Tollywood
Shriya is playing the role of Queen Vasishta Devi in this film about a forgotten emperor, Telugu culture and identity.
  • Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 16:59
Facebook/ Gautamiputra Satakarni

Vrinda Prasad

Ahead of the film's release, Shriya Saran opened up about her role in the historical drama, working with Krish and Balakrishna, and how the film made her feel stronger.

It's been nearly 16 years since Shriya Saran made her acting debut, but she has never done a film like Gautamiputra Satakarni, a historical drama set in 1st Century A.D.

The film narrates the story of Gautamiputra Satakarni, one of the greatest emperors of the Satavahana dynasty, and how he unified various kingdoms to rule the country.

Shriya will be seen playing the role of Vashishtha Devi, wife of Satakarni, and she confesses that the film itself turned out to be a revelation for her.

"I graduated with a degree in history, but I didn't know much about an emperor like Gautamiputra Satakarni. When Krish narrated the story to me, I was immediately sucked into this magnificent world he had created. A lot of research, right from re-creating the costumes to elaborate sets, has gone into the film. More than anything, what I really admire about Krish is the level of detailing he went into to explain the characterisation to me," says Shriya.

The more she talks about the film, the more evident it is that just like Krish and Balakrishna, she too is emotionally attached to it.

There's a certain element of pride in being part of the film and you can see why. Not only is the team re-telling the story of a largely forgotten emperor, but also reinforcing the greatness of Telugu culture and identity.

"I believe that if we are not proud of our roots and culture, we can't be confident about our future. We should always remember our past and preserve what we have," Shriya avers.

She adds, "Every film is a journey and in the end, you feel that you've learnt something from that experience. But it was quite different while shooting for Gautamiputra Satakarni. I love travelling and we've shot the film in various locations like Morocco, Georgia, Hyderabad and Madhya Pradesh. And I felt like I was also travelling within while playing the role of Vasishta Devi. It was a process of self-discovery and finding strength from within. In the end, I wasn't the same person anymore. That's one of the reasons why I say that shooting for this film was a life changing experience."

Going by the teasers so far, it's evident that Shriya is playing an emotionally charged role and she credits Krish for helping her discover a new shade of her persona.

"I was nervous on the first day of the shoot and I'm sure every actor goes through that in the beginning stages of a project. But I must give Krish the entire credit for helping me to step into the shoes of Vasishta Devi. Every day, he would explain the character graph and the emotion behind the scenes to me. There are dialogues where Vasishta questions Satakarni's motive behind taking away her son to the war and it's not an easy scene to pull off. You've to completely believe in what you are saying. I think that's when you start believing in the story, the characters and the theme. We are telling a story which happened sometime in 78 A.D and when I look back, I feel people were extremely progressive. The women were strong and they played a part in shaping the course of the future. In that sense, Vasistha Devi is a very special role for me," Shriya says.

Gautamiputra Satakarni was shot in less than 90 days, which in itself is an achievement, considering the scale of the film. There were days when even nature came to their rescue. When the film was being shot in Madhya Pradesh, there wasn't a drop of rain in the region, except for the three days when the team was planning to shoot a rain sequence.

"We couldn't believe it," Shriya recalls, adding, "When it started raining, I thought Krish was going to call off the shoot, but he asked all of us to assemble and get ready for the shoot in natural rain. We were skeptical about the idea, but it turned out to be even better than we had imagined. Hats off to his conviction."

The actor is all praise for her co-star Balakrishna, who regaled her with slokas, anecdotes and stories from his life.

"I have never come across a man who has so much love for his father. Balakrishna told me that he only listens to songs from his father's, the legendary NTR garu, films, and keeps talking about the lessons he learnt from him. Both Balakrishna and Hema Malini are well-versed with slokas and it was really fascinating to see them do a jugalbandi of slokas during the shoot. What I really admire about him is his commitment towards his craft. He gets into the character so much that it also inspires others around him to up their game," she confesses.