TALENTED actress Aditi Rao Hydari has shown off her remarkable versatility as a performer in a wide array of film projects.

Born into a royal lineage, she has delivered commanding performances in different languages and taken on challenges thrown at her by top directors.

She has a number of interesting projects on the way, including a role in the year’s most high-profile Bollywood film Padmavati

Eastern Eye caught up with the star to talk about her cinematic journey, future hopes and more.

How do you look back on your journey in cinema?

(Smiles) There is a lot to look forward to and that is why I don’t look back! For me, it’s always going to be one step at a time in a forward direction. Looking ahead is a lot more enriching and makes me happy. Seeking out that next challenge is what ultimately fuels me.

Who has been the most interesting person you have met on your cinematic travels?

I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of interesting people, but it would have to be (filmmaker) Mani Ratnam. It’s been my childhood dream to work with him and when it happened I was like a sponge through those six months, just absorbing everything.

You get why Mani sir is a legend because he is like that in person too. He makes you think, challenges you and pushes your boundaries. I felt something change inside me; it was like I understood myself along with what I wanted and needed as an artist. I feel like the real journey has just started and it’s because of Mani sir.

Your choices have been unpredictable; has that been a conscious decision?

Nah! I’m just instinctive. I’m usually drawn to directors I look up to because their vision and scripts are strong. Sometimes I pick a role because of the range it will give me to perform, or because I’ve never done something like it before.

I feel my intention is clear and that is to be a part of cinema that is memorable beyond their weekend collections. That’s always a much happier journey, being a part of a film where the team’s intention matches yours and inspires you to do your best.

What kind of characters are you drawn to?

I love sweeping romances. I like romances of all kinds, like unrequited love, epic dramas like Atonement and Anna Karenina. I like twisted thrillers like Gone Girl, action romances like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Having said that, it’s not the genre it’s the character, and I’m usually drawn to ones with a strong emotional core. One that stays with me and makes me think about her long after the narration is done.

Which director has challenged you most?

Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sudhir Mishra. They take a simple scene and push your limits. It’s an adrenaline rush and super-challenging working with them, but it’s also like a booster shot of vitamins.

What was it like working on Sanjay Dutt’s comeback movie Bhoomi?

It was amazing working with Sanjay sir. I think we had a super-effortless bond from day one. Bhoomi on the other hand was very challenging as a character. I felt tortured and humiliated shooting it. The setup, character, locations, approach to the script, the team and everything was new to me and it was tough.

The appreciation I’ve got for my work across the board feels special and has given me the confidence to be able to trust my instinct and handle any situation with courage and conviction.

How do you approach creating a character and delivering a performance?

Usually I work with directors I trust completely, so I work with them towards creating and fleshing out a character. It’s always a work in progress. You start with the core and build from there. It’s an organic process and I don’t have a method. I’m a director’s actor and a good script helps because everything seems real. If I believe it, I can perform it.

What would be your dream role?

I have dream directors ahead of dream roles. They are Mani Ratnam sir, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vishal Bharadwaj, Anurag Basu, Shoojit Sircar and so many more. Great directors and scriptwriters create great characters. It’s an actor’s luck to be able to play them.

Which director would you like to work with?

If you’re talking of people I haven’t already worked with, I think Shakun Batra is a superb storyteller. Also Neeraj Ghaywan, Sharat Katariya, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and Anurag Basu. There are also some filmmakers from the south who I’ve been following and I want to work with like Karthic Subbaraj, Mysskin and Bala, though I don’t know the language, but that won’t stop me!

Cinema doesn’t have language and geographical boundaries for me. I’d consider myself lucky if I could get an opportunity to work with amazing directors from across India.

A lot of biopics are being made; what real life character would you love to play?

I would love to play Khair-un-Nissa from white Mughals. I’m from Hyderabad, my family has roots in the whole story so that would be special for me. I’d love to do an MS Subbulakshmi biopic or a Maharani Gayatri Devi biopic. There are so many great real life and inspiring characters. But biopics should not be made as a trend, but if there is a great story tell. If not, then leave it!

You must love that so many strong female roles are being written in Indian cinema?

Yes I am, but it’s still not enough! Films should be about strong stories and interesting characters whether it’s a man, woman, child or a dog. The day we stop saying female oriented is the day we will stop making a distinction and being surprised by the fact that women are holding centre stage. It should be happening seamlessly!

Which leading man would you love to be romanced by on screen?

From Bollywood, it would be Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. From the west, it would be Ryan Gosling.

Who is your acting idol?

My acting idol is Manisha Koirala. I’m in the movies because her work in Bombay inspired me so much. Also, she was so different. She was delicate, vulnerable, yet strong. She didn’t use any glamorous make-up in her better films. She also worked with some of the best directors and didn’t take the usual route. I loved that about her.

What are your big passions away from work?

Dancing, singing and yoga. I also love to cook too and make my own skin care stuff. I’m pretty obsessed with natural skin care.

What is your favourite movie?

There are too many to name. But I watched Bombay and it made me want to be in the movies, so I think that had the biggest impact on me.

Tell us something that not many people know about you?

(Laughs) That I have dimples on my shoulders!

What career would you have done if you weren’t an actress?

I can’t imagine not being in front of the camera Asjad. It’s like magic and a happy secure place for me. You can do anything and be anyone. It’s like wonderland.

Today, what inspires you?

The passions people have for life and creating really inspires me, as does art or social change. The intention behind that creation is inspiring.

If you could learn something new and become a master at it, what would it be?

Natural therapies for happiness. To make you glow from within, literally!

Have you got used to Indian media writing fake stories about you?

Nah, you can’t get used to it, but you can let it affect you for a shorter period of time.

You have very eye-catching fashion choices on the red carpet. Where do you draw your fashion inspirations from? Audrey Hepburn; but it’s my own version that is more boho and relaxed. My stylist Sanam Ratansi gets my vibe and Elton Fernandez understands my pixie face and uses my strengths and flaws as my strengths. So they are my dream team!

Why do you love cinema?

I love cinema because it’s magic.

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