Lasyapriya Sundaram (BOMBAY TIMES; April 30, 2017)

Shruti Haasan has successfully man aged to make a mark in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu cinema. While in the early days of her career, the going got tough, the actress-musician didn't lose hope and worked on honing her skills in front of the camera. While she is proud of her last name, she doesn't let her legacy weigh her down. In a free-flowing chat with BT, she talks about why her film debut was a practical decision, why she doesn't read reviews and also the reason she would never endorse a fairness product. Excerpts...

Did your legacy as Kamal Haasan and Sarika's daughter make it inevitable for you to be an actress?
I was a musician before I became an actress. Though I've always been passionate about cinema, I never pictured myself in front of the camera. I wanted to write and maybe direct in the future, but destiny had other plans. I did my first Hindi film Luck (2009) more out of a desire to be financially independent than my love for films. I had a great time doing it. However, that film also made me realise that I was ill-informed about forging a career in acting. It wasn't easy, as I was pulled down. So, I had to encourage myself. Today, I am my biggest fan and harshest critic, and I am here because of that. Now, when people say that they don't like me, I turn around and tell them, 'That's great, have a cup of coffee by yourself '.

Did your parents insist that you join the industry?
They never insisted, but my father was the first person who encouraged me to act. He would say, 'You would be great at it'. I wasn't very good at it in the beginning. He said, 'No problem. It's because you didn't prepare'. So, he has always been that pillar of strength.

You are being directed by your father for the first time. Keeping the dad-daughter relationship aside, is it intimidating to work with someone like him?
I have worked with my dad as a music composer earlier and I wasn't earlier and I wasn't looking forward to another collaboration because of the pressure to deliver. Also, I don't want my dad to say, 'Shruti, you are not getting what I am saying.' But fortunately, he was happy with my work. He is such a prolific actor and it was a dream to work with him, as he sees things from an actor's point of view.

Your first major hit was in 2012, Gabbar Singh (Telugu). Was that the real turning point in your career?
It was my biggest hit in that phase. Yes, it was a turning point because it meant that there were people who believed in me. I actually felt like I had won a vote of confidence fairly early in my career. 3 (Tamil) will also be a special film because it made me realise that when I am more collaborative with my director, my performances translate into much more than what is in the script. Landing the right film is like finding the perfect pair of jeans.

Given that some of your earlier films didn't work, are you more careful about choosing roles now?
There are films that might not be big-budgeted, but I will act in them if I like my role. Having said that, it's also important to do commercial films, which enjoy a bigger reach. Actually, I don't know the difference between commercial and non-commercial cinema. Any film that does well is a commercial one to me.

There has been a lot of talk about nepotism in the industry lately. You come from a prolific family yourself. Your views...
I am very proud of my surname, but my parents have never really helped me. I am the nepotistic product of anti-nepotism. In the beginning, people would say, 'Kamal Haasan aur Sarika ki beti hai'. I had to work for years to build my career. So, when people talk about nepotism, I want to tell them, 'Please go jump off a cliff'. Even if you are not from the industry, you will have that one person helping you - technically, even that is nepotism.

Actors endorsing fairness products was also a huge controversy, recently. What are some of the products that you will never endorse?
I will never endorse a fairness product because I was not comfortable growing up being the darkest person in my family. And I never want other girls or guys to feel like that. Also, I won't endorse alcohol because I believe it's not good for health.

As an actor, you are always linked with your co-stars. You have been no exception. Do you think it is easy to balance a career and a relationship?
I have been very bad at relationships because my focus has been on work. If anyone gets in the way of my work, I ask them to leave. It's really about finding a person who loves his job, your job, you and himself. It's a tricky balance.