Aditi Rao Hydari stands as a versatile artist, captivating audiences not only with her beauty but also with her profound grace. With a career spanning across movies and OTT shows, she has effortlessly embraced diverse roles, leaving an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Her performances exude a rare authenticity, allowing viewers to connect deeply with her characters. From her ethereal presence in period dramas to her relatable portrayals in modern narratives, she navigates various genres with finesse.
In conversation with Aditi Rao Hydari:
Aditi Rao Hydari made her debut in 2011 and there has been no looking back for her since. Her genuine charm and relatability set her apart, making her a favourite among audiences. She played the goofy girl-next-door in London Paris New York and the vulnerable yet strong Mehrunisa in Padmaavat. She started her career with a dream to be a Mani Ratnam heroine and she fulfilled it in 2016 with Kaatru Veliyidai. She recently tasted success and critical appreciation with her OTT show Jubilee and up next, she joins Sanjay Leela Bhansali again in Heeramandi, a film that holds the top spot in the most anticipated projects at the movies.
From historical epics to contemporary narratives, her filmography narrates a tale of versatility, where she seamlessly transitions from one character to another with unmatched ease. Aditi Rao Hydari is an embodiment of how dedication, beauty, and grace can converge to create something truly extraordinary and she strives to make a bigger mark with her work in the future.
You’ve been a part of the industry for over a decade now. What has been the biggest takeaway from your journey as an outsider?
I started my career as a professional with Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011), which was when I moved to Bombay. So it’s been over a decade and it’s been a one-step-at-a-time kind of thing for me, at least in the beginning. Not really knowing how the industry works, but just having a certain dream and wanting to be a part of certain kinds of films, wanting to be directed by certain kinds of directors, that’s literally what I came with to the industry. I wanted to be chosen to be a part of the world that certain kinds of people create. I actually came with a very naive understanding of what it is, and how it was. In my worldview, it was a little make-believe world and you just get to be a part of the vision of these great directors. But when you come here, you realize that it’s a whole different world. There’s a whole PR mechanism and people work on what they want people to see, what they want people to believe. There is a certain legend that you create around you about who you are, what kind of power you possibly come with or how you’re groomed. There’s so much. It’s just something that you discover and learn along the way. I look at it in a positive way, I take what I can from it, in terms of what I’m comfortable with, what I’m happy to do or the way in which I want to work.
When did things take a turn for you in your professional life?
I think post-2016 is when things changed for me because that is when I worked with Mani Ratnam (Aditi was the lead in Kaatru Veliyidai, released in 2017). And that is the reason I got into the industry. I wanted to be a Mani Ratnam heroine. It was my dream. Once I worked with him, a whole new world opened up for me. I started doing the kind of work that I enjoyed, working with the directors that I wanted to work with. It’s almost like an ISI mark.
Do you believe in making substantial plans for yourself?
As an artist, you’re always looking at the next thing. You’re always looking to grow, to do better and, have more enriching experiences, and more adventures. But to be honest, I am a bit of a dreamer, but there is a part of me that is also organized, disciplined and, hardworking. I love my job, so the plans that I have are more like dreams and they’re not time bound. I feel the moment you time things, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of negative feelings. And I don’t like to do that. I love to have my dreams. I am solid in my like beliefs and my dreams and what it is that I want to do. Some of my dreams have come true and the ones that are yet to come true, you’ll know of them when they do.
Do you remember the first time you were recognised in public and how did it make you feel?
Even now when people come up to me or they say the things that they do, I feel overwhelmed. I’m just that little girl, you know. And for people to come up to you, it takes a lot of courage on their part. I never turn them away because I really feel it takes so much to be able to do that to somebody that you don’t really know. And I’m very filled with gratitude. The first time it actually really meant something to me was back in 2017, when the teaser of Kaatru Veliyidai. It is the love story that I did with Mani sir, and the teaser went viral. When I went to Chennai and the kind of love that I got, that was overwhelming for me. And that meant a lot to me because that was the dream that I had.
Over the year, audiences and directors have started seeing you in a certain life. You play the vulnerable, feminine characters with aplomb. Are you consciously looking to break out of that mould?
