Sitting at the ornate lobby, we watched the evening sky erupt into a palette of vivid orange and flaming red from the frosted glass of the flamboyant French windows. Finally, we were ushered into the dimly lit room, impeccably neat yet starkly simple. Actress Nayantara welcomes us with a disarming smile and her friendly attitude and warm demeanor takes us by surprise. Typically uncharacteristic of someone who has been branded as an ‘arrogant’ person, we wonder. After a customary session of introductions, we get down to business.
The air of arrogance
We ask her about the general perception about her. She laughs, “Rude? Arrogant? Well, I am rude and arrogant to people who act funny with me. Why should I take attitude from anybody because I know I’m not showing it to anyone? And, those who think I am proud or rude are people who have not met me or worked with me. I don’t have any problems with that also. At least, then they would stay away from me”. She goes on to clarify, “But, I can proudly say that anyone who has worked with me know that I am very friendly. I’m very sweet in nature and on the sets I am generally laughing and chatting with everybody. And no, it’s not a fake thing. It’s just a very simple funda - You give respect and you take respect. If you don’t know how to give respect then, don’t expect it from me”.
A director’s actor
Passionate about films, Nayantara had a blistering start working with big names in the industry. She has played a wide gamut of roles – right from the doe-eyed, homely girl to the modern Madonna. After doing three Malayalam films in quick succession, she got her big break in the Tamil film industry. “I was in my second year of college that time pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in English and also preparing for my CA exams when director Satyan Anthikkad spotted me. I had to quit everything to do films and I couldn’t write any of my exams. And, while I was doing Ayya, I got a call for Chandramukhi with Rajanikanth Sir. After doing a few films in Tamil, I realized that I wanted to make a career in films because this was what I loved doing”, gushes Nayantara.
A director’s actor, Nayantara feels that all her films showcase a layer of her personality. “As an actress, I was very sure that I didn’t want to get stuck up in one image. I wanted to do everything because I think that an actress should be able to do everything in life and carry off any clothes she wears. When I started off, I worked with senior actors and I had to dress up to match them. While working with younger stars like Jeeva and Simbu, I could not wear costumes which made me look older than them. People like changes and they appreciate it. But, you need to have the confidence to carry off any costume and make it look appealing”, she stresses, on a strong note.
Girl next door to style diva
Talking about her career, we speak about Billa which transformed her into a style diva. “When a movie like Billa came to me, I knew that I had to do it. And, I had to lose weight and look more glamourous because the script required it. Director Vishnu Vardhan was very clear on what he wanted Sasha to look like in the movie. I was very confident about playing the role and more importantly it was my responsibility to ensure that whatever Vishnu had in mind about Sasha is translated on screen perfectly. So, I had to work a lot towards it – regular workouts, major training and drastic diets. But, it was totally worth all the hard work that I had put in and I was very happy doing it. I had always wanted to do a film like Billa which was highly stylized with a lot of action and attitude in it.”
Billa created a furore and this time around, the object of fascination was Nayantara’s much hyped “bikini scene”. “I was quite cool about the entire scene because I never thought it was something which a person shouldn’t do. Yesteryear heroines have done it – some of them have been portrayed in a swimwear or bikini. So, I didn’t understand why there was so much hungama about me wearing a bikini. But, I didn’t care because at the end of the day, it was appreciated and everyone liked it. And I think it was a change that was brought in the south film industry”.
The best days of my life
Independent and self reliant, Nayantara feels that her family had been a very strong support and it is little wonder that she hates to bring them under the harsh glare of the public eye. “My parents were quite comfortable with my choice. Initially we didn’t really have time to think because everything was happening so fast and we had no idea where it would lead to. When I finally decided to make a career of films, they were fine with it too. Earlier on in my career, they used to travel with me but after a while they stopped because they didn’t have this South Indian mindset that parents have to be with their daughters. Since I was born and brought up in the North, I didn’t have such qualms. Up in the North, girls know how to deal with situations and be independent. Probably, my parents wanted me to be that way. They have been supporting me because they trust me and they know that I would do only what is good for me. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to do whatever I have done till now”.
