It is not easy being the daughter of the biggest Superstar India has ever had. For every move you make and every step you take is watched, observed and scrutinised brutally. Soundarya Rajinikanth, however, has handled it all with so much class that it is hard not to admire this lady with the charm of a child and the heart of a lion. Bold, honest and hardworking, Soundarya Rajinikanth is one person who will not hesitate to speak her mind even during tumultuous times. In an exclusive interview with RITZ, she opens up on a number of issues from her upcoming film to her decision to part ways with her husband
Interview: Manigandan K R
Photography: Haider Khan
Makeup and Hair: Suman Joshi, Naturals Lounge, Alwarpet
Location: Park Hyatt
Congratulations on being appointed an Ambassador of the Animal Welfare Board of India. Your thoughts on the honour…
It is a big responsibility and I think the reason they appointed me to take up this role is because I am well versed in animation and computer graphics and a lot of times, in films you see animals (that people claim have been recreated using CG). You need a professional to come in and say if it is CG that has been used. As a person, I am a big animal lover. There have been times when I’ve stopped my car and fought with bullock cart drivers hitting the animal. I can’t take animals being treated badly. So, when this came my way and Chinni Krishnan sir, who is the the Vice Chairman, spoke to me, it was a very natural decision for me to say ‘Yes, I’ll take it up.’ That’s because, one, it was my kind of work – animation and CG and secondly, my heart goes out to animals. So, it just fit. Moreover, I am from the film fraternity. Somebody who is internal will be able to understand how the industry functions. So, I think the gap will be bridged. I spoke to my parents about it and they felt that if this was something that I can take up and do, they were more than happy for me to take it up.
You are directing a romantic comedy next. Tell us about it.
It’s a live action film. I’m in the process of locking the script, pre-production and casting now. This has nothing to do with dad. I’m a visual person. So, my films will have a lot of visually exciting moments. I have a great cameraman on board. Jomon John, who did Charlie and who is doing Gautham’s film, will be the cameraman for my film. Sean Roldan will be scoring the music. I will make the other announcements at the right time but what I can tell you now is that Dhanu sir is producing the film.
Every director wants to communicate something important to society through a film. Then, there must have been an event that must have triggered the idea for this story in the first place. So, what is the event that triggered this story and what is the message that you are looking to pass on through this film?
Actually, I was working on nine different lines, nine different concepts. You talk to any director, they have a lot of ideas because every day inspires you. You could be going in a car and watching something and a character could inspire you to say, ‘What will his life be like? Can I take him and work on it?’ So every director, at least the ones that I have interacted with, have a minimum of five to six lines running in their head at any given point. I had a lot of lines running in my head and finally, there was one particular topic to which I kept going back again and again.
What was that topic?
Ah, it is a romantic comedy. People have evolved tremendously compared to the years before – be it technology-wise, exposure-wise, taste-wise. People, who thought something was great five years ago, are now like, ‘That’s done, What more can you give me?’ Thanks to exposure, people know what quality is. My film is about today’s generation.
So, is this story based on Soundarya’s real life experience?
Obviously personal experiences will be there in places. How did I react in a given situation? That is probably how my girl will react in that situation at times in the film. But is this story based entirely on my personal life, no not at all. Its fictional.
Does this mean this is a woman-centric film?
No, it is not a woman-centric film. It is a love story and it takes two people for a love story. I am not one of those preachy types at all. I’m very realistic and I think my film will be something that today’s generation can relate to. it is a very modern film that I hope people will enjoy. I am planning to shoot by the end of October and the film will release in summer next year.
How long have you been working on this script?
I have been working on this script for about four months now and it is a process that evolves. First it is scribbles, then it becomes scenes that are not connected and then it assumes a screenplay format. It evolves into a script. I have been working with my brother-in- law Dhanush, he is my senior professionally. He is a successful film personality. He has this sense of audience. He knows their pulse very well. There is a team that I have created. We brainstorm and bounce off ideas. I narrated the script to Dhanu uncle recently and he loved it. Now, I have been sitting down to plan the cast.
More importantly, have you narrated your script to the Superstar?
Yes and Appa loves it! Appa has this set of inputs which he shared. He is thorough. He is a guru of all. Appa is someone who is particular about logic. He considers it very important. One thing I have learnt about my dad is that he moves on with time. He is not stuck in a generation that he came from. He is someone who keeps growing and adapting and moving on with generations. So, he saw the script in his mind as today’s film. There were some ideas that he gave which we have incorporated in the film. He is very much a part of my film.
You are known to follow your dad’s advice of being honest and truthful. From our experience, people don’t like the truth. In fact, people hate us for it. Isn’t following your dad’s advice of being honest and truthful painful?
‘I’ve been very peaceful being honest. Appa has always taught us to be honest and truthful when it comes to anything, especially to yourself. So, I think after a point, it’s not what people think. It is ‘Can you live with yourself? ‘ That’s what matters. I think I’ve been honest up till now. I’m peaceful because I’m honest.
You have chosen to part ways with your husband. What happened?
I don’t wish to discuss it. Whatever decision has been taken wasn’t overnight and was after a lot of thought. It’s a very big decision.
What was the Superstar’s reaction to it?
He is a very supportive father and at the end of the day, he wants his child to be happy, he was the first person to say, ‘ Do what is right !”
For gender equality to happen, what do you think is that one factor that must change?
I think a lot of it is already changing. Everybody is coming out and everybody is being vocal about a lot of things that women are doing. There is no industry today that a woman is not there
Is it a male-dominated film industry ?
Yes, It is still a male-dominated industry predominantly, but it is slowly changing. If you come to a film set, until a couple of years ago, you wouldn’t find many female assistant directors. A female would probably be in hair and make- up or costumes. Today, I am a director. I am the captain of a ship and I am a girl and I have assistant directors who are girls. I have photographers who are girls. My art director’s associate is a girl. A lot of girls are coming out. Now, it is about acknowledgement. Acknowledging that women are equally coming out there. I think men should acknowledge that more.
When there are two daughters in a family, there’s this question that arises as to which daughter is which parent’s favourite? Whose favourite are you?
You really can’t say that because in some houses, the second one gets it easier than the first and in some others, the first one gets it easier than the second. In every house, it is different. And relationships and equations change as we grow up…. Some scenarios my sister can handle better with my parents and some I can so really, can’t and shouldn’t compare this.
There are many achievements of which Soundarya can be immensely proud. She is an impressive, bold director who has made her mark in the industry. Needless to say, she is also the daughter of the Superstar, but apart from all these factors, what is that one other factor that she is immensely proud of?
I wouldn’t even think twice. I am most proud to be a mom. I am very proud that I am able to balance my life in such a way that my son comes first for me and I am a working woman too.
How do you manage to work and look after your kid at the same time?
That is what life is all about. Life is about balancing and I love doing it. I spend plenty of time with my baby and always make sure I am with him for his meals and I take him to school. I have to thank my mother for making this happen for me, she’s a wonderful grandmother and loves her role to bits.
Anything that you’d like to tell your fans and our readers?
I am not a preachy person. What Appa tells me is what I try to practice. One thing I have learnt is that you should always look forward in life. You need to be honest to yourself. I’ve lived that way to the best of my ability. You need to live in the present and always know that even this will pass.