Sandhya Raju, the daughter of billionaire industrialist P.R. Venketrama Raja, Ramco Group Chairman, and daughter-in-law of Satyam Computers founder Ramalinga Raju, is set to make her acting debut - she will be the lead actor in Natyam, directed by Revanth Korukonda.
For Sandhya, who started learning Kuchipudi at the age of 9, getting into acting is a natural progression of her pursuit of the arts. “I feel it is like an extension of my art to reach out to a larger audience,” she says, adding that she had picked a dance-based film because of her proficiency in the field.
The film showcases the evolution of Sitara, a village belle (played by Sandhya), and how she achieves what she has set her heart on. The film was shot in Bengaluru, Hampi, Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, and Hyderabad.
“The plot is set in a fictional village called Natyam, inspired by the Kuchipudi village in Andhra Pradesh. The hamlet attracts artistes from all over and everything happens around a temple to a powerful Goddess,” she explains, adding that the film goes beyond exploring the physicality of dance and uses it as a means of storytelling.
While getting the script right was one aspect, Sandhya reveals that her prep for the part was challenging. “It wasn’t easy for me. Since this was my first tryst with cinema, every step in the film was an experience,” she says about the October 22 release.
From getting the diction right to body language to gestures, Sandhya had to do a lot of research for her part. “I had to observe a lot of traditional and classical dancers from small towns. Since I grew up in a city, it was important because I had to emulate them correctly. I also watched videos of old classics and films made by K. Vishwanath garu, and had to recollect a few memories from my childhood,” she says.
Since she was born in Chennai, Sandhya was a little apprehensive about getting the Telugu diction right, and hired three tutors to help her. She found the experience of shooting for a feature film amazing.
“It’s been a great learning curve! I have also realised that the camera is a powerful tool,” she notes. After working on the project for around two years, Sandhya says she has started to understand cinema better. “I have understood the efforts that go into making a film,” she shares.
Sandhya had to don multiple hats for the film - production designer, stylist, choreographer, and even producer. “I really don’t know how I did all these things; I am a bit surprised looking back,” she reveals. “It was a battle for me to coordinate everything! Also, staying focussed on the project for over two years was challenging,” she says. “The script was realistic, and the joy of bringing characters to life enabled us to cope with the pressure,” she says.
We ask whether she would continue to take up acting roles, and she replies, “Classical dance will always be my first love. However, I am also open to acting opportunities and will definitely take them up if I find them interesting.” In response to our question whether shooting during Covid times was difficult, she shares an interesting anecdote.
“On the last day of our shooting in February 2020, actor Aditya Menon showed me messages about the Coronavirus on his mobile, and the devastation it was creating in China. The word was totally new to me and everyone on the sets. Who would have thought it would shake up the whole world a month later!”