Reminiscing those carefree childhood days in the Air Force camp, Nayantara relates those magical moments with a dreamy sigh. “My father was in the Air Force and though I was born in Bangalore, I grew up in different cities across North India. I did my schooling in different Kendra Vidhyalayas and life at the Air Force camp was simply fabulous. The courtesy was great and it was absolutely safe to walk out at any point of time and wear whatever one liked. It was a lot of fun. Life at the Air Force camp has taught me how to deal with issues and how to live life on my own terms. In my school days, I was totally into myself and very eager to impress my teachers. I was a very good student and I would do anything to get into their good books. I was the girl who wanted all the attention from the teachers and naturally, I got it. After my father’s retirement, my parents wanted to settle down in Kerala. We shifted to our hometown, Tiruvalla, where I joined Marthoma College. I wanted to do my CA and started preparing for it soon after school. That’s why I chose English literature so I could concentrate on my CA classes simultaneously. But destiny of course, seems to have had other plans and I am happy the way things have worked out for me. ”
Of catfights and controversies
In the film circuit, controversies are inevitable. Be it the bikini shot for Billa, relationships with her co-stars or friendships with other actresses, Nayantara seems to be the center of attention, for all the wrong reasons. The gutsy actress nonchalantly states, “I think everything about me is a major headline. I think it’s basically because I am very honest and straightforward. In a way, that’s a blessing and a curse. Since I am frank, I expect the other person also to reciprocate with the same honesty. And, it hurts me when it doesn’t happen that way”.
Talking about friendships within the industry, “The problem which I faced was that whenever I trusted somebody as a friend, they would backstab me, for no apparent reason. And, friendship isn’t just about partying and getting together just for the heck of it. If I am in trouble, then those friends would never be there. Friendship should be unconditional and genuine. That’s the reason why people would have read that there was a problem with me and another actress. They would be with me today talking about others generally and tomorrow, I would hear them talking about me to other friends. I wouldn’t call that friendship. And no, I am not really comfortable with that type of friendship and I don’t want such friends either”, she reiterates, strongly.
Ruled by principles
In the rat race for films, Nayantara states that she would never try to replace another actress. “I think it is a very shameful thing in the industry. I was never in the race to get someone else’s movie and I wouldn’t ever want to. A lot of people do it and I think that people should know their own capabilities and strengths. They should know that if a movie has to come to them, it would come, no matter what. Even I was offered a very big film where the director was having problems with his current heroine who was a top actress and they wanted me to replace her. But then, I stated that if it had been offered to me in the beginning, I would have certainly done it. Since someone else was already doing the film, I would never do it. I don’t think it is right. I follow certain rules and ethics. But, there is a lot of backstabbing in the industry. That’s another reason I don’t have friends here”, she tells, blatantly.
Ask her about the rumours of her quitting films, she smiles mysteriously. “Currently, I haven’t made any announcement declaring that I would quit or if I would continue. As of now, I have releases coming up in all three languages (Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam). Boss Engira Bhaskaran with Arya is scheduled to release this month. The film is a light hearted romantic film about a guy who does nothing in life and the girl who changes all that. It’s a feel good movie with awesome songs and some really nice moments. All through my career, I’ve gone along with the flow. And even now, I would be doing the same because I haven’t officially announced anything otherwise. Ultimately, the question of me doing films – whether it is about continuing or quitting would be my own decision”, she signs off in her candid style.
My style, in short: Simple and elegant
Style mantra: Minimalistic. I don’t dress up too much for any occasion. I don’t like too much of jewelry. Even if I wear something very simple, there would be something really nice about the ensemble which I’d worn.
I wouldn’t wear: Anything which I’m not comfortable with.
You can never go wrong with: Black. Whether it’s casual or for an occasion, black is a very safe choice.
Fashion, for me, is: All about confidence. Not about the latest fashion but what you can carry off with confidence. It’s all about wearing those clothes which I think I would look good in. you can wear a sari but if you don’t walk right, then it doesn’t look good. And, you can wear something as simple as a cotton salwar and carry it off really well. It depends on your attitude.
My favourite shopping destination: United States of America, definitely. I love the variety which they have to offer. I think that if you go there at the right time, you get very stylish, branded clothes at really good prices.
Brand conscious or street shopper: Brand conscious, extremely!
The brands I love: Calvin Klein for their clothes and watches. Apart from that I love Versace and Valentino. Prada and Gucci for bags and well, Fendi is fine only when I want something very unique.
My favourite fragrances: I buy a lot of perfumes but I only use Versace.
Behind blue eyes
An adjective that describes me (in one word): It’s got to be “honest”.
I admire: My father. He’s a perfectionist and very hardworking. So, I think I have taken all these qualities from him, right from the dressing sense, way to deal with things and everything other facet that he had.
At leisure, I love to: Watch lot of movies in English, French or any other language. I also love to listen to songs, mostly Hindi music and romantic numbers.
The colours I love: White and black. Earlie,r black used to b my favourite and my wardrobe would be full of black. Now, if u were to see my wardrobe, it will be full of white.
Religious or spiritual: I’m a Christian but I also go to temples and mosques – it was a habit right from my childhood days at the Air Force camp. I have a liking towards Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Balaji and Vinayagar. Whenever I travel, I carry the pictures of all my Gods and I do regular pujas.