Lasyapriya Sundaram (BOMBAY TIMES; July 18, 2017)

Nidhhi Agerwal is all set to make her Bollywood debut with the Tiger Shroff-Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer, Munna Michael. And, it has been no cakewalk. The Bengaluru-based model, who had never even been on a film set before, says that she learnt everything on the job. In a candid chat, she holds forth on how commercial actors are not given their due and why critics shouldn't be quick to judge her. Excerpts...

Were you keen on making your Bollywood debut with a commercial film like Munna Michael?
Initially, I didn't think much because I didn't have that many options; I jumped at whatever I got. My role in Munna Michael is fantastic and so is the script. Also, the canvas of the film is huge. Since it's a commercial movie, it will help me reach out to a large audience. I was lucky that they wanted a newcomer. With co-actors like Tiger and Nawazuddin, it's a dream launch for me; I am acting and dancing with the best talent in the industry. Having said that, it's not that I want to do only commercial films. People forget that it's difficult to act in commercial films, too. I think actors who do commercial cinema don't get enough credit. Running around trees, looking good while doing it and doing it with conviction is tough. It might seem stupid, but it's difficult nonetheless. I get affected when people say how tough can it be? Sitting in a room without make-up is easier.

You come from a non-film background. Is there any particular actress whose career graph you want to follow?
One person who inspires me a lot is Deepika Padukone. It could be because we both are from Bengaluru, but, I don't want to replicate anybody's career. Instead, I want the best of everyone's career. I have grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan - all their films have influenced me. Even as a kid, I wanted to be on screen, but my parents wanted me to complete my education and then venture into any field of my choice. They were of the opinion that if my acting career doesn't take off, I should have something to fall back on. My parents trust me a lot; they were happy to support me and didn't put any pressure.

You play a North Indian girl in the film. How did you prepare for the role?
I don't know anything about acting. But whenever I attended auditions, people would tell me that I was very natural in front of the camera. To play Dolly, my character in Munna Michael, I had to amp up my responses. And now, after completing the film, I have enrolled myself into a theatre workshop. I am learning method acting because when you are on the set, you can't always feel the scene. Currently, I don't have a method, but hopefully, I will develop one.

You are matching steps with Tiger Shroff in the film. Are you a trained dancer?
I am a trained ballet dancer. I have also learnt belly dancing and Kathak for about six months. As a ballet dancer, your whole body language changes - you sit and walk differently, and it lends grace to your movements. Ballerinas have to be in complete control of their bodies because they have to balance themselves on their toes. Though I am a trained dancer, the first day of shoot was tough. I had to do a solo dance performance for my introduction scene and despite being a ballerina, I couldn't balance myself on my foot. I didn't even know whether I was supposed to look into the camera or not. I had never been an assistant director, done a commercial or even been on a film set.

When the going got tough, who did you turn to for advice?
Nobody, because I used to go back to an empty house. I had to console and motivate myself and also make myself feel better. There is nobody else who can do that for you. Apart from your family, nobody really cares. I honestly wanted to protect my family from the difficult times that I was going through. They don't belong to the industry; it was my choice to come here and I wanted to keep them away from it.

The industry isn't an easy place to survive. You are judged by box office success and everything you do will come under scrutiny. Are you prepared for it? Are you ready for the comments from critics?
I have lived a large part of my life with no scrutiny. Now, I want all of it. Also, the actors I like, it's not necessarily because of their first film, but because of the way they have grown as performers. So, I think critics should judge me on the basis of my growth as an actor and not because of my first film.