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Exclusive! Aakanksha Singh on Parampara: Female characters no more run around trees, exist only to support the hero

The actress opens up on completing ten years in showbiz, foraying into the OTT space with Parampara, attempts to step out of her comfort zone and why she's quite content with her career

Srivathsan Nadadhur
Jan 11, 2022
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Aakanksha Singh

It's exactly been a decade since Aakanksha Singh forayed into the entertainment industry with Na Bole Tum Na Maine Kuch Kaha (TV show). Stability and consistent growth are the phrases you would want to associate her career with. Branching from television to establishing a film career across four languages, she has carefully built her professional life brick by brick and has never taken hasty decisions. 

Hence, it's not surprising when Aakansha says she believes in the hare and the tortoise story. She admits her career may be progressing gradually but adds that she's growing with every opportunity. "I am here to stay for long," she's confident and equally committed to achieve it. Simply put, 'quality over quantity' is her mantra. OTTplay.com engages in a candid conversation with the actress as she makes her digital debut with the Telugu web series, Parampara, produced by Arka Mediaworks and streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

A new year, another page turned and you make a debut in a new medium with Parampara...

It honestly feels great. Though I keep saying that the medium does not matter for the actor, it's wonderful to make your presence felt in a new domain. It's an opportunity to portray your talent to a new audience. It's wonderful to be a part of the digital bandwagon and an honour to debut in OTTs with a Telugu show.

Talking of beginnings, you couldn't have asked for a better start in Telugu cinema than Malli Raava. What a well-written role!

I agree. Especially for Telugu audiences, I can say it's one of my best performances. People still remember the film so fondly and talk about the story, the way it was written and how it was brought alive with the fantastic performances. I had given my heart and soul to the character and it'll always be dear to me. It's not often you enter the industry with such a beautiful script. I think I'm very fortunate to start my journey with Malli Raava. My quest is to better myself with every role and I am confident that my current projects too will bring out various dimensions in me as a performer. 

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Malli Raava

It shows that you've played the waiting game after Malli Raava and didn't do every second role that came your way. You've made cautious yet calculated moves...

I don't want to be part of any film just because I exist in the frame. I look for newness in characters that'll change my approach, excite me and make me do things differently. Only then I can offer something meaningful to a project. Creative satisfaction is the first priority. Money will come and go, but I'm here to act, play different roles and satiate my hunger to perform. Screen time and the role are also important when you decide on a project and everything else only comes after that.  

Don't you think the industry has slotted you under the girl-next-door stereotype? The girl who's submissive, vulnerable and quirky...

You're right that the industry has slotted me in such roles but I'm gradually trying to change that perception. People will discover a new side to me with Parampara. There is a shift from the girl-next-door character stereotype that the audiences will notice here. There is a lot that I want to do as an actor. I must say that I don't always get the roles I desire. I think that's the challenge as an artiste. Nothing is given to you on a platter, you must earn it. 

With every project, it's important to prove that I'm staying true to the character I play. I try to use every project as a stepping stone and give my best. When people ask me about dream roles, I try to tell them I want to do a biopic, a warrior princess, an action film and anything that requires me to come out of my comfort zone. I want to play all kinds of characters - white, black, grey.

You've literally stepped into our shoes (as a journalist) for your role in Parampara. What went into its portrayal?

Rachana was a role that didn't require me to research or prep but rather react spontaneously to the situation. I was already sold when the script was narrated to me and it is a relief to see strong female characters being written in this space. Women no longer have to run around trees and just exist to support the hero. It's no longer like that. 

There are so many layers to Rachana that are unveiled across every episode. Even when I met the writer (Hari Yelleti) recently, he told me that I was exactly how he had imagined Rachana to be. That's the best compliment an actor can get. I tried to portray my character with as much honesty as I could and it's heartening that it has paid off. You won't see Malli Raava's Anjali or Devadas' Jahnvi here. Jahnvi was a reporter too but the film was set in a different zone.

How would you describe Rachana in a nutshell?

She's a girl who's very today in her beliefs, headstrong and has her moments of vulnerability too. It's a character any woman would relate to.

Over the recent past, you've constantly conveyed your excitement about your bilingual with Aadhi Pinisetty, Clap. What's so special about it?

It's a special project because it is about a lot of firsts. I am cast as a hockey player in it. I've never played a sportswoman in any of my films to date. Clap will also be my first film in Tamil. Most importantly, it is a great story and I said yes to it immediately. Ultimately, a career is about the choices you make. You either be part of an entire film where you don't have much to do or be part of something special where even your presence in a minor role is crucial to the story. Clap has me playing a very different character and it's a film I'll always be proud to be a part of.

Do you think this is probably the best time for women to be a part of the industry across all departments? We've finally come to a point where the market is keen about bringing in a female perspective to filmmaking and also for a story to be told through the lens of a woman...

Yes, I completely agree. There's been a sea change in the way female characters are written and there are a lot of women that I've begun to notice in a film crew in recent years. There's no better time than now for women to take charge - there are so many stories waiting to be told across multiple mediums and it'll give them a wonderful platform to flourish.

Even my upcoming release, Meet Cute, where I'm part of an anthology is written and directed by a woman (Deepthi Ghanta, sister of actor Nani). It's the first film in her career and she has done a fabulous job - be it the way she has written or the maturity with which she has executed it. There's no way you'll think of her as a newcomer. When she came to me and narrated the script, I just told her, 'Whatever it takes, I won't let go of this project at any cost.' 

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Aakanksha Singh

What does it take to play roles where you know little of the region, the language of the women you play on the screen? Is it hard to bring authenticity?

I don't say that it's very easy to play a girl from a region you don't know much about. It's a lot of hard work and it first begins with understanding the language well. I would say that I am a good learner and I come prepared to sets. I take the script well beforehand, with all the translations of my lines and make sure I know what I'm speaking. That makes my work slightly easier. 

You need to have a way with languages to shine in multiple industries. I've begun understanding Telugu well now and am reasonably confident while performing, whereas, with Tamil or Kannada, I need to be doubly sure about my lines. The credit goes to the assistants, crew who also help me through the shoot.

What keeps you occupied between shoots? What do you end up doing when you aren't on sets?

I love to travel as much as I can. With the current scenario though, this has become limited and there's not much we can do about it. Not many know that I write songs, poems in my free time. I like to keep myself fit always and also enjoy spending time with family. With regular shoots and now COVID, I've only begun to value my family time even more. The best thing you could give to your loved ones is your time. 

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