The 'casting couch' culture is much less in Sandalwood as compared to Tollywood: Sruthi Hariharan

Women can’t just sit around and complain that it’s a male-dominated society if they’re not going to do something about it, says the actor.
The 'casting couch' culture is much less in Sandalwood as compared to Tollywood: Sruthi Hariharan
The 'casting couch' culture is much less in Sandalwood as compared to Tollywood: Sruthi Hariharan
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She's a trained dancer who was into short films before she shot into the limelight with Lucia. Talented actor Sruthi Hariharan is not just bold and outspoken but also very clear on the niche she wants to carve for herself in Indian cinema.

With numerous mainstream and creative projects in her kitty, Sruthi seems to be on a roll. In an exclusive chat with TNM, she talks films and more.

How important is Pawan Kumar’s Lucia in your career?

That was the turning point in my career. I started off as a dancer and worked on some short films and documentaries. My first feature film was a Malayalam film called Cinema Company but after Lucia released, I never had to go looking for work – work came my way. And that’s the best thing that can happen to any artist. Considering the fact that I had options to choose from post Lucia, I will forever be grateful to the film.

Unlike other actors you started with indie films but was your goal to be an actor in mainstream cinema?

Not at all! And I’m not lying when I say this. What’s happening in my career right now is a mixed big – I am doing a commercial film with Kannada star Darshan and I’m also looking for a producer for a female-oriented script I want to star in.

Personally, I feel conflicted sometimes. I never thought I’d work with stars like Darshan or Sharan. But opportunities are coming my way... and I’m taking them as they're opportunities for me to earn money. And saying no would be stupid.

At the same time, I’m lucky enough to do smaller budget films with unconventional subjects but which resonate with the audience like Godhi Banna and Urvi. This is where I find my creative satisfaction. I’m enjoying the space I am in right now.

Image courtesy: Facebook/ Sruthi Hariharan

How important is creative cinema in your career at this point?

It’s very important if I don’t want to be just another heroine. Women can’t just sit around and complain that it’s a male-dominated society if they’re not going to do something about it.

It’s time that women came out and did something for themselves. To get a producer to invest money on you, you don’t need just a target market, you also need to be credible and carry the film on your shoulders. I believe you must help yourself and that’s what heroes have been doing.

It’s high time that female actors did the same if they don’t want to be just another heroine. I really believe in this. My first step in doing that is Kalaathmika Productions which I’ve started with some friends. The first short film we produced was The Last Kannadiga and the next we’re working on is Rita. I do want to stick around for a long time and not just be a pretty face. (Smiles)

But you’re not keen on glam roles.

No, I find it very hard. (Smiles) It’s not my forte. Luckily enough, I am getting cast in roles that don’t require me to be that glamorous. Even in the Darshan film, I’m not expected to be a glam doll. I’m not physically perfect and most women are not.

Glamour is important in the film industry, isn’t it?

In mainstream cinema, yes. But the kind of films I want to do, definitely not.

Image courtesy: Facebook/ Sruthi Hariharan

Don’t you think you’ll miss out on working with the bigger stars?

It would have been true if I had not signed the Darshan film. I have a film with one of the biggest stars in the Kannada film industry and I’m ok with not catering to the whole glam quotient. But I have done the glamorous element too in the Sunday Banthu song and I enjoyed it.

I think the whole definition of cinema is now changing. Heroism, machoism, pretty woman by the hero’s side and he comes to save – that whole commercial formula has changed. People relate to real stories and real women now on screen. So I don’t think I’m going to lose out on anything by saying I’m not comfortable with glamour and this is who I am.

Is Kannada films the space where you want to be known for your work?

I’m working on a few projects in Tamil and Malayalam. But I feel very Kannada. I’m a Tamilian brought up in Bangalore. When you’re brought up in Bangalore, you know all languages and you’ve have a cosmopolitan upbringing. Since I’m from Bangalore, I want to have my base here and work here – not just because it’s home but because I know the lifestyle, culture and people here. The kind of films I want to do will reflect all of this. I feel rooted to Bangalore.

Female actors tend to want to do Tamil and Telugu films as they are bigger markets.

I’m not here for the fame and I’m very clear about it. Yet I like my work being appreciated. So, if I do films in other languages, it’ll not be for fame.

I will want to work with directors like Mani Ratnam and Bala in Tamil and Shekhar Kuammula in Telugu. When it comes to mainstream cinema, I’ll run away from it. There’s another angle to it – in a larger film industry like Tamil or Telugu, you’re expected to be a lot of things other than an actor. And that’s a battle I’ll fight all my life.

Maybe I’ll just phase out or I’ll survive, I don’t know. To be frank, the Telugu industry scares me. The way that actresses are treated in the Telugu film industry including the ‘casting couch’ and prerequisites (from what I’ve heard), is something I’ll never stoop down to.

With all due respect to all the female actors in the film industry, I can’t wrap my head around this. The ‘casting couch’ doesn’t exist as much in the Kannada film industry (as compared to Tamil too) and I can say that confidently.

Image courtesy: Facebook/ Sruthi Hariharan

Do you think there’s space for women-oriented films in the Kannada film industry? How popular will they be?

It started off with a film called Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu by Sumana Kittur which was critically acclaimed. Now, I’m part of a film called Urvi which has three female leads. It’s a beautiful film and if it does commercially well, it will change a lot of dynamics for women in the Kannada industry.I have a lot of hopes pinned on this film.

The audience watches films with good content and that’s how the Kannada audience is transforming. It’s about giving good content which is female-oriented. I have Urvi and Tesla, a sci-fi thriller, in the pipeline. I know good content will always work.

What do you want to have achieved in the next five years?

I want to be part of projects that I can be proud of and I want to be able to create something from within myself using the medium of cinema. I do see myself having made a film as a director.

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