Karthika Nair, is making her comeback of sorts in Telugu, two years after NTR's Dammu. This time, she's playing a 'larger than life twin sister' of Naresh in her next film. In a tete-a-tete, Karthika opens up about her career, family and her wild side in an exclusive interview.
You've acted in just three Telugu films in the past five years. Is that because you are very choosy?
I'm very instinctive about my work and surprisingly, most of the directors I've worked with told me that I was their first choice for that role. After debuting with Josh back in 2009, I got busy with Tamil and Malayalam films. I've worked with ace directors like KV Anand, Bharathiraja, Boyapati Srinu. I've no regrets about going slow when it comes to my career. The reason why I'm so choosy is because movies are not my bread and butter; I don't need to act to survive. I want to earn respect with whatever little work I do and I think I've been quite lucky so far.
They say you are the hero in Brother of Bommali?
Oh yes! I'm the hero of the film since I get to do all the stunts (laughs). When director Chinni was narrating the story, I kept wondering why he was describing the hero's characterisation? Then it struck me that he had written all those scenes for me. In a hero dominated industry, such roles are hard to find and more importantly, I must thank Allari Naresh for his willingness to give that space to an actress in the film.
Having said that, I understand why heroes are worshipped by everyone. It's really difficult to pull off a stunt scene convincingly and it requires a lot of mental and physical strength.
You had no reservations about playing the hero's sister? You could get typecast with such roles.
Absolutely not! There's a misconception in the industry that whoever the hero has a love track with is the lead heroine in the film. While Monal is paired up with Naresh, I've a love track with Harshvardhan Rane in the film. I'm not saying that I'm ready to do character roles in future, but I felt this role was written specifically for me. There are very few actresses who are as tall as Allari Naresh and I think people will believe that we are in fact twins. And in any case, I'm not desperate to do every film that comes my way.
In an industry obsessed with fair skin, you stand out as one of the very few actresses who are so tall and dusky.
(laughs)... I think being dusky is an advantage. It's the sexiest skin colour there is. When I debuted, a lot of people told me that they were happy to see an Indian face on screen and honestly, cinematographers too love this skin tone as it gives a different dimension to the face. I believe my height and eyebrows are my USP. Without these two factors, I would be just like any other actress. Because of my height, my frame looks different. (laughs).
We hear you had plenty of action scenes in your next Tamil film Purampokku as well...
I'm a dare devil in that film as well. Since I was playing a tomboyish character in both these movies, I had no idea how to be feminine and I was trying my best to dress as girly as possible in every event I was attending (laughs). I must say that I've discovered my wild side only after I began acting in films. While we were shooting for Ko (Rangam in Telugu) in Norway, I pushed my director to let me stand on top of a rock, which was wedged between two cliffs. It was life-threatening, but I really felt that I am going to lose a golden chance if I am not ready to take such risks in life. However, my mother doesn't really approve it at all. She keeps saying that I need to be more careful and not put my life in danger.
Your mother Radha ruled the roost in the South Indian film industry in the 80s. She must be a hard act to follow?
I don't think people approach me with roles just because I'm Radha's daughter. Perhaps, that really was an advantage when I made my debut but after that, it's only your talent that counts. I have never gone to an acting school and whatever little I know about acting is purely because of my mother and she's my only guru. After I made my debut in films, the only advice my mother gave me was to place my faith in the directors that I work with and be myself. I've a very expressive face and it's tough for me to be subtle in front of the camera. But I've gotten better at controlling my expressions and now, I think I can pull off a comedy role with ease.
Your sister Thulasi is also acting in films now and comparisons are inevitable. Is there a sibling rivalry brewing at home?
Not at all! There's a huge age gap between the two of us and I'm almost like a mother to her. She looks up to me for moral and emotional support and she's my first fan. I'm very protective of her. I've fought with boys who tried to bully her in school. I was very anxious when she was debuting with Kadal, although I must add that she couldn't have found a better director than Mani Ratnam. Recently, I saw her second film Yaan and I thought she looked stunning on the screen.
You confess that you are a tomboy. Has that made an impact on your love life?
I have a sad and non-existent love life (laughs). I have been a nerd all my life and was a tomboy in college. Most of my guy friends used to treat me like one of them and it's only now that they are coming to terms with the fact that I'm a girl. Besides, once you become an actress, a lot of people think that you are already taken. Truth is I'm still single!