10 years ago, Neha Sharma made her debut in the Telugu film industry with Chirutha. The film was also the launchpad for Ram Charan, Chiranjeevi's son.
After her first film, which Neha calls 'commercial and massy', she's back in the south with Solo.
There are very high expectations from the anthology film, made in Tamil and Malayalam by director Bejoy Nambiar. Ahead of the film's release, TNM caught up with Neha for a chat.
You made your debut in Telugu 10 years ago, went to Bollywood and are back in the south again – do you feel there's any difference from then to now?
Honestly, I think all the industries are very different, the kind of cinema they make. The sensibility of the films...it's very different. The film I made my debut with was an out and out commercial, massy film.
Solo, I think, is very different from that. It has the Bejoy sensibility. It's very different in terms of content. Bejoy is a Hindi film director, so apart from the language, I didn't find working on the film as such to be different.
Solo is a bilingual, how comfortable were you shooting in languages you don't understand? Did you dub for it?
Yes, language is the hardest part about shooting for a south film. It was very, very challenging.
But thankfully, my character Akshara only speaks in Tamil...because that's how Bejoy wanted Akshara to be. The film is bilingual, so it was like shooting for 8 films (Solo has four parts). You shoot a scene in Tamil and then shoot the same thing in Malayalam. So obviously, we were doing everything twice. I was doing only the Tamil lines but even that was very, very difficult.
Image courtesy: Facebook/ Neha Sharma
I don't know how I managed but I have to give everybody the credit — Dulquer, Bejoy...everyone was very involved and patient with me. I wish I could have done my own dubbing for the film. I did ask Bejoy if I can try but he said you know what, no matter how much you try you are not going to be authentic (laughs). And Bejoy is someone who is very particular about the film being very authentic...now that he's doing a Tamil-Malayalam film, he wanted it to be a proper Tamil-Malayalam film.
Though I didn't do the dubbing, I had to learn my Tamil lines, how those words are spoken and say it like that.
Are there are Malayalam or Tamil films that you've watched and enjoyed before shooting for Solo?
You know, I don't understand the language, so it's not something I have been watching earlier. But now, I'm getting familiar with it. I'm a big Mani Ratnam fan and he makes a lot of Tamil films. I watched OK Kanmani on a flight. I was very intrigued after working with Dulquer and wanted to see some of his work.
I have been watching here and there but I can't say I'm a big regional cinema-goer. But you know what? I've heard such wonderful things about the Malayalam film industry and the kind of films they make. Drishyam was another Malayalam film that got remade in many languages.
A lot of good films, I've found out now, are actually very good Malayalam films that have been remade into Hindi. So I'm really curious now. And Bejoy has been helping me with links that have subtitles, so I want to watch more!
What made you say yes to Solo? How did the project happen?
Image courtesy: Facebook/Neha Sharma
A lot of people have asked me why I said yes to a film that has four women in it. Why do you want to do it and all that.
I met Bejoy for another film a long time back but it didn't work out. But then Bejoy just called me one day...it was a generic call...and he told me he wanted me to listen to an idea he had.
So we met and he told me the 'Trilok' track which happens at the end. I don't think they've put out the trailer for that. It gives away the story. I heard it and I said I really liked it! Then he said he wanted me to listen to another track and then he told me about 'The World of Rudra' track and I said if you're making this, I want to be in it. So that was the conversation we had.
A couple of months later he told me that the film is finally happening and that it's an anthology...I think he'd shot already for two tracks...and he asked me if I still wanted to do this one.
You appear with Dulquer in 'The World of Rudra' in Solo. From the promos, it looks like it's a story of intense love between an army guy and a woman...does it have some similarities to the Mani Ratnam film Kaatru Veliyidai?
I haven't watched Kaatru Veliyidai but I've seen the trailer. I know he's a defence guy in love with this girl. But even without knowing the storyline, I can tell you that it can't be this. Because Bejoy's films always have these surprises that totally shock you. He bowls you over, he gives you something to think about. He gives you an ending that you are still thinking about hours after you exit the theatre. That's the effect the story had on me when I heard it.
I love Mani Sir. I love what he makes. But he's into romantic or hardcore drama films — that's his genre. This film is very different from that. I know the trailer makes you think this is a romance with complications but trust me when you watch it, you'll be like "Oh nice! This IS different!"
There are a whopping 21 songs in the film?
Not all the tracks are part of the film. Each part has four songs...so yes, there are 16 songs. But it's not like a musical where people are singing and dancing. There are some background songs. They add something to the film...they don't take away anything in any which way.
There are so many characters in Solo. In mainstream films, we find that the women characters barely make an impact. Do you feel satisfied with how your character has shaped up?
At that point, when Bejoy asked me if I wanted to do the film, I didn't think oh there are four tracks, four actresses. I was just very greedy to be part of this story because I feel it's very brave and interesting. I know everyone says oh this story is different...but this is actually very different. I have never heard of any director before making a story like this. I felt it's a great subject to be part of.
The reason I wanted to do this film wasn't my character. The reason is the story of this track, I felt it is a story that needed to be made. It's ballsy. I wanted to do it because I don't know how many people would say yes to something like this.
Every actor is selfish somewhere and selfless somewhere. Sometimes you want to do films which are about you and you want to have that credit given to you...but for this film, I just wanted to be a part of it and wanted it made.