we remark. She laughs, “The only time I think about this is when someone asks! I enjoy doing the roles I get. I don’t vie for anyone’s money or movie. I don’t also compete with anyone. And more importantly, the ‘number one’ game keeps changing every Friday when a new film is released,” she says pragmatically.
Like her contemporaries, including Tamannah and Kajal, moving to Bollywood, does she have any plans likewise? “Oh no,” she states. “I get many good offers and there’s a dearth of heroines here. Mumbai is home to the actresses you have mentioned. Just like I want to do more Tamil cinema, they want to work in Hindi, which is their mother tongue. I am not at all keen to go to B’town. I’m not even tempted to make an attempt,” Samantha says categorically.
The moment we ask her how she wants to be identified, as an actress or as a good human being, Sam gets emotional. “I want to be identified as a better human being than an actress. I came from nothing an average economic background and a lower middle class family. Life has been tough going for me and my family. Suddenly, I was showered with more than what I could ever think or dream of luxury cars, staying in star hotels, travelling abroad and a lifestyle that was unimaginable. It is a god send and I should not forget the past. If someone cared and helped me, I want to reciprocate them as much as I can. Even small gestures matter.”
The actress has started a foundation, Prathyusha, along with a group of doctors which is dedicated to children suffering from terminal illness, and it is her way of giving back to society. “I completely finance their treatment, which is expensive. Few hospitals are attached to our NGO. I help children suffering from haemophilia, thalassaemia, cerebral palsy etc. That apart, I make a physical appearance whenever they require me for an event. If I had been born in a rich family, I wouldn’t have thought of these kids. I am doing this when I am in the peak of my career, so that people point out,” she says.
Sam who has emerged free of her skin problems, recalls with gratitude, “Strength came in from strangers. Reiki helped. Every gesture from unknown quarters was very touching. I realised the ‘joy of giving’.”
As for her equation with people in the industry, she says she had always been in awe of Murugadoss. “I saw his film, Ghajini. I loved Thuppakki as well. He is one filmmaker who portrays his heroines in meaty roles. Initially, I was scared when I landed on the sets, but he was always smiling and is a complete sweetheart,” Samantha says. On Vijay she says, “He is a superstar and I think he is destiny’s favourite child.”
When it comes to close friends, she does not have too many. “I am very close to my designer Neeraja, and another friend, Meghna, who is happily married now. I am a boring person. I don’t party and I go to sleep at 9 pm sharp if I’m not shooting,” she adds.
Talking about her alleged relationship with Siddharth, she says, “I will never be frank about my relationship. At this point of time, I don’t want to jinx my career,” she maintains. Prod some more, and she says, “OK, I admit that I am in a relationship, but I do not want to reveal who the person is.” She is close to two people in the industry, one is Trivikram, the other is Siddharth. However, marriage is not on the cards, she asserts. “Not anytime soon. At least not in the next four years! But I love children and want to have a family and kids. If I settle down, it is only because I want children.”
If there was one thing she wanted to change in herself, she says, “I want to look few inches taller,” she signs off.