Ready to raid Bollywood

A renowned actor, who has proved her mettle in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada language films, Gayathiri Iyer recently started her innings in Hindi cinema.

Actor Gayathiri Iyer is on cloud nine and for obvious reasons. She has started her career in Bollywood with Ajay Devgn and Ileana D’Cruz starrer Raid. The film has entered the coveted Rs.100-crore club and became the fourth one to do so in 2018. Directed by Rajkumar Gupta, the film, set in Lucknow in the 80s, tells the true story of a fearless Income-Tax officer Amay Patnaik played by Devgn, who conducts the longest raid on one of the city’s most highprofile and well-connected politician-cum-businessman (Saurabh Shukla). Ileana played the role of Patnaik’s wife while Iyer was a part of Devgn’s team as an I-T sleuth, who heads the woman’s team in that particular raid.

In a tete-e-tete, multilingual Iyer who comes armed with a degree in mechanical engineering, tried her hands at modelling and then moved on to acting, opens up about her first Hindi film, cinematic journey and all that awaits her from here on.

From South to North, how did you bag this role?

I have been in Mumbai for quite some time now, and I signed all my movies down South from here, the first one and the other three Kannada films that followed. This film happened unexpectedly. I had auditioned for the role, and the casting director selected me purely on merits. I went through four rounds each separated by 15 days that included a look test before I was on board. There was no workshop or any preparation for this role. Yes, I was excited to debut with a film directed by Rajkumar Gupta. Especially since he gave landmark roles to Vidya Balan, a South origin actress herself.

You played a typical girl from the Land of Nawabs. How difficult or easy was it to get into the skin of the character?

I was surprised when the filmmakers chose a typical Iyer Ponnu to essay the role of a Lucknowi girl but didn’t want me to work on my accent at all. The only requirement was to look realistic, relatable and believable. It was a perfect de-glam launch. I had to wear simple cotton saris and mostly crumpled ones, with no skin show or make-up. It was just the kind of role with which I wanted to enter Hindi films. And the best part is that it wasn’t a blink-and-you-miss kind of roles, but a significant part.

However, I had to work on my gait a lot to make it look apt for my character in the film.

How was your experience of working with Devgn?

I was petrified at the thought of sharing screen space with him. While shooting, I realised that he is a remarkably down-toearth actor without any air. It was quite reassuring. His calm and composed nature made it a great experience for me. He gives a lot of freedom to his co-stars and that made all of us comfortable on the set and during the film’s shooting. But he’s a prankster and played pranks on me a couple of times.

It added to the fun, making it a memorable one for me. How did films happen?

Did you always want to be an actor? While I was growing up, studies were my first and only priority. I wanted to earn an MBA and join the corporate world. I gave modelling a shot and then acting seemed the most probable career progression from there. It happened without much effort. When I did my first film Six in Telugu, little did I know what was in store for me, but then offers started pouring in, and I took them, one film at a time.

How is working in Hindi films different from working down South?

Where do you move from here? It is quite competitive in Hindi films. That could be a heavy pressure for a newcomer to bear. But then it is also good as it helps one better oneself. For someone who has done films in South India, he or she gets immense respect here and considered a good actor. But then there are pitfalls of being labelled someone who has an accent and mannerisms that are quintessential to the region. It is tough, but I am glad that I didn’t sign whatever film that came my way or did roles for the heck of it and proud of the route that I took. I would like to stay and work in Hindi films, but that doesn’t mean that I will give up on assignments in the South.

Any particular role that is close to your heart?

I have always leaned towards roles which didn’t require me to be just a pretty prop, even in regional language films. I have done that and enjoyed it too like I did in Tyson. It is just that glamour without substance in a role or otherwise eventually gets vapid.

Words: Shillpi a Singh

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