Interview with Samantha Akkineni In 2016 on the eve of her marriage to Naga Chaitanya
Samantha Ruth Prabhu who began her career in Telugu and Tamil cinema in 2010 has fought the patriarchal system from the start of her career. “It wasn’t difficult for me to make equal space with the heroes. But I know how difficult it is for most actresses to get roles that are not secondary to the heroes. With me it was different. I was blessed. In my very first film Ye Maaye Chesave (Telugu) I had a role on a par with the leading man Naga Chaitanya whom , incidentally, I am all set to marry.”
Other actresses like Radhika Apte and Kajal Aggarwal have spoken about how rigidly patriarchal the South Indian film industry is.
For a girl with no links to the film industry such a launch was beyond a a dream .
Laughs Samantha,“I guess I am the poster girl for big dreams. I come from an extremely humble background. My parents are middleclass people. No one from our family had ever been in the film industry.And here I was getting a launch in a film where I broke the patriarchal rules!It seemed like a dream.”
How did that happen?
“I don’t know! I remember when I was watching Ye Maaye Chesave with my family for the first time we were amazed at how I had managed to make equal space with the leading man. I never had to start as the typical leading lady in the South with five songs to accompany the hero whenever he felt like a song.My individual space was allotted to me from the beginning of my career. So the struggle was never to get roles on a par with the hero,” says Samantha.
She recognizes acknowledges and regrets the struggle of her female contemporaries to make a space for themselves. “I understand with many of the other actresses it is a struggle to make a decent space. It’s the hero all the way in Telugu and Tamil cinema. The girls just have to go by whatever the heroes decide.”
Now when she is all set to marry into one of the most distinguished film families of Andhra Pradesh there is no pride, only joy. “I don’t think about being Nagarjuna’s daughter-in-law. Pride has been part of personality.I’d rather not think about my achievements. I’ve never stopped to admire what I’ve done. Because I don’t think I’ve achieved anything much. I still have a long way to go. This is why I won’t give up my career after marriage.”
Samantha is all set to marry Telugu cinema’s doyen Nagarujna’s elder son Naga Chaitanya.
Her soon-to-be- father-in-law Nagarajuna is absolutely okay with a working daughter-in-law.
Laughs the pert actress, “He said , ‘You will continue working, right?’ He was more worried than I was that I’d give up my career after marriage.Of course I will continue acting. I just need to dispel the Telugu and Tamil cinema’s insecurities about married actresses. I don’t know about others. But I am not going away anywhere after marriage.”
She wonders if it’s any different for married actresses in Bollywood. I assure her it is not, barring a few exceptions.
In any case there is no marriage happening right away for Samantha. “Chaitanya and I have decided to get married at the end of next year. He and his family have been extremely supportive.In fact Chaitanya has gone out of his way to let the world know that I intend to continue with my career. If still there are misgivings about my future plans, what can I say or do? Except wait for the marriage to happen and then prove how serious I am about my career.”
She can’t remember a time when she was not in love with Chaitanya. “We became close from the time when we did our first film together in 2010, though at that time I didn’t know I was going to marry him. He has been with me when I left for the US with just 30 dollars in my purse.So he has been a very important part of my journey as a human being and an actress. Now when I am all set to marry him, there is no uncertainty about my future .”