Singer, entrepreneur and film actor might sound a handful. However, for Andrea there is always something to discover and try out. Pushing boundaries for her achievements, this Chennai based performer says she is waiting for the day when she feels she has accomplished something. But her heart, more or less, revolves around her much treasured music career that she intends taking to a global level some day. In fact, Andrea is so passionate about music she has also started The Show Must Go On (TSMGO), to promote live performances.
“You can win the lottery by chance, but you can't make a career by chance.”
Andrea asserts that practice makes perfect in the world of music. “I'm sure that if I hadn't gone to piano lessons regularly as a child, then I wouldn't have dared to take the plunge and dive headfirst into the arts”, she says.
She began her stint in music at the age of ten when she started performing with the Jackson Five Group. That, according to her, paved the way to take up music as a career. As a much sought after voice she has worked with ace composers in the Tamil film industry like Harris Jayaraj (Kannum Kannum Nokia from Anniyan and Karka Karka in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu) and Yuvan Shankar Raja (Oh Baby from Yaaradi Nee Mohini and the most recent Who's The Hero? from Manmadan Ambu).
Her foray into acting also began in a similar fashion; this time, however, it was her earlier stint in theatre that was her stepping stone to the film industry. Right from her college days, she was a popular face in the theatre circuit, appearing in productions by Madras Players and EVAM. Experimenting with acting, she discovered that she was meant to be an actor, too. Was she gradually placed in each of the parts, or did she aim to be a versatile artist always?
“I didn't attend acting school, but I did a lot of stage work from a very young age and that goes a long way in preparing for things to come. I guess I did start off being an amateur, doing something for fun, but somewhere along the way it occurred to me that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
“I am a very simple and practical person”
One look at Andrea and you know she has the energy to accomplish all her professional goals. But what is the real Andrea like - off stage and off screen? A simple girl, who keeps to herself, is how she would decode herself: someone, who likes to keep her feet firmly on the ground and believes in the power and magic of destiny.
“I live by my heart and I'm always restless and in search of new things to challenge myself with. I'm not a very people's person, so I prefer to hang out with my close knit group of friends. I am very emotional about things, people, work, food, the weather, the list goes on! I value honesty and integrity above all else. I am a confusing mixture of old-fashioned principles and modern intellect. I am impulsive to the extent of being foolish about it. I love books, chocolate, the ocean and the rain.”
"I do things on my own terms and take my own decisions for myself, but at work I believe in trusting and respecting the people I work with”
Andrea admits pertinently that you control what happens around you and in your life only to a certain limit. Beyond it, you have to sit back and watch, hoping things go as you want and plan. The lissome actor adds that being in the industry, she has understood that honesty and commitment can take you places and the rest is dictated by one’s destiny. It may look like she is taking it easy, but the truth is that she is working hard and putting in her one hundred percent into everything she does irrespective of the outcome.
“That's me as a person and when it comes to taking decisions, I do things on my own terms. But in an industry where everything is interconnected and interrelated, it is hardly possible to be my own boss. I have to be able to trust and respect the people I'm working with because the end product is entirely in their hands, be it a song or a film. As for taking it as it comes, well, I'm not an aggressive person, I never have been but I am extremely passionate about what I do and I give it my all. I am a strong believer in destiny, and it may seem like the laissez-faire attitude to life, but really, how much of our lives do we actually control? It's scary to think about the infinite possibilities of things that can go magically right or disastrously wrong in a single minute! It's best to be honest and committed and hope for the best, at least that's what I'd like to believe.
“In these 4 years, I have to have learned something or I'd have to be the world's greatest imbecile!”
Andrea’s acting career came into the limelight when she starred with Sarath Kumar in the 2007 thriller Pachaikili Muthucharam. She played a homemaker, a role that was initially offered to Simran and Tabu. She received immense recognition and critical acclaim for her portrayal of Kalyani. Since then there has been no looking back for the actor. Yet, she has kept a low profile and has seldom hit the headlines, maintaining that is the way she likes things to be. After close to four years in the industry, has she learnt anything that she thinks would help her in the long run?
Andrea laughs. “In these 4 years, I have to have learned something or I'd have to be the world's greatest imbecile! The entertainment industry is the same everywhere; different people, different languages, different work styles, but ultimately, the core principles are the same!”
On more serious note she adds, “But there are some industry tricks I have not learned and I'm glad for it. I don't believe in gimmicks, and I don't believe in short cuts. I may be flawed, but those flaws are ME and not some personality that I've concocted to please the world. I have lost fragments of myself and been lucky enough to find them again. I think that if I can only hold on to this, this more than anything, is what will help me in the long (or short) run!”
“I was always a bit of a loner, and I used to go wandering off to the fields behind the house.”
A Chennai girl to the core, Andrea’s early years, however, were spent in Arakkonam where it was all about fun, food and the warmth and affection she received from her grandparents who were based there.
“I was born in Chennai but I spent the first 7 years of my life in Arakkonam. It was one of the happiest periods of my life. I grew up with my grandparents and after we moved to Chennai, I used to long for holidays because I'd go back to Arakkonam and be with them. I loved them to death, especially my grandmother. I was spoiled by them, all the grandkids were; we were a big brood of cousins who spent a lot of time together, eating mangoes and sugarcane and plucking mulberries off the tree in my grandparents' garden. There was plenty of good food in my childhood!
