EXCLUSIVE: Keep calling me chudail but this is my aesthetic: Shruti Haasan on being trolled for her fashion

Shruti Haasan is known for speaking her mind out. She has come a long way professionally and has taken the hard route to stand firm in the film industry. From not knowing how to deliver dialogue to being trolled for her fashion choices, she had her fair of struggles. Speaking to Pinkvilla, Shruti opens up about her love for music, upcoming projects Salaar, NBK107, being trolled for fashion choices and more. 


You once said you had to deliver the dialogue on your own, you had no idea how to go about things in the industry. How do you look back at your journey from then to now? 

So I come from a very different school where I trained myself in music, classical music. I went to music school and my professional training was also to perform as a musician. How I got my first film was complete by fluke and it was never planned. Rightfully I was ill-prepared, I had a lot of learnings to do but I’m really thankful that I had the will to learn or to say I had this thing when I wanted to at least try and get it right. If I try and it doesn’t work, it’s ok. That’s how my approach is for everything. It is like let me try my best and put genuine effort. Fortunately, for me, it did pay off. Yes but at the start, it was really nerve-wracking and I do feel, I lost the sense of my help along with the process…like who I was as a person, what is expected of me Vs what I should truly expect from myself. So professionally, the journey has been really rewarding. Also, I was able to meet a lot of wonderful people during the journey who helped me learn valuable things about cinema, acting and also how to be a person in a professional setting. Even on a professional level, I had great understanding and learning and this is the process I still continue. As a musician, artist or an actor, whatever I want to branch into, to have the same energy, the older I get, the younger I think I go in terms of approach. Like I don’t know enough so what can I learn today. The answer is I haven’t changed much and grown, evolved as everybody does. I just like to have more awareness of it because it is easy to slip back into the old habits of thinking, behaving. So I like to be aware of it, that’s the only difference. Truly and honestly, I have returned to who I was. 


You always wanted to explore Independent music in India but your expression on music comes through English. What are your thoughts on it? 

I don’t think I would be introducing English music here that would be very compressive of me to say. We have had an amazing English subculture of music in India for years and years. We also have wonderful independent music which is really inspiring. I take inspiration from other musicians also who are I see doing that I have never seen before. There is so much to learn and it is a beautiful time right now. I do think there is always reservation about English, which is very funny to me because we pretty much end up communicating in English and we are happy to buy music from non-Indian. I went to an English medium school that’s how I know to express myself that way. Having said that, I also use music in a way to show the diversity of the culture. I’m a Tamil girl who grew up listening to 100s of Tamil and English songs. I find a natural balance and it is an interesting time that it is much better than it was 10 years ago. 

But as an artist, are you always strategic or do you just go with the flow? 

Now, especially during the pandemic, everybody has to go with the flow because I had a plan even last year like how I wanted things but nobody can take the music out. I think all of us, the musicians and non-musicians can have a plan but the plan has to wait depending on the current scenario. 

We all have gone through tough times while quarantined at home and we have watched you play a lot of music. Is it like therapy to you now? 

I’m working on music that will come out soon. Definitely, music works as a therapy for me but I don’t think it in such a way. It is just a natural extension of me. How I want certain expressions that will come out in another way. It is very much inside of me. Thanks to social media, now people know how I do things with piano, guitar. 

You can keep saying me chudail, that is my aesthetic and it makes me feel powerful. Now they gave up.

Shruti Haasan

Talking about your fashion,  you have actually created goth fashion your signature look. Like there are so many people who adore you for being so experimental. 

Of course, I’m inspired. The music I have grown up listening to, the literature I read, novels and everything I have grown up reading from that world. I love heavy mettle. When I was younger, I loved being that unexpected package in all black. Immediately, when people saw me they would say ok this is what she is about. That’s what clothing does right. It immediately expresses and shows people a part of what you are. Even for my films, I would be like can we do more of this just for a song or can I help with the stylish of the song and have black leather. But after a point, I got advised by the people can you not dress like this for the events…They were not wrong I think…then I used to be like then when I would go abroad I can wear such clothes. So it has come back to what I always loved. I always loved this sort of and always felt comfortable dressing in that. Because being different made you special and not weird. it was actually a good thing. Now I have 2 sides- one is what I show to play the characters and the rest of the time I can be Shruti and get permission to be what I want to be. 

