I am rooted in tradition in many ways: Aditi Rao
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sashidhar Adivi
Aditi Rao, who was born into the Hydari royal family and grew up partly in Hyderabad and partly in Delhi was in the city recently on a professional commitment.
She has been living in Mumbai for the last several years, but frequently visits Hyderabad to meet up with her extended family and friends. When we met her at her hotel, we asked her what is the first thing she feels when she comes to Hyderabad. "A sense of belongingness," she replied. "I feel a sense of pride, I feel like a daughter of the soil." The actress said the city always brought back memories of her maternal grandmother who encouraged her to let go of her inhibitions and play in the mud. "I had a great childhood and a normal upbringing. I spent most of my childhood playing with my grandmother," she recalled.
Dance and music have been an integral part of Aditi’s life, thanks to her mother Vidya Rao (a classical singer). In fact, she has been dancing since she was 5. Ask her how dance complements her personality, and Aditi says it has contributed in various ways, including discipline and listening skills. "I cannot imagine a world without dance and music – both are part of me," she says.
Though she mostly follows modern-day norms in terms of dressing and general behavioiur, Aditi is also rooted in tradition. "The traditional aspect of me comes from my lineage," she explains.
She did her first film Sringaram (2007) while she was still a student. Her mother was particular that she completed her education before pursuing a full-time career in films. So she moved to Mumbai only in 2010. And Aditi says that her 13-year journey have been very enriching, having worked with top filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mani Ratnam.
"The learning curve has been very big," she shares. "Even now when I walk on to a film set, I feel there's always great learning. The desire to try and improve on myself is ingrained in me. It's been a tough journey and indeed a struggle because I don't come from a film family. In the beginning you are confused as to what kind of projects to take up. Your heart says one thing but people around say different things. So, as a well-brought-up girl you feel like listening to them and doing the right things. But the right thing is actually what your heart says," reveals Aditi. Everything changed for me when I did Kaatru Veliyidai with Mani Sir. I always wanted to be a Mani Ratnam heroine, so Kaatru Veliyidai made me believe in my dream," she shares.
Aditi's role as Anarkali from the recent period web series Taj - Divided By Blood has won rave reviews. "I am super thrilled and grateful to the audience for their love," she says. When she was approached for the role of the iconic 16th Century court dancer Anarkali, she initially turned it down - "because I can only imagine Madhubala as the legendary dancer and love of Prince Salim," she explains. However, the creative team of Taj - Divided By Blood insisted that she come on board after they saw her as Mehrunisa in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat (2018).
"I listened to the story, and felt interested because their perspective was different [from Mughal-e-Azam, featuring Madhubala] as they were looking at it as a global story. They saw Anarkali differently, not as a damsel in distress but as a courageous and spirited woman who stood by her love despite the punishment," she reveals.
While describing her role as "very challenging," she points out that she is at her best "when challenged, pushed and nurtured as an actor."
Aditi has struck a fine balance between Hindi and South industries at a time when most actors end up sacrificing one for the other. She also points out that one needs luck to get opportunities in both the industries. "Aren’t the barriers of language getting blurred?", she asks, and stresses that we are living in a ‘pan-India era’, as regional language films have been garnering eyeballs nationally. "Cinema is all about storytelling. A great filmmaker creates a world in which the audience gets immersed, where emotions don’t have language or boundaries," she says.