Taking cues from nature

It’s Samyukta Hornad’s burning desire to explore life in all its diversity that enriches her craft, regardless of the medium, writes Srivathsan Nadadhur

Samyukta Hornad

Actor, artist, wildlife conservationist Samyukta Hornad’s current Whatsapp status reads, ‘You can be a mountain. I will still be water…’ and that best describes her zest for almost anything in life. She lives life by the moment and without a plan — to the fullest, surprising and more often amusing herself.

While she’s an actor who sheds all her inhibitions in front of the camera (and on the stage), she becomes one with nature off it. She works for initiatives to protect the environment, is a wildlife ambassador for People for Animals, adopting bears, elephants and tigers under her five different trusts, and is an artist who runs an art space too.

Offering a peek into her world, she says, “I think I am a very lost person. I am trying to figure myself out. Life itself interests me immensely — every bit of it. I don’t know how to sit quietly in a place. I end up upsetting my mom (Sudha Belawadi) a lot with my endeavours. I am a wild child, I want to do everything. I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow. My film roles too have been that way, quite unpredictable.” She’s so invested in her craft that she calls her paintings MAD-Method Acting Doodles.

It’s liberating Samyukta takes to art and finds liberation through the medium whenever she’s on a low.

“All the forms that I am associated with, flow into one another. That’s how I live my life,” she insists.

She has unconventional ways to approach her film roles and acting, and you could attribute it to her diverse experiences. “You need to be observant and shouldn’t be immune to everything that surrounds you. The more I live, the more I spend time with animals, the better actor I become. When I want to be calm, I surprisingly think of a cow. I associate romance with monkeys. The cats teach me grace while still being badass. When I had played this role of a scheming journalist in a Telugu web series recently (Gods of Dharmapuri), I had an eagle in mind. Even when I go to cafes, I sit alone. I’m a bird observing the awkwardness of the young couples, the way people speak. Even though it sounds creepy, I do this a lot and even make notes.”

In the genes

Back in her childhood while most of her classmates were in their quest for a good academic record, she was learning theatrical cues, lights, sets in the plays featuring her illustrious grandmother (Bhargavi Narayan). Her uncle Prakash Belawadi too is a popular film, theatre actor. Samyukta tells us that her family has a manufacturing defect — they can cry so well in front
of the camera any given day. “It’s in the genes. Like how the Joker laughs, we can cry.” Theatre has been instrumental in helping her overcome inhibitions. No wonder, Samyukta made little fuss when she was asked to sleep on the road for a scene in her very first film (with Diganth).

A brief theatre stint in Mumbai (in her sabbatical from films) got her to understand that doing plays wasn’t sufficient to pay her bills. While the stint certainly polished her craft, it also helped her rediscover her love for the camera again. “I even have a dream of dying in front of the camera,” she laughs away. The most cherished memory of the city though was her encounter with Shabana Azmi, where she froze while taking an autograph from her. Six months later, when she had done a film role (in Marikondavaru, modelled on Azmi’s part in Ankur) and tweeted a poster of it citing her admiration for Azmi, her joy knew no bounds when she received a reply from the latter.

Shabana had reportedly even remembered the brief interaction they had shared. As much as she enjoys acting, she isn’t
restless when she doesn’t find work.

“I think that’s why I have an artspace and spend time around animals. When you get a good role, you put so much of your experiences into it. It really helps a lot. Even otherwise, I write poems and I love colouring. People look at me strangely as I carry colour pencils to sets but it’s immensely cathartic. I am into gardening and it’s so beautiful that I feel like I have 10,000 babies,” Samyukta adds. It’s the time with her parents and brother who help her find peace amidst chaos.

“When I go back to my home and get to my cat, it’s meditation. That’s why I never have bad days,” she brims with optimism.

 

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