Varudu Kaavalenu is Ritu Varma's latest film, co-starring Naga Shaurya, directed by Lakshmi Sowjanya. Ritu plays Bhoomi, an entrepreneur. She speaks about how she decided to play this role, what her ambitions are and how she became an actor. Excerpts:
Can you introduce Bhoomi to us the way you saw her?
Bhoomi has a lot of self respect. She is a girl of principles, she is organized and has a way of getting things done the way she wants to. One might think Bhoomi is bossy but that's just the way she is.
Bhoomi is a character who speaks her mind, urban and independent. You've played a number of characters that would fit this description…
About this film in particular, I am a sucker for old-school romance. I love love stories. This film came to me and it has such a charming story. It is written in a way where you can simply see the charm. You don't see me and my co-actor Naga Shaurya (who plays Akash), holding hands or being intimate. The dialogues and the scenes are enough to make you feel. I couldn't pass on a film like that.
See, my strength is in doing strong roles. I feel like when I am under pressure, I perform the best. This film did that. Even though in a broad sense, this is a role I have done before, it challenged me to push further.
Has it become easier for a new actor, especially a woman? Have things changed as much as you'd like?
It has gotten better but I do believe we have a long way to go. But I am hopeful. Now, I hear even from men that they want to direct women-centric films. They don't feel the need to wait for big actors and are finding merit in stories about women. There is a new wave of cinema coming to Telugu cinema. I am happy to be here.
This film, Varudu Kaavalenu, is directed by Lakshmi Sowjanya. Was being directed by a woman any different?
I can't pinpoint and tell you that on set, these were the things that were different. But what I did notice was it's harder for women to take charge simply because men don't like taking instructions from a woman. Internally, for women technicians, I will not do justice telling you their struggle. With this film, the story is such that it needed a woman to tell the story. The characters are paid attention to with great detail.
Do you prefer working in a particular language?
I started my career with Telugu films but I went on to work with some amazing teams in Tamil. They're both dear to me. I am a big fan of Malayalam films and I want to work there. I grew up watching Hindi films so I wish to work in Bollywood as well. It's a little stressful when I work with a language I don't know but I take time to prepare. I just want a good story because audiences across the country are open to watching any language now.
Is there ever a pressure to be more than an actor, to create a brand for yourself to stand out?
Definitely yes. Social media is so huge right now that a lot of things like brands, promotions, paparazzi come attached with the job. I don't enjoy it as much. I am my happiest self in front of the camera. Everything else is secondary but now they're part and parcel of being an actor even if they sometimes take away from the main job itself. I've learnt with time to not let the pressure get to you.
I like taking breaks, I don't work continuously. I make time to spend with family and friends. I go on holidays. These things keep me grounded. I also have clear communication with my manager on what I want and what I don't like doing. Setting these boundaries and taking time for myself helps to not let the noise get to me.
You studied engineering, how did acting come about?
So, I come from a family of educationalists. My mum runs a school, dad is a banker and simply a family full of lawyers and doctors. Acting was never a career option for me. But I acted in Tharun Bhascker's short film (Anukokunda) back in college and I enjoyed the process so much that I am now in a position where I can't do anything else.
Actually, Pellichoopulu changed a lot of things for me, as it did for the whole team. The love and appreciation I got for that film was overwhelming. I will always be thankful to Tharun (Bhascker) and the team. After this, I was sure I was here to stay.
So early on in your career, how do you measure success and failure? Does that matter?
I don't understand the conventional methods in which success and failure is measured like in numbers. I don't know enough about how the business functions. For my own self, I measure it with how people respond to me. If people message me and say good things, I am happy. That's about it.
I do keep track of what others are doing, what kind of films are getting made. I do like awards and being appreciated but I am comfortable in the space I am in now. I have made my peace.