Sandhya Raju, daughter of billionaire industrialist Ramco Group Chairman P.R. Venketrama Raja and daughter-in-law of Satyam Computers founder Ramalinga Raju, is perhaps best known in her own right as an exponent of Kuchipudi dance. But she’s now all set to flaunt a new dimension of her talents — acting.
Sandhya will be seen in the lead role in Natyam, a Telugu film directed by Revanth Korukonda. As the title implies, the story will revolve around dance.
“But there’s more to it; the film also explores the beautiful relationship between a student and her teacher and the student’s desire to pursue her dream of being a dancer,” explains Sandhya.
Cinema was never a part of her life while growing up, reveals Sandhya. “I was always inclined towards dance and it has been in the forefront of my life. But after I became an independent artiste and set up my own dance academy, I realised that artistic flair shouldn’t be confined to dance,” she says, adding that as a consequence, she started to explore modelling, and later, acting.
As she kept meeting creative people, her inclination towards cinema gradually went up. “Also, when I was learning dance, we used to look up to students of our guru (Padma Bhushan Vempati Chinna Satyam) who taught actors like Hema Malini, Bhanupriya, Jayalalitha, NTR, etc. So I saw acting as an extension of my dance career, and a natural progression,” says Sandhya.
Sharing that she had earlier appeared in a short film with the same title, the danseuse says, “After the rousing reception it got, we wanted to do the film on a bigger scale. I felt Revanth (who also directed the short film) can do justice to the film.” Revealing that she has had offers from filmmakers who saw her dance performances, Sandhya says she was always keen on playing inspiring characters and that’s why she decided to do this particular film.
Sandhya is also bankrolling the film under the banner of Nishrinkala Films. “Producing the film is my way of showing belief in my work,” she says.
A multi-talented person, Sandhya is an entrepreneur, and one of the promoters the Ramco Group. “But I don’t identify myself as an entrepreneur,” she asserts. “I am glued to the world of dance and choreography. But the metamorphosis from a dancer to an entrepreneur and from there to an actress is an incredible journey. I have created my own opportunities to explore various different creative mediums of art,” she says.
Sandhya, apart from acting in and producing Natyam, she is also the choreographer and costume designer of the film. “It was a collaborative effort between me and the director and other team members. I feel very blessed to have been able to execute my ideas in the film. I got rich experience as a technician too,” she says, though she admits that multi-tasking is challenging.
How did she feel when she first saw herself on screen? “There was so much coordination happening behind the scenes that I honestly lost consciousness about how I looked,” she smiles, adding that director Revanth believed in her ability and performance.
Sandhya, who is married to Rama Raju, second son of Ramalinga Raju, says her family wasn’t surprised about her decision to get into acting. “They knew it came naturally after my short film. They see me as a responsible person and were very encouraging,” she adds.
Talking about her experiences on the sets, Sandhya says she was comfortable, because she was the decision-maker. But she says her stint as a woman filmmaker was an eye-opener. “My respect for women has gone up after I witnessed the difficulties ordinary women face on the film set; it’s a tough journey, believe me,” she says.
Looking back, the former Chairperson of the Young FICCI Ladies Organisation (YFLO) says, “I think my experience in FICCI opened me up a lot. My conversations with women from different walks of life made me realise that a lot of women lack the financial independence to make decisions. This realisation liberated me and made my professional drive more powerful.”...