As actress Tamannaah gears up for the release of "Himmatwala" tomorrow, British journalist Ashanti Omkar had a tête-à-tête with this very busy beauty. She’s been making waves in South Indian films, and causing ripples in Bollywood too. Tamannaah is in Sajid Khan’s remake of "Himmatwala", with Ajay Devgn in the lead, and is famous in the South for films like 100% Love, Padikathavan, Ayan and Paiyaa.
On working in the Indian film industry…
My very first work was in films and I began modelling simultaneously. I was in school, the 8th Standard and the producer of Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, who had his kids in the same school as me, spotted me and I auditioned and got the job. It was not a good film per say, not was it appreciated at all, but everybody has a beginning. Someone has to give you a first chance and trust you to do a job and this was my humble beginning into this fraternity.
Tell us about your foray into the Tamil and Telugu industries, and the plethora of famous people you’ve worked with.
For me, I was lucky that at an early stage, I had the best directors and actors in the South to work with. I always believed in team work and good combinations and am hoping that it works in Hindi too. I have to say that each and every person I’ve worked with, has given me lessons for growth. Honestly when I began, I was just 15 and so young, I didn’t even know about the South Indian industry industry. I went into it with total ignorance, but had a distinct clarity that I wanted to act. This helped me to take decisions, combined with a very supportive family. They are my complete strength and the reason I do this. They help me morally and in every way, to keep me grounded, when I travel a lot and are always there for me, with food and comfort, during hard schedules.
How did you bag this role in Himmatwala?
It’s an interesting one, as producer Vashu Bhagnani had seen a lot of my South films but my director Sajid Khan had only seen photos. In fact, he’s still not seen any of my films from the South. He met me and took the call, which was a big thing for me, as he had total conviction and faith. I really respect that and am really happy to be a part of this.
A character sketch of Rekha in Himmatwala…
In this film, I play a very spoilt brat. I am a meanie, a baddie and my character gets a reality check from the hero, which transforms her into a nice person. It is based in 80s and therefore prevalent to the 80s in fact, mine is a role that is very similar to the original.
Ajay Devgn as a co-star…
I’ve always watched his work and have loved his portrayals in films like Omakra and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. H’s tapped the whole spectrum of all characters in Indian cinema. An actor who is versatile and superstar, and I have witnessed the adulation, the fan following and also how he’s found balance between an amazing actor and also an action star. It is a rare combo and a dream to watch up close. For example, one thing that justifies the title Himmatwala is that he has to fight a tiger in the film. I feel that standing next to a tiger is frightening to the core, but he has a fist fight with the tiger – almost unimaginable, but he did it.
Himmatwala as a film…
Sajid has weaved in a bit of melodrama, an homage to what the cinema of the 80s was, and maintained this, but done to make it palatable to today’s audiences. Sajid is very good with humour and entertainment and has a passion for every aspect of film-making.
Sajid as a director
He made me very comfortable from day one and was not at all tough on me. In fact, I never felt like I was in a work place, it was like being at home and felt so easy. Sajid is an encyclopaedia on 80s Bollywood cinema and he can defeat anyone on any trivia from those films and he guided us all with his knowledge.
Re-creating Sridevi must have been daunting – any special prep?
Honestly, I was guided very well by Sajid and we were not trying to be like Sridevi Ma’am. There is only one person like her and her work is so inspirational. I was keeping that era in mind and time-zone and did the best I could do. As I wasn’t even exposed to those films of of 80s, I relied solely on Sajid for guidance and direction on this.
A sneak peak into your future Bollywood projects?
I’m working with Sajid-Farhad, the writers of ‘Bol Bachchan’, in a film with Akshay Kumar, which I’m very excited about. They’re debuting in direction with that and Tips are producing the film. It will go to floors in July/August. There is no break for me though, after the release of Himmatwala, as I have back to back Tamil and Telugu films to work on.
A message for the fans?
I really want everyone to watch Himmatwala on 29th March. It is 2 hours to thoroughly enjoy, just for fun. There is action, it’s colourful and you cab forget their troubles and come into this wonderful world we’ve created.
Himmatwala is out in cinemas on March 29th. Check out the trailer below:
Ashanti OMkar is a UK-based media personality who works for a range of outlets including the BBC and India’s Galatta magazine, and she is also the Bollywood Editor for Cineworld Cinemas. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.