Renuka Vyavahare (BOMBAY TIMES; April 1, 2017)

Akshara Haasan, the 25-year-old younger daughter of actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika, is not your quintessential Bollywood heroine. Sans make-up, sporting an androgynous dressing style and spouting Mumbaiyya Hinglish with a Tamil twang, the football player-turned-actor is unlike her contemporaries. She keeps the conversation real with her refreshing candour. In a free-wheeling chat with BT, the light-eyed beauty, who is a spitting image of her gorgeous mother, opens up about her iconic filmi lineage, her take on marriage post her parents' separation, her relationship with 'best friend' Tanuj Virwani and working with ex-boyfriend Vivaan Shah in the forthcoming film, Laali Ki Shaadi Mein Laaddoo Deewana. Excerpts...

You don't behave or dress like a conventional B-Town heroine...
I have played football for 20 years. I am also a trained dancer and it was dancing that made me realise that I can act. Even today, I forget that I am a heroine. I still do the things I used to do when I was an assistant director. I don't think you should change unless your behaviour affects someone negatively.

Were you always a tomboy?
I went to a boarding school where, among the 15 kids in my class, only three were girls. They were nice, but there was not much to talk about with them. I got along more with the guys. I hung out with them and I owe my love for cars majorly to them. In fact, I think like a dude sometimes. Dude's brain, girl's body! (laughs). My friends often address me, saying, 'Hey bro or Ae boy, come here'. I have to then remind them that I am a girl. This is the second time in my entire life that I have grown my hair and I did it only for my career.

Does your sister Shruti advise you to look a certain way, as she has that star quality in her?
Shruti has that aura, I am still trying to get there. She forces me to put on make-up (laughs). 'You better do this', she teases me. However, I like to keep it real as make-up suffocates my skin. So, I usually avoid it unless I am required to wear it.

There's this perception that star kids have it easy...
It depends on the context. If they are saying it in a derogatory way, I ask, 'What's your problem? Jalan hai kya?' I feel lucky to get these opportunities, but at the same time, I struggle as much as everyone else. If you choose not to see it, it's your fault. It's easy to throw my parents' names around, but I have to earn my own respect. If you are good at your job, people will take you seriously. They will probably be kinder to me because of my parents, but I want them to remember me as Akshara, the girl who worked really hard, made it on her own and didn't use her family name to achieve anything.

Who have you taken after?
Dad. I complete his sentences and know exactly what's going on in his head. The decisions I take in life remind me that I am a lot like him, especially when it comes to certain aspects like clear-headedness, conviction, fearlessness, hard work, discipline and taking no bullshit. In fact, both (mom and dad) are earnest, honest and gutsy people, who push boundaries without changing who they are. If they have an opinion, they will voice it.

You worked as an assistant director (AD) on your father's film, recently. Would you like him to watch you act on the set?
I am intimidated by my father. I respect him as an actor. If he comes on the set, I will keep trying to impress him. So, I'd suggest that he doesn't come, but having said that, it would also be nice to have him over. It's a fear I'd like to conquer. Working as an AD on his film was great. On the set, we are professionals, not father-daughter. We keep the personal equation out.

In times of trouble, who do you approach first?
In fact, I am the agony aunt in my family. I listen calmly and am very observant, so they like to vent when I am around.

Laali Ki Shaadi... revolves around marriage. Your parents separated when you were 10. Did that change your notion about marriage?
When my parents split (the couple is separated, not divorced), it hurt me a lot. You want your parents to be together, but I sat down and thought, if two people are not happy together, they probably shouldn't be together as that makes it worse. But it didn't change my perception of marriage.

Do you see yourself getting married?
Maybe, maybe not. It has become a fa├žade now. People say, 'Meri shaadi ho gayi'. Six months later, they say, 'Divorce ho gaya!' Phir shaadi kyun ki? If you want to get married, do so whenever you think is the right time and do it for the right reason. Some may not want to get married and stay with the same person. Do whatever works for you.

Are you dating Tanuj Virwani?
We are best friends. We have a lot of common friends. Our group goes, 'So you guys are dating, huh?' I wonder where this news came from.

Your co-star in Laali..., Vivaan Shah, is your ex-boyfriend. So, how was it working with him?
We realised that our friendship was of much more value than our relationship, as we have known each other since childhood. We used to run around on the set of Hey Ram. It was easy to work with each other, as we have moved on and it's a friendship I will always cherish.

Speaking of Hey Ram, you are quite fond of Shah Rukh Khan...
I love him! I have grown up on his films. I was probably six years old when I met SRK on the set of Hey Ram. Since then, I have been in awe of him. He has that aura. You get so fascinated by him.