Sweet yet strong, smart and suave, successful yet simple, Samantha Ruth Prabhu needs no introduction. The darling of the Tamil and Telugu film industries has had a dream run this year. The fact that the box office collections of every film of hers in 2016 – starting from Theri with Vijay in Tamil to Janatha Garage with Junior NTR in Telugu– has crossed the million dollar mark in the US is an indication of the commanding position that she now holds across industries that are known for their unforgiving and ruthless nature. On the personal front too, the actress has good news to share. She is all set to tie the knot with her best friend, actor Naga Chaitanya. Samantha opens up to Manigandan K R on her life, films, prayers, fashion and for the very first time, breaks her silence on the bond that she shares with Naga Chaitanya, and their wedding that is on the cards…
The Year 2016 has been magical for you. Four hits and the fifth one also managing to make it to the million Dollar club. How could you make this possible?
I’ve carefully planned this year. My initial years in the industry had a lot to do with fate and luck but this last year has been all about planning. I guess it’s all about picking the right combinations with the right director and actor. Sometimes, just because you get a big hero’s film, you jump at it. As a result, you might miss out on the next best combination that is coming. So, that is why I say this year has been carefully planned. I’ve waited patiently to make sure that I get the right combination with the right director and actor.
Delivering hit after hit and that too across industries at a time when the success percentage in the industry itself is dismally low is no easy task but you seem to have mastered the art of delivering hits. However, gaining that wisdom must have been a long painful process….
From the time I was young, I have been independent and street smart. Not by choice but by the fact that I have had to pull up my sleeves and work really hard. I’ve learnt to make the right decisions along the way and I hope God keeps giving me this wisdom to make right decisions.
Speaking of God, do you pray often?
Not really. I wouldn’t say I am a religious person. I pray but I never pray for things. I pray for strength to handle situations.
And are those prayers always answered?
Yes. Always. I believe that God gives me problems only as much as I can handle.
What is your greatest strength and biggest weakness?
My insecurities are my greatest strength and they are also my biggest weakness. My insecurity from the time I entered the industry has pushed me to be better and better every day. No amount of people saying, ‘Samantha, you are Number One’ or ‘You have these many hits’, affects me. It is like what do I do next? How do I get better? How do I do something that cannot be done? These insecurities pushed me very hard over the last few years and hence the rise. But these insecurities can also destroy you if you don’t have a complete check over them because this industry is ruthless. You can be celebrated one second and completely ignored and forgotten the next. I have always worked on balancing my insecurities so that they don’t destroy me and instead always help me push harder and achieve more. It is a very fine balance that I live with, everyday.
What you say sounds very taxing…
It is. You work for 12 hours and then go hit the gym. Give every scene your 100%. Even if there is one bad picture, beat yourself up. If there is one bad film, forget the 100 other people who worked on it and blame yourself completely. I guess everybody thinks ‘What’s for her? She has everything!’ But It is not that at all. It is a position where you can be replaced the next day and you are constantly in competition for things that are not in your control. For instance, looks — these are things that God and our parents have given us. We don’t have control over the changes that happen in our bodies. You are constantly ridiculed or criticised for something that is not completely under your control. Your age is another example. It is a natural process but you are criticised for it. It is a very hard place to be. Like I say, if you have a bad day, your family knows about it. If we have a bad day, the whole world knows about it. So, it’s not all glitz and glamour.
When did you make the conscious choice of the way you turn out on screen and at public appearances. Does your personality dictate your choices?
Yes, my personality definitely dictates my choices. Because my clothing choices have been consistent in a way that they are minimalistic. They are not over the top in terms of colours and accessorising and the conscious decision came because my stylist also happens to be my very good friend. So, we don’t do this because we have to. We do this because this is probably the thing that we have fun doing. I think Neeraja came back from the US in 2012 and that is when we found each other. We noticed that the south heroines,including myself, never really cared so much when they went for events and they were ridiculed and criticised by fashion blogs, reviewers. In fact, I have seen a scathing review of me, maybe during the audio release of Eega. So, we thought, ‘Hey, we dress really well normally, why don’t we put in that effort to make a point.’ Now, I guess every designer from the north loves for the heroines down south to wear their attire because their market has widened extensively in the south because we have started wearing their clothes.
You are considered a style icon by young girls. Did you work towards it? How has the journey been?
It is work but it is a reflection of personality and sometimes, by the films we do and the characters we play, the people who we are really don’t come through. Through this, there’s a bit of me that I let the people understand.
How would you describe Samantha Ruth Prabhu in just one sentence?
Hardworking like no other.
We heard you are getting engaged to Naga Chaitanya… Wedding bells in the near future?
Yes, we are together and I think that we haven’t fixed any dates. So, every date that is out there in the media is speculation. Marriage is a while away but yes, we are publicly in a relationship.
How did it all happen? Who said it first?
Well I think, if you have seen interviews from every film of mine since the time I made my debut with Ye Maaya Chesave, there have always been subtle hints. I have wondered why actually nobody (noticed) (laughs). Suddenly, now everybody is like,’Hey what happened? But there have been subtle hints ever since 2009. In some of my first few interviews, when reporters asked me to give one word to describe heroes and asked me about Naga Chaitanya, I’ve said first love. He has always been a very, very important part of my life. My first film, which was Ye Maaya Chesave, was with him. And we grew up together in the industry literally. He is my first friend in the industry and he continues to be my ‘bestest’ friend. Well it just took time for us to grow up to come to this final conclusion and we both decided that if we can’t be with each other, I don’t think we can be with anybody else.
People who are friends and eventually fall in love usually find themselves confounded by this question of I know she/ he is the one for me but by telling that to him or her, will I be running the risk of breaking a beautiful friendship? Were there no such doubts arising in both your minds?
We are still best friends. We will always be best friends. There is a great stability in my life. I work hard to bring that balance in my personal life — with my mind. Like I said, my insecurities could be my biggest strength and weakness. And Naga Chaitanya has always been the stabilising factor in this. He has always been the one to pick me up when I might be falling. He has been there during moments of professional downfalls and personal downfalls. He’s been there during my relationship with other people and I have been there during his relationships with other people. So, there is really nothing there that we don’t know about each other. There is nothing we can hide from each other because at different points of our lives, we didn’t even assume that we were going to be together. So, there were things that we told each other that now, we’d probably be like,’ yeah, that never happened!’ (laughs)
When this decision was made, who told it first?
I don’t know exactly who said it first. Let me put it this way, from 2009, there have been times when I wanted to work on the relationship and he was not ready and there have been times, when he wanted to work on the relationship and I wasn’t ready. Finally, we came to a point where, thank God, both of us wanted it equally. And that is what happened and this is the result of that very strong decision to make it work forever.
(The above piece has been extracted from the Cover story of SouthScope’s October edition)