But do you face negative comments, I’m sure you might be…

When I took a break from the movies for a while and started focusing on my music, writing stories in London, I decided to go back to the same. So a lot of people were like what’s going on but some people said she has always been this and has gone back to same. Some people didn’t understand it and said she looks like a vampire, horror/chudail.  I used to be like it’s okay you can call it whatever you want. You can keep saying me chudail, that is my aesthetic and it makes me feel powerful. Now they gave up. 


Do you think the characters, opportunities and roles are now quite the same for men and women in the industry? It is bridging the gender gap? 

I don’t think it is fair to say because the same country has produced movies like mother India, actresses like Savitri amma…they were paving the way for the women of the future. Women like Shabana ji, Smita Patil, you have so many walking examples and the ones who are not among us, who have paved the way. Even the story of feminism, it constantly changes. Some women paved the way before and it is extremely important to pave a march to them and understand we have to maintain the battles they fought. At least maintain the victory. I think every industry goes through ups and downs and women’s voice is definitely prominent today. I also do find that the concept of modern women is still convoluted. I feel it needs more exaggeration because Indian women have one of the beautifully complex features. We walk between a very thin line between progress, modernity and culture, all hanging around us like shadows at all times and we kind of try to find that. We get typical comments ‘aisi ladki aise kapdi pehen rahi hai toh woh aisi hogi.” that cinema has an opportunity to change, erase and it is happening. It is a great thing…Whether it is a male character or female, what I want to see as an actor or what I want to participate in as an audience is going into the second and third layers because we have got the first layer covered. We have got it, we have understood. I feeL, particularly in female characters we have examples of women who are doing amazing roles but then it is not enough to make a female-oriented film if it is dictated to us through in a male way. 

You have NBK107; what’s the status and how excited are you since you are teaming up with  Gopichand Malineni again

I still have Salaar on the table and this film, me and Gopi will be working together for the 3rd time in a row. I’m really excited and he is great with the commercial cult and it is not the one that everyone can get it. I enjoy working with him. Comedy is I think one of the hardest things to pull off and is the element he is very good at. I didn’t get to do the same in Krack and so, I’m really very excited on working with him again. 

About Salaar…

I’m really excited for the people to watch it because it is going to be fantastic. We are yet to complete the second schedule and is postponed due to the pandemic. 

A part of acting is also learning from the opposite person, co-star or people within the film industry. What was it like working with a few actors I name: 

Vijay Sethupathi: I think he knows how to appeal to the people, and that means, he is everybody’s man. I learnt from him that he actually knows how to appeal to people. 

Prabhas: He is genuinely down to earth. He is very easy but that doesn’t mean he is not hardworking or focused. He is all of these but equally zen and easy. Even physically, he is a very huge person. He makes every feel at ease, comfortable. 

Kamal Haasan: This will require a separate article but professionally, he has resilience. It is not easy to maintain a career at this level from so many years, it requires, mental physical, and spiritual resilience because it is not easy. He has been technology change, people change, lost so many people he has worked with…he has seen the industry change, the faces change…and still going through a storm. I feel one thing that I see is resilience. He has also been in the phases when his artistic ideas were not understood or considered. The thing I have learnt from him is what other people say don’t let it affect you. 

Ravi Teja: He is very good at comic timing…On a professional level, I have learnt a lot about timing…He is brilliant at it. He is soo soo good at what he does and I really get inspired. He has very quick thinking and I like this about him. I rarely say this but he is genuinely a very kind person. 

Pawan Kalyan: He is someone very unique and knows how to celebrate his uniqueness. He stays very true to himself about what he is doing, thinking. He is very organic. 

Devi is the best project of my career so far…

One project that is very close to me is Devi. Thanks to my friends and producers Niranjan Iyengar and Ryan Ivan Stephen who is no longer with us. I think it was beautiful. I never get an opportunity to talk about the women I have worked with. But the point is, it was such amazing energy of seeing female actors on the set. There wasn’t a single male actor on the set. It was a set of all women of different ages. As a woman, it was one of the magnificent moments and for that, I’m so thankful to the team. It is the moment, I will never forget in my life, career. 

Your fans have started showering you with birthday wishes a month before…

I feel so grateful… They are really like extension family for me because they check on me every day. If I don’t post anything at times, they are so sweet and message if I’m ok. I’m directly in touch with a lot of my fans. I have had a chance to communicate with the people who inspired me and they have turned out to be really helpful people. Because of social media, everything brings close and this entire birthday month thing is so sweet and thoughtful. I wake up every day seeing them counting and it puts a smile on my face. 

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