Shruti Haasan has been off the grid for a while, but she made sure to come back with a bang. The actress will soon be seen in Devi, a suspense-drama short film starring eight other industry mavens such as Kajol, Neena Kulkarni, and Neha Dhupia. In a free-wheeling chat the actress talks about her film, dealing with failures and father Kamal Hassan. Excerpts from the interview:
When did you decide to do this film Devi?
When I was invited to be part of something so powerful that is also reflective of society’s numbness to certain issues, I had to take it up. Also, this is the perception that women don’t really stand for each other and that the system needs to be strong enough. This film goes through this journey. It’s been great to know these incredible women.
What do you think are your biggest strengths?
I think, I allow myself to change. I don’t beat myself up if I fail. I’m critical about myself, but at the same time, I allow myself to grow and change and accept that journey and lessons I learn in this process. Those lessons learned have been a great strength for me.
Whom do you turn to when you experience failure?
I never needed anyone’s shoulders for support during my failures. Of course, your mom, dad, and friends are always there, but failure has to be dealt by oneself: Intimately and personally. The lessons learned are for you to assimilate. For me, every failure is something that has lead me to success. So, I take failures very seriously. It is not to make me depressed or sad, but to make me positive.
What about your weaknesses?
As a woman, I can be very emotional and vulnerable. In the last few years, I have learnt that agar aap dukhi ho ya aap tense ho, uske baare mein baat karna (if you are sad or tense, talking about it) actually is not a weakness. So I have learnt to express my emotions more over the years. Feeling bad has made me stronger.
Is this a trait you have inherited from your father, Kamal Haasan?
He is an emotional person. I have to say this — though we always talk about mothers raising their sons, I think it is also important to know how fathers raise their girls. And my father raised me with the sense of invincibility as a woman. He said, “You can do whatever you wish to do, but be careful. This is the reality, but you can be whatever you want,” and he always told me to stay naïve… bahut hard mat ban jaana (Don’t become too hard)... Always keep your vulnerability; it will be your greatest strength. Now, at 30, I agree with him.
Speaking of 30, do you think age matters?
Age matters, yes it does. I’m a very late cake, mujhe sab kuch bahut dheere dheere samajh mein aata hai (I understand everything slowly and gradually). When I look at other people who are younger than me, I am like “Oh! They are so wise and poised.” Mujhe bahut der lagi (It took me a long time) to reach here.
Moving back to work, what are you working on right now?
Currently, I am doing two South films and my own music in the UK. One is a Tamil film with Vijay Sethupathi, directed by S.P. Jananathan. It’s a wonderful socially conscious film. I am also doing a film in Telugu called Crack. Director Gopichand Malineni is coming back after six years for this family entertainer. In both my films, I love my roles. These two women are really important to the film.
As for music, I have been writing and it has been an amazing journey for me because I’m a newcomer in the music scenario. I have written the music and the lyrics, and it’s a journey starting from the bottom to the top. It’s been wonderful.
Is it true that you are looking to be more connected with female characters?
With women characters, I think I have done films in the past that were correct for that time, but I have always felt, maybe, I was not doing enough. However, now I want to feel, at least, that I am doing enough.
Do you feel social media gives liberty to people to say anything and everything, regardless of how harsh it is?
People are quick to criticize others. Social media is a reflection of society and people. I have got a lot of positive interactions too on social media. You come across people of all kinds.
What do you have to say about the #MeToo movement that happened in India?
I was taking a flight to London when this #MeToo movement happened, there was somebody reading on his open laptop about physical proximity and how to behave with women, and I thought to myself, ‘There is awareness now. Somewhere, there is this questioning and you are answerable. This is something that concerns human behaviour in general. In this context, it can’t be like kuch bhi keh do aur socho sab chalta hai (say what you want and think that it’s okay).
It was very important to happen. Honestly, I didn’t think India would take it to that level. I feel very proud that women had the courage to come out and talk about it.
Do you have a message for women out there?
I think, your voice matters, your journey matters and you should know that.