With 29 films to her credit, Tamannaah has had a critically acclaimed as well as a commercially successful career in the South Indian film industry. Come March 29, and the actress is all set to make her presence felt in Bollywood, with her film Himmatwala also featuring Ajay Devgn. In conversation with Sagorika Dasgupta, she speaks about the role made popular by Sridevi three decades ago, and a lot more
You’re a big name down South. Was it tough landing the role in Himmatwala?
I have been working down South for quite some time and, fortunately, both the producer Vashuji (Bhagnani) and the director Sajid (Khan) were familiar with my work. So they approached me to be a part of the film. Since I had watched the original, I knew it was a great opportunity, so I readily agreed. Interestingly, there’s something I share with Srideviji with regard to this film.
What is that?
Srideviji was a very big name in the South Indian film industry and the original Himmatwala was one of her first commercial films in Bollywood. For me too, Himmatwala is my first big Hindi venture.
You had made your debut to Bollywood back in 2005…
That’s right. It was with Chand Sa Roshan Chehra.
Why has it taken eight years to do another Hindi film?
I was barely 14 and a half when I did that film. And I wouldn’t say that there was a gap as I was still doing films. Age plays a very crucial part in an actor’s life. Certain roles demand a certain maturity. I was too young back then and the roles I was getting were not suited to my age. I wanted to play roles that suited me and I got such roles down South, like playing a collegian.
What was it about Himmatwala that brought you on board the film?
It wasn’t just one thing. Films are all about teamwork. It is the right balance of all the elements in filmmaking, whether it’s a good director, a great script, a successful producer or a big co-star. No one could have asked for a better film than this with Sajid as director, Ajay as co-star, Vashuji as producer and UTV to present the film. Nainon mein sapna… is such a famous song that it has kept the memory of the film fresh. It makes that instant connection.
Was it daunting to take up an iconic role portrayed by Sridevi? Are you apprehensive about possible comparisons with the original?
There is one and only Sridevi; no two ways about that! This is a story the audience is familiar with but, moreover, it is a Sajid Khan film. Just as Sajid has been saying in his interviews, it is not a remake but a rewrite. The story of this Himmatwala is fresh and quite removed from the original one. So, with the release just around the corner, I am very composed. Sajid has taken great care to portray me differently. He was very upfront about this. The film means a lot to all of us and he has placed a lot of faith in me. It is a very entertaining film and I have played my role with conviction. I hope the audience will see that too.
You have worked mainly with A-league stars down South. Did you deliberately choose to return to Hindi films opposite an actor like Ajay Devgn?
Working with a big star is definitely important. And why not? After all, there is a reason they are famous. The reason all these stars are where they are is because they have proved they are bankable. They have proved their worth, time and again, by delivering consecutive successes. I think Himmatwala is a fine blend of all of the above. That is what attracted me to the film in the first place. I wanted to work with good people.
You have had a long run in the Indian film industry. What’s it been like?
I started very young as an actor, and I grabbed every opportunity that came my way. I also tried to do my best and have proved myself with every chance I got. I have been able to do that since I am very committed. I guess that’s why I have got this far.
Is there any difference between the South industry and the Hindi film industry?
I had always heard that the people in the South Indian film industry are very punctual and particular about planning. And that’s exactly what I experienced when I worked there. But I experienced the same while shooting for Himmatwala. We didn’t waste any time on the sets. So there is no difference between the two industries. But as far as the kind of films is concerned, our country has a very rich culture and every film reflects the culture of a particular place.
South India has a very different culture from the North, and obviously reflects in cinema. Having said that, Bollywood has undergone a sea change, and there is a lot more room for experimentation. Whether it’s the South or Hindi films, all kinds of subjects are being made into films and they are doing well too.
You have worked in several remakes, whether the Telugu remake of Jab We Met or the Tamil remake of Vikramarkudu (Rowdy Rathore). Now, it’s the remake of Himmatwala. Are remakes your forte?
(Laughs) Yes, I have done quite a few remakes but I don’t want to be tagged as such. The industry has seen many trends, like the trend of making commercial masala films, a few years ago. Now, popular films of yesteryear are being remade. I choose films according to what appeals to me about them, not because they are remakes. And, these days, remakes are proving to be quite a bankable proposition.
As an actor, you have to mould yourself to any role that comes your way and sometimes doing that with remakes is difficult. Since the role has already been portrayed by someone, it’s a challenge to play it differently. It’s actually very tough to recreate the essence of a film while maintaining the characters. And the film is judged on how good the remake is.
Coincidentally, your next with Akshay Kumar is also a remake of a South Indian film.
I am getting a lot of offers and I did get one with Akshay as well. But I am taking my time reading the script. I haven’t made an official announcement on my next film yet.