Samantha Akkineni recently won the best performance award in a series for her role as Raji in Raj & DK's web series The Family Man 2 at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2021. In this interview with Anupama Chopra, she talks about how The Family Man 2 has impacted her career, why her role in Gunasekhar's Shaakuntalam is a dream come true, and her ambition to have more women in the film industry. Edited Excerpts…
You've just won an award for best performance in a series at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne…
I didn't expect it and the first award for a web series feels extremely special. It seemed like a risk, stepping into unknown territory. But I'm so glad that it all worked out.
How do you think playing Raji impacts your career? You're already a massive star but people now look at you and say 'damn, she can act'.
It was probably tough for Raj and DK to see past that cute girl image of mine that's firmly placed in the minds of a lot of filmmakers. So, I'm extremely grateful to them. I'm an extremely greedy actor. I've never looked outside, but I always try to better my performance so I can prove to myself that I can do it.
I am my harshest critic and I'm so mean to myself. I only watched Family Man 2 on a phone as a rough edit. I haven't even sat down to watch it after the release. It makes me very uncomfortable to watch my own performance.
From Raji to Shakuntalam by Kalidasa, that's some diversity. It's so exciting for you as an actor. But what makes it your dream role?
Because my favorite films growing up were films like Pocahontas. I had humble beginnings and you automatically dive into this world of Disney, fantasy, and fairy tales. Growing up, I believed that fairy tales did come true, including the princes, princesses, and magic castles. Even now, I'm the first person to watch any Disney film that releases. I love animation because I feel it captures emotion better than humans do in films. When people ask who I follow in acting, they're surprised that I follow Disney animated characters (laughs). I really do.
I had this unfulfilled dream that I didn't get to play a princess. I've always played real characters and never got to feel like a princess. Shakuntalam was that, and how!
It's been 11 years as a leading lady. What are you hungry for now? You've worked in massive movies opposite massive stars and you've frontlined films yourself. What is the new ambition?
The new ambition, I guess, is for women to get their due in cinema, and have more women be a part of the industry. By working with strong and talented women and female directors and technicians, I want to empower them. We're capable of so much more if given the opportunity. So many South film directors appreciated my performance in The Family Man 2 but I wasn't given that opportunity to do so before. Like me, there are so many more talented actors who aren't given a chance to show how truly capable they are. I believe nobody will help us if we don't help ourselves. It's our duty to search for scripts or make people write for us.
I'm definitely looking for talented female writers and directors. I want to get involved in the project much earlier than an actor typically gets involved. I'd like to work with the team, develop it and make it worthy of being in the theatres and a commercial success. Not just niche films, but I want to work on films that also do really well at the box office.
You said you're taking time off. Are you going to spend time with family or are you going off somewhere? What's the plan?
I haven't yet decided that. In 11 years, I haven't taken a break. I think actors do need to take some time off. Otherwise, I'm afraid I'll be burnt out.