Super Over, starring Naveen Chandra, Chandini Chowdary and Rakendu Mouli, which dropped last week on Telugu OTT platform Aha, is a tight-knit plot of sudden surprises with a backdrop of cricket betting. The film’s director Praveen Varma died in an accident shortly before the film’s release. “The only thing that drove the entire unit to complete the film was: ‘We have to do this for Praveen’,” says lead actor Chandini Excerpts from a conversation with Alekhya Devarakonda
Like your character Madhu in Super Over, do watch cricket? What about this role made you sign up for the film?
I used to watch and play cricket earlier, but in the last couple of years, I have been a little occupied and taken a break from that. I’ve wanted to play a character like Madhu ever since I started acting. Women are usually portrayed as delicate, beautiful and nice. But, girls like Madhu — who hang around with boys, use cuss words are rarely seen on screen. That is what drew me to the role.
How do you read the title of the film?
Super Over is a nail-biting part of cricket, and the film maintains that on-the-edge vibe throughout. It is scripted and shot in a way that no one knows who would have the money, till the very end.
We see a great bond between Kaasi, Madhu and Vasu. What does friendship mean to you?
I value relationships a lot. I don’t like losing any friendship or camaraderie I have with people. I can go till the end of the world for my friends and I know they’d do the same for me. In life, I do have a lot of guy friends. People tend to perceive that a relationship between a boy and girl should fall in such and such category. Madhu’s character shows that it is absolutely possible that people can be very close, without having any romantic feelings for the other.
Going by your roles in Manu, Masti’s, Colour Photo and Super Over, one observes these characters, even though vulnerable, ultimately take a stand for themselves when needed. Are you drawn to such characters?
My mom is a very strong woman who maintains her individuality and is independent. When I entered her life, she was very clear that her daughter would be independent, have a mind of her own and the freedom to make her choices and chase her dreams. Only much later did I realise that the things I took for granted was a luxury for other girls.
I handpicked these roles because I wanted to send a message saying, these are the kind of roles I like doing and that is how I see myself. I want people to take back a small part from these strong characters. That’s the reason I constantly chose roles such as these even though my films failed, and I am glad it’s being noticed now.
Do you continue to carry the emotional baggage of a character beyond the film sets?
Initially, I thought I could slip in and out of characters quickly. But, I realised that it takes a little time for me to get out of a character, especially when I don’t move on to another project immediately. I got into a dark space during Manu; while doing Colour Photo, I was very emotional and spoke a lot about love; with Masti’s, I felt very vulnerable, and while doing Super Over, I behaved like Madhu at home too. My mom started wondering why I was being rude (laughs). That said, I do consciously try to distance myself from the characters I play.
How much of a director’s performer are you?
With each director, it is a different process. For Manu, I had to sit and work with director Phanindra for a few months to get into the skin of the character. For Super Over’s Madhu, it took me less time. I read the script and tried to bring in some nuances in the body language. We worked on these things during our readings and the director liked it, and implemented the same.
For instance, in Colour Photo, director Sandeep Raj wanted certain things done in a particular manner. For certain others, he’d let me do it my way.
Praveen Varma, the director of Super Over, passed away while the film was still under production. How did all of you cope?
It was heartbreaking. When I first got to know the news, I couldn’t get out of my house or talk to anyone. We had travelled so much with Praveen and knew how he wanted this film to be like. During dubbing and post-production, all we knew was: ‘We have to do this for Praveen’. We wanted to do the best we could, and do it in the way Praveen had envisioned it. We all love him! He was an amazing person.
Going back to Colour Photo, what was your most challenging scene and how did you go about it?
There are two scenes, actually. The first is the bus stop proposal scene, which was physically very tiring for me. I had a high fever and thought it was COVID-19. The day the scene was being shot, I got chickenpox. I was in a blur. It was peak summer and so hot, I fainted. I could not take time off, due to issues with the date and location. Later, when I watched the scene, there was no trace of illness. It looks quite effortless now, but it was very tough to shoot. I am glad it shaped up well.
The second difficult scene was the shirt scene in the climax. I wanted to get it right in one take because it is a very emotional scene, and I was afraid it would get artificial with more takes. I managed that!
Most of your work is seen on OTT platforms. How do you look at OTT and the theatrical experience?
I’m very grateful for the opportunity and recognition I’ve got through OTT. I was one of the first people who entered OTT in Telugu and there was a lot of negative feedback. I was mocked for shifting to OTT, and hurt. I saw the future of OTT. See how the tables have turned! I didn’t expect the shift to happen so quickly, though. Working in the industry for a while, I can say that work speaks for us more than anything else. The audience appreciates good work, no matter where it is coming from. We just need to work.
Similarly, I don’t think anything can take away the theatrical experience. I would still want to watch my films on the big screen with people around. OTT cannot match up to this. Both are important and have their virtues. One medium can’t override the other.
How have things changed for you with success? What are you looking forward to?
Well, it took awhile but people are finally appreciating my work. I have been receiving character-driven roles. Whenever someone from the audience comes to me and says they loved my work and find me perfect for that role, I feel grateful. In my struggling days, I saw constant failure and did doubt if things would work out or not.
I am a mechanical engineer, and had the option to go back to that line, but acting drives me. I never really thought about an alternative profession as I strongly felt this would work out. I was persistent and I focussed on constantly improving my craft. That is paying off well now.