The actress opens up on sharing screenspace with Nagarjuna and working with Vijay Binni in her second Telugu film
Ashika Ranganath is entering her eighth year of filmdom with her second Telugu release, Naa Saami Ranga, this Sunday. It took her nearly six months to sign a project after her Telugu debut, Amigos. She had offers across the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada industries but waited long to bag a part that would be substantial to the story.
“I watched Naa Saami Ranga’s original, Porinju Mariam Jose, but it felt like I was listening to a new script after Vijay Binni’s narration. I wouldn’t call the film a remake; there are significant changes to the story and it has a different flavour. The role has multiple variations and different looks. It has an eight-year leap and everyone’s favourite character on set was Varalu,” she says.
Playing a rural girl was nothing new to Ashika; she’d done it with elan in Madhagaja previously and knew how to perfect the looks, body language and expressions. “In Naa Saami Ranga, I liked the fact that the girl isn’t merely giving coy expressions or driving the story of the hero. She is a strong woman who’s firm in her stance and bold (minus the usual smoking and drinking tropes).”
The actress was surprised that a new face like her in Telugu cinema was roped in Naa Saami Ranga. “They could’ve reached out to the moons or the stars and no one would’ve said no to a Nagarjuna film. It felt special that they recognised the value I would bring to the role despite being a newcomer here.” The film’s charming first glimpse confirmed that the makers were right with their decision.
She’s fairly experienced in the Kannada industry but was anxious about acting with a star like Nagarjuna. “He took extra effort to make me feel comfortable and never once behaved like a star with any air. In several scenes, Nagarjuna knew where he had to take a step back and let my character shine. He’s the king of romance for a reason and he builds the camaraderie so well off camera.”
There’s not much difference between the Telugu and Tamil cultures, she opines. “I spent my early years in Tumkur and am aware of aspects that make up a rural ambience. The team worked hard on getting the slang right, while the job was easy for me—to mug up and deliver my lines. I have dubbed for the film too, but the production house needs to take a final call on retaining it.”
She signed Naa Saami Ranga in the first half of September and was surprised when the makers confirmed their plans to release it for Sankranthi. “I thought it was practically impossible. How could one wrap up a shoot in 3-4 months and release it? I went ahead, presuming they would alter their plans eventually.” Ashika was awestruck by how everyone on the set was multi-tasking.
“While a shot was getting ready, Vijay would be finalising the publicity posters, simultaneously checking on what was happening in the edit room. The planning was so meticulous that it didn’t feel like a rushed process. I haven’t worked with Vijay as a choreographer before, but he didn’t feel like a newcomer at all. He patiently explains the role to his actors and barely loses his temper.”
Did the modest theatrical run of Amigos deter her spirit? “Not quite; I saw it as a learning experience. Films work or don't work for a variety of reasons and one can’t take the result to heart. I could say I was ready for an experience like Naa Saami Ranga with Amigos, be it the ways of the industry, the language or the approach to a character.”
This Sankranthi will have her anxiously waiting for Naa Saami Ranga’s response, but back in her younger years, the festival was a fairly intimate affair with friends and family. On the work front, she has yet to say yes to a new Telugu film. “I am working with Siddharth on a Tamil film and have signed a couple of Kannada films.”