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Tamannaah Bhatia: 'Web shows are a medium for writers and actors'

'In a series, you have the leisure to explore more subtly. It gives you the chance to perform in the most authentic way possible. Which is why it has also caught on with audiences.'

May 28, 2021 / 11:55 AM IST
Tamannaah in 'It's Entertainment' (screen grab).

Tamannaah in 'It's Entertainment' (screen grab).


Tamannaah Bhatia’s latest release is the Tamil crime thriller November Story. The Mumbai-based actress who appears in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films, plays Anuradha who is helping solve a crime that implicates her ageing and ailing father. Speaking from her home in Mumbai, the Happy Days, Baahubali, Himmatwala, Ayan and K.G.F. actress, who made her acting debut in 2005 at the age of 15 in the Hindi film Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, spoke about the satisfaction of working in web series, her future plans and her coffee addiction.

November Story is a murder mystery. Are you a fan of the genre?

I do enjoy murder mysteries, but not all of them. For the simple reason that it is very easy to get carried away with the genre but it is also difficult to pull off. We have all seen enough content and make certain assumptions when it comes to murder mysteries which makes it tricky to make content in this space interesting.

So why did you choose November Story?

So personally, I am not your average consumer of web shows. I don’t have the attention span to binge watch content and be committed to it for that long. But when I have gotten hooked to a show, it’s for two reasons: the character intrigues me; I want to know what he or she thinks. Secondly, the screenplay is such that it pulls me into the next episode. I felt this story and plot had potential to keep you engaged. Even my prep for this part was very different because there are so many loops. So if I had to shoot the fifth episode, I had to remember the links from the earlier episodes and keep in mind things I know that the audience might know yet. My other Telugu show 11th Hour came out earlier this year.

How different is Anuradha to the characters you have played before?

Close

I have played a girl next door in Chennai many times, but never like this. It is always a good feeling to see someone who is an everyday Jane doing something unpredictable and great. Especially these days when we are seeing people doing extraordinary things every day. I have always been a part of content that is uplifting. I like things that entertain and engage me but also leave me thinking and with a lingering uplifting feeling.

Your Hindi film work includes Himmatwala, Humshakals and That’s Entertainment – all very commercial films. You have Bole Chudiyaan, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, coming up. What has been your process for choosing Hindi language projects?

These choices are a reflection of what I thought at that time. I was doing a lot of commercial films down south, and several commercial cinemas from the South had become very relevant in the North also. Unfortunately, my commercial films in Hindi didn’t do as well as we thought they would. Then Baahubali happened, and with it I also evolved as a performer. My thoughts on how I want to take my career ahead also evolved. I am working on two projects which I can’t talk about right now. But I do feel that these choices will present me in a lot more relatable and relevant space. I am making a conscious effort to do parts that are more authentic to me and also more relevant to what's happening in the world today.

Do you see any palpable difference performing in the two mediums of cinema and web series?

Web shows are a medium for writers and actors because we get to explore a lot more than we can in cinema. Cinema is more about pace and keeping things tight. In a series, you have the leisure to explore more subtly. It gives you the chance to perform in the most authentic way possible. Which is why it has also caught on with audiences. In a theatre, the vibe of the audience and of the film adds to the experience. But alone in your space, in your home, the content is very personal to you. Therefore it has to be a lot more authentic. The OTT space does have expectations of an idealistic woman. Shows smash that and give a realistic and truthful presentation of different people. Don’t get me wrong; films offer some amazing parts too, but this medium is giving me a lot more scope, a lot more visibility, much more detailed and authentic characters which are more likeable. Films are still films and I enjoy well-made commercial films.

Your bio describes you as a coffee addict and an occasional poet. Please share more.

Nobody can drink my coffee. It’s so bitter. I drink a lot of coffee and I am dairy intolerant, so I wanted to limit the milk consumption and switch to almond milk when needed. Once I was in a cafe abroad, and I was wondering how to order a coffee with milk, but less milk. The barista advised me to ask for a dry cappuccino which has very little milk, almond milk foam, cinnamon and its a double espresso shot. So it's a bit of a coffee explosion. As for the poetry, it’s tragic how occasional I am. I have to be in a total zone to write. My poetry is very personal, so the ones I think will resonate, I put out on my Instagram.

On IMDB, they describe your trade marks as: ‘Her innocent looking eyes. Her curved waist. Her milky color, tempting hip and navel’. How do you feel about this description? One cannot escape the irony that your ‘milky color’ is a trade mark and you happen to be dairy tolerant.

It is ironic, but then life is all about irony. I do understand the importance of being able to inspire because I too have been inspired by people such as Katrina Kaif, for how she has kept herself in shape for so many years. It takes a lot of self-discipline. When I was younger, I was inspired by Madhuri Dixit. I am a '90s kid, and I wanted to be like her, dance like her. I also copied Karisma Kapoor’s style and hairdos. I became an actor very young, and I was slowly exposed to more international cinema. I really look up to Meryl Streep for the arc of her career. Some of her better characters have come to her in the second half of her career. Over time I have realised that it is not about who inspired me but about working towards being a better version of me.

You are fluent in Tamil and Telugu. Do you find it strange to switch back to Hindi when you come back to Mumbai?

In normal life I don’t find the difference, but on camera yes. For example, there is a different metre of talking in Southern languages compared to Hindi. Then it feels different, but it is also very liberating. Speaking my language makes me feel so good. Like coming home and eating dal-chawal.

November Story is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.



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Udita Jhunjhunwala is a Mumbai-based writer, film critic and festival programmer.
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