Mar 17, 2008

NRI's Tollywood Dreams






They are young, talented and speak with an accent. Meet the NRIs on the block, living Tollywood dreams and loving it!

It’s official! Tollywood is the new Promised Land for a whole crop of young and suave actors from abroad in pursuit of an acting career in Tollywood.

From medical students to beauty pageant winners, NRI actors form a rich brigade of phoren bred desis who now find opportunities galore in Tollywood.

Varun Sandesh, a 12th grader, found the ad for an audition for Sekhar Kammula's movie on a website. He shot a home video of himself, and boom, he landed a lead cast in the hit Happy Days, and well, the rest is history "I had no previous acting experience and was about to pursue medical studies," he says with a heavy American accent.
Mamta Mohandas, born and brought up in Bahrain says the trend is because of how open Tollywood is to talent, no matter where it is from. "I was never made to feel like an outsider. I have already worked in Tamil films and Malayalam. Tollywood is like a balance between Tamil industry and Bollywood, so its flexibility is much higher," she says.
Meet Krishna Smitha, the quirky Telugu girl next door, born and brought up in Texas.
She was pursuing her undergraduate studies in neuroscience from a university in Baltimore and doing theatre, when the Tollywood bug bit her. She is now awaiting her debut release Muhuratam. "I was studying cognitive psychology and behavioural sciences, and I was fascinated by how much these sciences could be applied to theatre." She goes on about her journey into Telugu cinema, saying, "I came to Hyderabad and got a portfolio done, and auditioned for this role where I play a village woman fighting for freedom."

So how easy is it to be from a foreign background and play character roles that's are essentially Indian? Says Vijaywadaborn and New Zealand-bred former Miss India Sindhura Gadde who is also awaiting her debut release in Tollywood, "Its sometime difficult for us to make it in the showbiz here, with making contacts and getting used to the working environment. But having lived abroad, I have a strong discipline and strong professional ethics which works in my favour. Also, I know how to read, write and speak in Telugu and grew up watching Telugu movies, so I am more comfortable working in Tollywood than any other industry."

Says Sekhar Kammula, director of Happy Days, " Language is a big barrier, but Varun Sandesh luckily knew better Telugu than even some local actors. The only thing is that they are not used to the environment here, so we have to make an effort to help them get used to working here. Once that is taken care of, they are great to work with, professional to the core, always on time, and have no attitude problems." Sekhar further adds, "I don't cast NRIs as an agenda. When I cast, stuff like background and language are not an issue, As long as the actor fits the character."
Mamta again says, "There's a lot of hard work involved, but not knowing the language is certainly not a barrier. In Yamadonga, I play the character which is totally unlike my own, but I pulled it off, surprising my friends and family!" For Smitha on the other hand, "I love the simplicity and depth of Indian culture, since that's where my heart is. In the beginning, I spoke very broken Telugu and had a horrible American accent, but I rehearsed for six months and did a lot of research and worked on my accent, and loved every moment of it!"

Telugu Cinemass