LAVANYA TRIPATHI IS UNFAZED BY THE RAT-RACE THAT CINEMA OFTEN SEEMS TO BE. SHE PICKS HER ROLES WITH CARE AND CHISELS HERSELF TO PERFECTION.
Interview: Kaanchan Prashanth
Photography: Gaurav Swan
Stylist: Nishka Lulla
Makeup: Billy Manik
Hair: Zoey Quinny
How has your cinematic journey been so far?
It has been a smooth ride for the most part. Of course, there have been difficult times, but overall it has been a good learning experience. I have learnt my craft. I have learnt about people. I have discovered things about myself.
How has your understanding of cinema changed from the time you started acting, to now?
When I started out I knew nothing. I did not know what to expect from cinema. It was all so new and there was so much to explore. In my head, I wanted to do certain types of movies. I wanted to do a variety of roles, and find out where my strengths are – what I’m really good at and what needs improvement. But at the same time I also wanted to experiment with out-of-the-box films as well. I was sure I did not want to get confined within the walls of a stereotype.
It’s really easy to get labeled and slotted…
True, and that’s exactly what I did not want. As an actor. I want to be able to do all kinds of movies. There is so much out there. I don’t want to get comfortable doing one particular kind of character, just because some people think it suits me. I have often been told to stick to a certain kind of role because I have done it well. For instance if I have just played ‘a girl next door’ role and it was a hit, people tell me to do more of that and nothing else. Why should I? I refuse to get sucked into that comfort zone. I want to experiment. I want to see what all I can do.
“OTHER THAN CINEMA, I LOVE COOKING. I FIND GREAT COMFORT IN IT. I ENJOY THE WHOLE PROCESS. IT’S LIKE MEDITATION FOR ME. “
But what about commercial cinema and the success it brings? When does that come into the picture?
Well, it is a part of the experience, but not the only thing that matters. It’s not always about the money. I want to do different genres, different roles, different languages… I don’t want to be restricted by anything. I believe that an actor is like water, the roles you play are the vessels. As an actor you must gracefully take the shape of any vessel you are poured into. That said movies like Ninnu Kori and Arjun Reddy do not come under the regular commercial film category, yet they were huge commercial successes. That just goes to say that the audience is also mature and they will support a good script. So there is no point in staying confined within a stereotype when there is so much more waiting for you, if only you dared to step away from your comfort zone.
What happens if different roles do not come your way? You can’t keep rejecting everything…
I honestly don’t have that fear at all. The fear that if I reject roles I won’t get new opportunities has never crept in. I have never had a lull in my career in spite of how picky I am. If there is a long gap between my movies, it’s probably because I had taken a break to refresh and reinvent myself. I need to get in and out of character right? And even if I have not signed on anything, I have a ton of other things to do as well like going to my native place and just relaxing with my family. That is important too.
Do you need time off between your movies to get into character?
I really wish I had that luxury! I would love to spend time and explore the character I am to play in an upcoming movie. But that is not always the case. The makers have a budget and a time constraint, so I am given the script and my lines a few days before the shoot and that’s about the only time for preparation that I have! And also, a majority of the characters that I have played have not really required too much homework and research. The character that really drained me would be Andala Rakshasi. It was a very emotional experience. Another role that required some research was Mister where I play this girl who has never left her house. She has no clue how to behave in the outside world. It was very different from anything I have done before. It would be great to have the time to work on my characters much in advance, but it rarely happens. I use the gap between my movies to do something that will enhance my acting. Like one time I used the break to learn kathak. The break helps clear my head and to get ready for work.
“AN ACTOR IS LIKE WATER, THE ROLE YOU PLAY IS THE VESSEL. AS AN ACTOR YOU MUST GRACEFULLY TAKE THE SHAPE OF ANY VESSEL YOU ARE POURED INTO”
What has been the biggest challenge about your career in cinema?
I feel absolutely at home in Telugu cinema. The industry has really accepted me and nurtured me. The challenges that I face on the set, getting into character, all that is part of the job and I enjoy it. The actual challenge is dealing with people who try to force you into doing only certain kind of roles. When I had multiple hits, in fact at the start of my career I had only hits, hence I was called ‘Golden Leg’. I don’t like these tags. They are unnecessary. People think I am arrogant when I say that. The fact is a movie is made by a team. The success belongs to everyone. Why tag me individually? Likewise, when someone tries something off-beat and it does not work, immediately she is judged. People want us to stick to characters or movies that have worked for us before. Mister may not have been a hit, but I enjoyed the role I played in it. Instead of appreciating the effort and encouraging new paths, they try to push us back. Answering these people and ignoring them even, is very challenging.
Does it irk you that not many films have solid, well-thought of female characters?
Of course. That’s another thing. In a movie like Andala Rakshasi or Bhale Bhale Magadivoy, I had great roles. Hence I got so much appreciation. They were well written roles. I can do nothing on a wafer-thin role. Rakul Preet Singh was amazing in Rarandoi Veduka Chudham. Regina was great in Awe. Given the opportunity, we have the talent to perform. And those opportunities will come by only if we dared to go against the grain and break away from stereotypes.