I started with Yes Saali Zindagi and the girl that I played was nothing like me. The first couple of films that I did, whether it was Yes Saali Zindagi or London Paris New York, were girls-next-door characters. After I did Kaatru Veliyidai and then Padmaavat, people, for whatever reason, and even directors, started to see me in a particular way. I guess that’s what also casting is about. Every actor has an innate core nature, right? Something that fits or suits them. But it is up to me if I want to explore, and if I want to be that curious child, and push myself. Even though there are many things that I want to do, I also enjoy the love that one gets for something that works. But one will constantly try to break that box and do something else. And who knows, maybe another box will be created for you. But it is my job to constantly keep breaking that box, but also enjoy the box that I’m in, It is a very beautiful box too.
One of the most critically acclaimed and loved shows this year has been Jubilee. Do you think working on OTT has opened doors to exploring newer things as an artiste?
We all grew up with cinema and theatre. But I’ve learnt that it’s not about the medium, it’s about the stories we’re telling. And it’s about the directors, the team we’re working with and the characters that you’re playing. The fact that today we have so many incredible OTT platforms, has made it great for storytellers, and different kinds of artists, whether it’s actors, writers, or directors. As makers of content and stories, we have a responsibility because OTT can’t be something that we use as a place where we shove content to make a quick buck along the way. That would be a great disservice to those platforms. I feel like there has to be respect for any platform that one puts content onto, whether it’s the theatres or OTT.
The last couple of months have brought back theatres in the box-office game. The movies are making big bucks. How reassuring is that for you as an actor and as audience?
The thing is it takes time for things to settle and for people to get used to the idea of new things. Because of COVID-19 and lockdown, people were very comfortable watching content in their homes and there was so much incredible content to watch. So I guess that the theatricals also took their time to figure out what is happening. It’s a kind of re-adjustment that happens even in people’s minds. Of course, both platforms are going to co-exist and co-exist wonderfully because there is incredible content on both. But it is up to us as actors, producers, and writers to know the intent behind making the content. Hopefully, it is because we want to entertain people. We want to tell them good stories. We want their love. Hopefully, if all that happens and luck is on your side, you’ll also make a lot of money along the way.
You seem calm all the time. Do you have a temper at all? What’s your coping mechanism?
This is a very good question. My temper does sit on my nose. Things like when people don’t have pride in what they do and they’re dishonest with what they do. It does make me angry. But I’m not a typically angry person. I don’t shout at people and I don’t throw tantrums. For me, dignity is very important at all points. And I feel whatever it is that you’re trying to say, if you put down the other person, they’re not going to listen to you. If you tell them the same thing respectfully and you can get your point across with a certain kind of dignity, then you might have a chance. I also can’t shout. If I’m angry, I start crying because I’m so angry.
I think anger is hard to hide. It shows on your face…
Oh my God! I have got to be the most transparent person. I think my face is literally like a transparent piece of paper if I’m upset, irritated, hungry, happy, feeling goofy, whatever it is, you’ll see it on my face. But I hate getting angry. I find it the most horrible thing. I think the repercussions of this are the worst, the consequence of having said something out of anger. I don’t like that because you can’t take that back. But I’m also very good at saying sorry. if I do get upset with people, even though I don’t shout, I could throw a tantrum because I am very sensitive. I apologise. I don’t have that sense of hierarchy in me. People are people and they deserve to be treated well. Why be an asshole to anybody?
What are some tangible things that keep you happy and calm?
I love being around people that I love. That’s a huge pick-me-up because a lot of people that I love also make me laugh a lot and I laugh very easily, thank God. People think they have a great sense of humour, because I’m laughing, I tell them to not take credit because I find things funny very easily. The other things are dance and music. I’ve grown up around it, and I’ve not known a life without dance and music. And then I would say food, like good food. And sharing food. I love feeding people. It makes me very happy to be able to share my food with people or to feed people to the point of force-feeding.
Who do you look up to when you think of a legacy that you want to replicate in your profession?
I feel it’s too early to say because these kinds of things possibly come to you a little later. It’s too difficult right now, because you’re talking about a legacy that you’re leaving behind, that people are going to remember you by. But if I were to pick a person who I truly idealise, as an actor, and as a human being, is Audrey Hepburn. That kind of legacy is something that I really connect to.
What are the things that make you feel beautiful?
Laughing. I like it when I’m happy. That is a tangible thing to me. I feel I can turn around a bad day myself. It’s not about looking beautiful. It’s about feeling beautiful. And I think feeling beautiful is really about being positive. And being able to admire beauty and goodness in the things around you. Apart from that, I would again say dancing and music. Also just love, to be loved.