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"We are the chosen ones"

Tara Sutaria is gearing up for the release of her debut film, Student Of The Year 2 (SOTY2). The newcomer, who is already being showered with praise, talks to Titas Chowdhury about bagging the film, her love for singing, being a social media star and her upcoming projects

As a child, you were part of a bunch of sitcoms on Disney India. From Disney to Dharma Productions, how would you describe your journey?

As clichéd as it may sound, the journey has been magical. That is the great part about being associated with companies like Dharma and Disney that are so loved all over the world. It does not get better than that. So I am very, very happy.

Is there any golden word of advice that you have received from the man himself, Karan Johar?

Advice? We are always talking about the film and our characters. There are so many personal things that we discuss as well. He has been very supportive and sweet from day one, when I met him. Whether it has to do with music or the things I have done, he has been really kind, accepting and warm. I think I am very lucky (Smiles).

Is there any pressure to live up to the success of SOTY?

To be very honest with you, when it comes to Dharma, I don’t think anyone has put that pressure on us. We are very lucky that that has not happened. Karan (Johar), Punit (Malhotra), Tiger (Shroff), Ananya (Panday) and I know what we want and we are very driven to achieve that final product because we understand where the first film stands. We have a lot of responsibility taking the franchise forward. We are the chosen ones, if you want to call us that, who get to do this incredible second film. The first film made superstars out of the three lead actors. Our fingers are crossed and we hope that our film works in the way the first film did.

Take us back to when SOTY2 happened to you.

I had gone to meet Karan when I was around 20 years old. I was just about to graduate from college. I remember going to the old Dharma office. He wanted to meet with me. I was so excited. He knew that I sing. He asked me to sing a Hindi song. I thought I would sing my favourite Hindi song, Lag jaa gale, which is a classic. He told me it was his favourite song too. And I went like, ‘What?’ So I sang it. He was so sweet and happy.

He asked me if I was interested in acting. I was just graduating and there were so many film offers that were coming to me. But I was hell bent on completing my education because it was very important to me. He said it was perfect because they were still writing the film. He told me that by the time I graduated, they would be ready with the script and he asked me if I would come and test for it then. I said ‘yes’ because I loved the first film so much. After graduating, I tested for the film. Then I met Punit. They liked it and that is how the film came to me (Smiles).

Is there any chance that we will get to listen to you sing in your upcoming films?

Not in my debut film. I also don’t think in my second film, Marjaavaan, because we just wrapped it. Hopefully, I will get to sing in my third film and the ones after that (Laughs).

Was being a movie star the ultimate goal?

All my life, I have wanted to sing but I think that changed when I was in college. I was doing musical theatre and a lot of other theatre works, a major chunk of which was acting. I realised that I was very passionate about it. So that was something that I wanted to do. When I met Karan and all this happened, it was like a sign. Now, both music and acting are my priorities.

Dharma is known for its large-scale songs, dances and larger-than-life romance dramas. Did you envision this kind of grand acting debut or did this happen by chance?

I think it is a mix of both, actually. I have always been in the performing arts. So dance, music, glamour and drama have always been a very important part of my life. As girls, we see ourselves working in a Dharma film some day. You know how it is. We have grown up watching those films. That is why I feel that it is a bit of both.

Did you have any preconceived notions surrounding the film industry before you joined it?

(Pauses) Something I did think about, and still do, especially when I see and meet so many new and young actors, is that despite being new, they are very out there and they know exactly how everything works. In that sense, I am very reserved compared to them. The preconceived notion that I had was that if I was going to be part of this industry, there is a certain kind of individual it takes to sustain in it.

That has not changed because I have seen it now in the flesh with everyone I meet. I realise that it is a preconceived notion that will always stay because that is the truth about being in the industry. You have to be thick-skinned and there are certain prerequisites that one must have which help you succeed. So that is definitely one of the things that will stay with me.

You are a major social media star. You are giving some major fashion goals to the young girls out there.

(Laughs). It is very nice to see that.

But how do you look at social media? Does that put pressure on you, sometimes?

No, I don’t think it is pressure. Again, I think it takes a certain kind of person to be out there on social media. You have to want to do it. You have to want to connect to people. I think then it is a bit of a breeze. Social media is a real blessing because we get to connect with so many people. It is at our finger tips. There is no better way to do that. I don’t think of it as pressure because I am myself on social media. If I was trying to be someone else, then I don’t think it would have worked. I may not post as much as the other young actors do because I am not that kind of person. The fact that I am what I am is working. Touch wood!

What kind of response have you received to the trailer and the songs?

I read mostly everything. I am not used to trolls. All this is very new to me. I am a very sensitive person, so I should probably stop reading everything. To be fair, there has been a lot of love that has overshadowed the trolls and the memes. I am learning to laugh at myself and the memes that are coming my way. So I think we can ask these trolls to keep them coming! I will scroll through them and laugh.

Yeah, there will always be detractors.

Yeah, I believe so.

And what kind of feedback have you received from your family and friends?

They are so sweet. Every time I reach home at night after the promotions, they are still watching the trailer (Laughs). They are constantly sharing it on these WhatsApp groups that they have. They are very cute. I don’t get lots of time with them right now. But the little time I do get with them, they are always talking about the film. They are really, really sweet.

What is it about your character, Mridula, that will resonate with the audience?

Yes, I play Mridula, who becomes ‘Mia’ to fit in. She is much like the girls of today. She is fierce, independent, strong, she knows what she wants and she will not lean on anyone else. She is going to follow her dreams, no matter what. Yes, she does make mistakes, which you will see in the film. But she redeems herself and she understands where she has gone wrong. Just like today’s youth, she is contemporary, she knows what’s up and she won’t back down.

After SOTY2, you have Marjaavaan which is very different from this film. Do you have a game plan for your career?

I think it is really cool. There is a lot of gratitude that comes with three films coming out within a year. I have just finished Marjaavaan before my first film is out. I think it is a huge blessing. My second and third films are diametrically opposite to SOTY2 but that was not intentional. When I heard the narrations for these films, it was a surprise, which is why I wanted to do both of them. They are so different from SOTY2. I am really excited for people to see them. For Marjaavaan, no one has seen a young actor doing this kind of role. My character in RX100 is so different. They are not your typical go-to girl roles.

As a newcomer, what is your perception of box-office numbers? What are your expectations from the first day?

There is definitely a certain amount of desire in that respect. We put in a certain amount of effort and time into every film. We have put a lot of love into this film. So I hope it opens well. When you look at other people of my age who are doing films, they place a lot of emphasis on numbers, and rightly so. But I am a little aloof in that department. Maybe that will change over the years. I am focusing on what we put into this film. I hope we receive the love that we have given this film. That is my priority.

Are you all set to experience the rollercoaster ride that showbiz has to offer? 

I hope so. I have toughened up a lot in the last year, during which time there have been a lot of learnings. I am a very sensitive person, so I don’t know. You will have to ask me this question after a year (Laughs). But my fingers are crossed!

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