She's soaring high

Last Updated : 27 January 2018, 19:25 IST
Last Updated : 27 January 2018, 19:25 IST

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Actor Vaishnavi caught the public's imagination with her role as Sannidhi in the TV serial Agnisakshi. Her co-star is Vijay Suriya, and together, the Siddharth-Sannidhi screen couple sent the TV ratings soaring. The serial, which began in 2013, is going strong, crossing 1,200 episodes in early January this year.

She was just 16 years old when she made her acting debut in the Kannada TV serial Devi, and followed it up with Mungaru Male, Manedevru and Punar Vivaha on various Kannada channels.

Agnisakshi, on Colors Kannada, came along three years later. The serial revolves around a young married couple and their relationship. The young actor is philosophical about her success. "I do not think about that. If you think too much in life, there are a lot of complications. So, I don't think too much. I just go for it," she states.

In the moment

Her father, Ravi Kumar, dropped in briefly during the interview, and was visibly proud when we discussed his daughter's rise to fame through Agnisakshi. "She has over two lakh followers on Instagram," he said, gesturing to his smiling daughter seated cross-legged on the sofa opposite.

I ask her about coming to terms with her huge fan-base and popularity among youngsters. "I realise that all this may well go away after this phase," she remarks in a very mature, matter-of-fact manner. "I never planned on being an actor. I am here because of some strange circumstances," she says.

How she got that acting break is like an episode from a TV serial. An associate director working in Shruthi Naidu's serial Devi spotted her at a temple with her mother Bhanu, and asked her if she would allow her young daughter to act in their TV serial. The mother assented, and the 16-year-old debuted as a young girl on a religious yatra to various temples on a mission to convert her atheist father. And that set off an artistic journey that is still going strong. She left Mount Carmel College after her PUC because of attendance issues  and completed her BA from the Bangalore University as an external candidate.

Our conversation flows towards TV serials in the country and the roles scripted for them. How did she want to portray the modern woman? She becomes quite animated and earnest, and leans forward to make her point. "I want women to be depicted as being strong, independent, and able to face everything that comes their way." But not all serials depict women that way, and many times TV channel executives have the final say on how characters are to be depicted. So, how does one bring about that change?

She becomes very serious. "Initially, my character in Agnisakshi was soft and used to cry very easily. I felt that Sannidhi didn't need to do that. There are hardships in everybody's life. Only by overcoming them will you learn lessons that life has to teach. I have often requested small changes in my script that reflect this aspect. In whatever small way I could, I tried to change things for the way women are depicted."

She believes her character has been an inspiration. "Many viewers tell me that they want to be like Sannidhi. They want their daughters and daughters-in-law to be like her, and some have even named their children Sannidhi because they want their children to be like her… I feel that my character should be able to inspire somebody in a nice, positive way," she states with sincerity.

Something different

She attributes the huge popularity of this serial to a different storyline. "It is about how a young married couple lives, which is not what many TV serials are about. There is no aththey-sosey drama in our serial!"

It must be difficult for actors to play variations of the same role day after day for  four straight years. "We are all young and have a lot of fun on the sets of Agnisakshi. That's why I think we enjoy shooting even after 1,000 episodes. I think I can go on for another 1,000!" she beams.

She hasn't used the TV route to cinema, and has worked in just one Kannada film so far, Ravi Kiran's Girgitle. "I am also hosting Bharjari Comedy for Suvarna TV. Probably after that, I might sit back, talk to people who come to me and then decide about films."

This 23-year-old actor has also formally trained in bharatanatyam, kuchipudi, and three levels of belly-dancing. "This is because I get bored very easily!" she declares, eyes lighting up.

But she seems to have a fair idea of what would stretch her. "My future is what challenges me. I want to be bigger than what I am today. I want to improve, excel, and be versatile. People should be able to say that I can do anything - hosting TV shows, acting or dancing. I need to be called an all-rounder. That is what I want. That is what keeps me going," she says with quiet determination. It doesn't seem impossible.

Published 27 January 2018, 05:14 IST

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