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'Working in Life is Beautiful is unreal'

Last updated on: September 11, 2012 10:48 IST

'Working in Life is Beautiful is unreal'

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Radhika Rajamani Hyderabad

Noted Bharatanatyam dancer, actor and animal activist, Amala Akkineni returns to the silver screen after 20 years in Sekhar Kammula's Telugu film Life Is Beautiful.  

Amala gave up acting after her marriage to Nagarjuna. She has been active as an animal rights activist.  

In fact, Blue Cross for Animals, the institution she set up along with Nagarjuna, was the venue for this exclusive interview, where she reveals her reasons for doing this film and whether she will act in others now.

What made you take up Sekhar Kammula's film after two decades?

I was surprised myself how it happened and why it happened. Sekhar was persistently after me. One of his assistant directors, Ashwin, made repeated calls.

It took a lot of coaxing. I told Sekhar I don't remember how to act. He told me 'you don't need to act, just be yourself'.

It was their assurance that it would be a seven-day shoot which made me sign the film.

I don't think I can do a full length role. It is a short, sweet role, a pivotal one, which is the essence of one segment of the film.

I play a mum to one boy and two girls. It is a brief role but it appealed to me. What was really nice was it showed the inner strength of the character.

I've been working with widow's groups and women's empowerment groups and have seen such a lot of strong women. The character I play is a single working woman who is a widow.

There was a certain trust in Sekhar which made me sign the film.


Image: A scene from Life is Beautiful


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'Nagarjuna has been supportive of my decision'

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There's a still of you dancing in the film. How was it getting back to dance?

There's no dancing actually. I happened to be just doing the steps to show the girls and it was filmed as part of the montage song.

There is joy in the song. The children are remembering the happy times and their mum in that song (as they are away from her). So there's skipping, jumping, dancing and the whole unit was enjoying themselves.

How was the first day of shooting after 20 years?

I did feel a little nervous. I didn't know what to expect. We went on the sets and did rehearsals. I realised that Abhijeet, Rashmi and Kavya, who play my children Seenu, Satya and Chinni, were also nervous.

Making them comfortable, I forgot my own anxiety. It wasn't a big set or a studio. It was a regular middle class house and we shot in the peak of summer when it was stifling hot.

What changes have you observed in the last two decades?

What was different was the monitor. It's a big bonus because you don't have to worry how the scene is going to turn out. That gave me a lot of confidence.


Image: A scene from Life is Beautiful


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'It was nice working with newcomers'

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What was Nagarjuna's reaction when you decided to act in this film?

He was as surprised as I was. He said I would have had you in my movies!

He was very supportive; he would ensure my comfort even in little things like ensuring the car was on time.

I guess it was the timing. The boys have grown up. Also my mind was free of earlier responsibilities.

How was it working with newcomers?

It was very nice, lovely. They were beautifully behaved and are focused, talented and relaxed.

We used to talk about animals and movies. It was nice to have two girls and talk to them.


Image: A scene from Life is Beautiful

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'I'm still digesting that I did the film'

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What is Sekhar like as a director?

He's very nice and it's easy to work with him as he is so clear. He tells you quickly what he wants so you don't waste too much energy.

Sekhar is down to earth and simple.

So, the whole experience of working in Life Is Beautiful was....

It's a little unreal. I'm still digesting that I did the film. The role was brief and the shoot was short. It was simple, low key and quiet.

It's not to launch a second phase of my film career.

Promoting the film is new. We didn't have television in those days. There weren't audio launches like today and heroines were not generally called for events. Print media journalists came on the sets if they wanted interviews.


Image: A scene from Life is Beautiful

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If something comes up in films I might take it up'

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Would you like to act more now? If so, in what kind of films?

I'm getting calls and offers. I'm having a wonderful life and doing amazing, satisfying work and not looking for work.

If something comes up, it has to be inspiring or support one of my causes.

I wouldn't undermine the magic of the movies. I have great respect for cinema. I'm overwhelmed by the fact that people still want me. It comes with responsibility too.

I don't know if the house can take all four of us in movies (smiles).

One day all four of us (Akhil who is studying film studies was doing a project for which he also had to shoot) went on a shoot. It was thrilling no doubt. Every artiste has a support system. I don't think I need to do this.

If you do more films, would you want to juggle animal activist and films?

I don't know if my role is animal activist. I don't think I can stop talking about animal welfare. It is part of my personality. I'm humbled people want me to do films.

Like I said, one can't undermine the movies. If something small and significant comes and adds value to the work I do, I may take it up.

You have to keep evolving and inspiring change. I am in awe how Nag does that. Films add great value. Yet it's challenging and gruelling work. Since I know both, it has to be carefully balanced.


Image: A scene from Life is Beautiful

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