“In spite of the company, however, I was always a bit of a loner, and I used to go wandering off to the fields behind the house. Sadly those fields are no longer there, it's all houses now! Then of course we moved to Chennai and I grew up, studied, went to music lessons, made new friends, found new dreams and ambitions and now here I am today!” says the graduate from Women’s Christian College.
“I intend studying music in the US, though the plan has taken a backseat now. But someday, I hope to live that dream”.
She has no qualms in admitting that she wished she had studied a little more. So does she regret that she did not pursue further studies?
“Yes, it's absolutely true. All my life, I have pined for the experience of being a student away from home. I was probably the only child who actually begged her parents to send her away to a boarding school! I was utterly fascinated by all the Enid Blyton books about boarding schools so I suppose that influenced me a bit. And of course, once I started thinking about music as a career choice, I dreamed of studying music in the U.S and I haven't given up on that dream entirely. It's been put on the backburner for now, but it resurfaces from time to time and at some point, I think I will have to go, more to get it out of my system than anything else!”
“Working with Karthi in Aayurathil Oruvan has been a delightful experience. He is such a pleasant and endearing co-star”
With two sensational films to her credit, Andrea is currently concentrating on her upcoming film Mankatha that also has Trisha and Arjun in pivotal roles. Though she clearly states she won’t talk about the project till it is released, Andrea opens up a little about her rapport with her co stars and some memorable experiences in the industry as a singer.
“I think Karthi is by far the nicest actor to work with. He is incredibly sweet and down to earth, takes his job seriously, treats everyone on the set with respect and is an absolute gentleman. In the 200 odd days that I shot with Karthi for A.O, not once did he lose his cool! That's quite a feat, considering the extreme conditions in which we shot,” she says.
“I fell in love with Shreya’s voice when I heard 'Munbe vaa' from Sillunu Oru Kadhal”
Not only has Andrea shot in extreme weather conditions, she has even recorded songs when she was feeling under the weather.
“I recorded 'Maalai Neram' when I had the most horrid cold. I missed the engagement of one of my closest friends because I had to stay back to record it and he refused to talk to me for a while after that. And it wasn't supposed to be on the album at all, GV was the one who insisted that it should be included, and I'm glad he had his way. The song I took the least amount of time to record was 'Idhu Varai'. I got to the studio; they checked the pitch and decided that they needed to change it. So I stepped out for a burger, came back to the studio and finished the song. My musical taste is usually the opposite of what most people like. I remember thinking as I left the studio that if I liked the song so much, it was sure to be a flop. I've never been happier to have been proven so wrong,” she says.
Asserting that she is seldom in awe of artists and other colleagues who have had a longer stint in their careers, she says singer Shreya Ghosal is an exception.
“I don't get star-struck, not at all, however big might the star be. The only person who got me grinning like an idiot was Shreya Goshal! I fell in love with her voice when I heard 'Munbe vaa' from Sillunu Oru Kadhal, and 'Mannipaaya' from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya has only cemented my admiration for her. A few years ago, there was a Rahman concert at St. George's School ground in Kilpauk where I stay. I happened to be on my terrace at the time when they were performing Munbe vaa live. It was surreal to hear it coming out of nowhere and sounding every bit as perfect as it does on CD,” she adds.
“I wish someone would give me a quirky character to play!”
Andrea has achieved so much in such a short span. Just when we think that after juggling so many roles effortlessly she is quite content with her repertoire, she says she has many more things to do and be. So, what is her idea of a dream role?
“I wish someone would give me a quirky character to play! And of course, I'm a sucker for anything dark and intense. In real life though, I'd love to be a travel show host! I have always loved travelling and to be able to do it for a living, well, can it get better than that? There are many more things I want to do, from sky-diving and wanting to be a published poet to compiling a book of my mother's recipes, it's a long list! My ultimate dream, of course, is to be able to take my songs and my music to the international music scene. The day that happens, I know I will feel a sense of accomplishment. Until then, I'm just another performer waiting for her destiny to unfold!”
1. Fetish for: Anything Burberry!
2. Hobbies: I read a lot. I like going to classes now and then whenever I feel like learning something. I love going on long drives especially when it rains.
3. Your mother: Is the most selfless person I know, and she also bakes the most amazing cakes!
4. Inspiring filmmakers: Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron
5. Favourite Hollywood actor: Will Smith because he is just so yummy! But otherwise, Jack Nicholson, and I have fallen in love with Audrey Hepburn after watching 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s'
6. A film you watch repeatedly: As Good as it gets
7. Dream holiday spot: London
8. Favourite cuisine: Lebanese/Mediterranean and anything to do with chocolate, the darker the better!
9. You have: Miles to go before I sleep?!
Pull Out 1: “I am a strong believer in destiny, and it may seem like the laissez-faire attitude to life, but really, how much of our lives do we actually control?”
Pull Out 2: “I was probably the only child who actually begged her parents to send her away to a boarding school! I was utterly fascinated by all the Enid Blyton books about boarding schools so I suppose that influenced me a bit.”
Pull Out 3: “I think Karthi is by far the nicest actor to work with. He is incredibly sweet and down to earth, takes his job seriously, treats everyone on the set with respect and is an absolute gentleman.