When little Aditi watched Manisha Koirala dancing to Kehna hi kya in Bombay (1995), the image of the actor in a white lehenga with middle-parted hair and classic pearls left her mesmerised. A dream took birth in her of someday working with ace director Mani Ratnam. And when dreams are heartfelt, the Universe conspires to fulfill them. Two decades later, Aditi Rao Hydari was ‘presented’ in the genius filmmaker’s Kaatru Veliyidai. Set against the backdrop of the Kargil war, Kaatru Veliyidai is a layered love story between fighter pilot Varun (Karthi) and doctor Leela Abraham (Aditi Rao Hydari).
While being held captive, Varun reminisces about her and tries to redeem himself and his lost love. The poetic love story won critics over as it dealt with the complex emotions of a narcissistic and sexist officer and the healing love of the woman he loved. “The response has been overwhelming. I was presented with such care and attention. It has been a soul-satisfying experience,” says the gorgeous Aditi. Right now, she’s shooting for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati. “It just makes me believe that if you believe in a dream, it comes true. The innocence of a dream is important,” she asserts. Aditi reveals it was Jaya Bachchan who suggested her name to SLB for Padmavati. “I have an instinctive affection for Amitji (Bachchan) and Jayaji. My mother was once said to resemble Jayaji. Perhaps that’s why the bond,” smiles Aditi who has acted with Bachchan in Wazir. Omung Kumar’s Bhoomi where she plays Sanjay Dutt’s daughter, has just released. She had a great time shooting with her co-star Sanjay Dutt. Says she, “I call him BFG – ‘
The Big Friendly Giant’ from Roald Dahl’s similarly titled book. He’s so sweet. What I admire about him is that he’s an open book. He says whatever he feels.When we went to his house, he asked us for tea or coffee. But to me he said, ‘You’re my daughter (in the film). So you must have milk’.” She continues, “Omung sir wondered if I was scared of Sanjay sir. But Sanjay sir has always been so sweet. He’d make me crack up on the set just before an intense scene. He’s hilarious. Sometimes he’d get ‘mock angry’ and would actually be laughing within.” She adds, “Sanjay sir loves feeding people. When we were in Agra, he’d get amazing Galouti kebabs, biryani etc from Jama Masjid.” As an actor, she says he’s a natural, who can switch on and off instantly. He can pull off a complicated scene in just one take. “Like me, he doesn’t believe in rehearsing much. That would help us do the scene instinctively.”
Aditi, a trained Bharat Natyam dancer, made her onscreen debut in the Tamil film Sringaram in 2006. She grew popular after her performance in Sudhir Mishra’s 2011 romantic thriller Yeh Saali Zindagi. Later, she was seen in films like Rockstar, Murder 3, Khoobsurat and Fitoor. Since her Tamil debut, it’s taken her a while to make her presence felt in showbiz. Everyone has a different journey, she says. “To work your way up without playing the regular games that one is supposed to play, is difficult. My journey has been slow and steady but it’s good as long as you’re taking a step forward,” she maintains. She says she doesn’t want to be indebted to anyone. She wants to work with dignity and on her own terms.
For Aditi being in front of the camera is like being in Enid Blyton’s On a Magic Faraway Tree’. “You can be anyone, do anything,” says the avid reader. She hates the word nepotism. Says she, “It’s true that people help their own here. But isn’t that true of any profession?” she asks irately. She dislikes the thought of being ‘average’, quality is what drives her. Her films may not do 100 or 200 crores. But as long as she does films that are memorable, it’s worth it. “Because 100 crores will be forgotten but what lasts is the quality and experience. A great example is Guru Dutt’s cinema,” she explains.
Aditi hails from a royal family in Hyderabad. She’s the great granddaughter of Akbar Hydari, former Prime Minister of Hyderabad. Her maternal grandparents are Raja J Rameshwar Rao, who headed the administration of Wanaparthi state, and Shanta Rameshwar Rao, a much respected educationalist. Life in Mumbai with its clamour for success wasn’t easy for her. She smiles, “I was naïve and trusting. I’ve grown up amongst people who had positivity, dignity and grace.Then you come into a competitive field and you feel ‘Oh my God, I’ve been dropped into a jungle. I have to fend for myself’. It’s hard,” she confides. “Initially, I struggled to figure out what people expected you to be and who you are. I realised I could be actually unique just being myself. Like, I could be sexy but only in my way. Not in the way someone expects me to be.”
She has devised her own philosophy of survival. “The lucky have a support system that helps them survive the uncertainty. But what matters in the long run is exceptional talent,” she says adding, “I’m sure manipulation and game playing happens, there must be deals that are made but I haven’t seen it at close quarters.” Her vintage beauty makes her seem exotic amongst the bevy of cosmetic wonders. “I can’t be proud of my beauty, it’s sheer genetics. I didn’t create it. The only thing I can be proud of is my work,” she reasons. “Sometimes, a good-looking person may not be attractive because he/she is boring, lacks personality, courage and spirit,” she opines.
A person who’s sensitive, who’s interested in the arts like music, dance, sketching, reading… someone who’s passionate about his craft is attractive to her, she maintains. “People who have depth and character appear beautiful,” she elaborates, “Beautiful people are healthy inside out.” She doesn’t grudge the media scrutiny that comes with being a star. “The amount of love that you get is much more than the discomfort of being scrutinised. People are just doing their job,” she says. Recently, during her film’s screening, she had fever. “I knew that I’d look like a dead duck in the photographs. But I thought it’s okay if I look crazy one day. Actually, people are kind in our country, they’re not mean,” she says of the fans and paparazzi.
She admits that the pressure of not reaching where you want to, can shatter even the strongest. But her optimism has kept her afloat. She confides, “I cry easily. If I’m upset, I’ll break down like a five-year-old. I start laughing also with equal ease. People can say I’m delusional but that’s how I am.” Well for someone who sells dreams, believing in them is as essential.