In between, you almost gave up shooting for Devadasu, but today you have become the top actress in Telugu. What or who inspired and encouraged you to keep going ahead?
That incident is still fresh in my mind. It was pretty much a breakdown. I was shooting nearly 22 hours in a day. In the middle of all this exhaustion and confusion, I had an assistant director come up to me telling me that it was a complete mistake for me to be in this film, and why was I even there because I was never going to make it as an actress and that I should just go back. That was a complete blow because here I was, out of college, away from home and working for the first time in a film, and when my own team said this, I was shattered. I told my mom that I wanted to quit films, right then and there. But my mom got me to go and finish the shoot for the day. Once the shoot was done, I got the lecture of a lifetime from my mother at 3.30 am! She told me to stick to my commitment to do this film and then make my decision about continuing with movies. While at that moment I didn’t appreciate that talk, I am glad she held me together.
From that position, you have grown to be seen as the ‘Lucky Heroine’ in Telugu cinema with a very impressive record of hits. Does this expectation add a lot of pressure on you?
I was in a state of disbelief when my movies started doing well at the box office! Just a few months ago, people were asking me to leave the industry, and telling me that I wasn’t cut out for this profession. My second film was with Mahesh Babu, one of the biggest stars in Telugu films and I couldn’t believe that I was acting with him so early in my career. I was quite confused when people started calling me ‘lucky’ because it certainly wasn’t luck that got me here, it was hard work. I think it’s really more of a superstition in the South that if an actress’s first film is a hit then she has to be lucky. But that tag never affected me because I am not the only one responsible for a film being good or bad. It is team work, so I can’t blame or credit myself or any one person for the box office result of a movie.
Puri Jagannadh gave you the biggest break with Pokiri and then again, you showed off strength as a performer in Nenu Naa Rakshasi. What has been the experience of working with him?
When I did my first film with Puri I was just 19 and I was nervous