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Interview : Avantika Vandanapu – Telugu girl makes a splash in Hollywood
Published on Feb 6, 2024 1:43 pm IST

Where were you born and where do your parents hail from?

I was born in Fremont, California. My mom is from Hyderabad and my dad is from Nizamabad. They immigrated to the USA on jobs in the 1990s.

What was your childhood like? Tell us about your schooling, interests and dreams as a kid?

As in any Indian family, I grew up prioritizing academics but also had grand aspirations in creative fields. I feel very grateful to my parents and also knowing that I was allowed the opportunities to thoroughly explore both academics and creative arts. I studied at a very academically rigorous school in California, but after school, I usually had ballet, Kuchipudi, and Kathak classes. Dance was my biggest passion as a kid, and it naturally led me towards acting. I always credit dance with originating my dreams in the performing arts.

What was your first movie and how was that experience? Any fond memories as a child artiste in India?

My first movie was Brahmotsavam with Mahesh Babu. I grew up admiring him in films and to have my first opportunity in Tollywood with him was nothing short of a dream come true. Working as a child artiste in India, especially in my mother tongue, allowed me to become comfortable with the idea of an entertainment career as a child.

How did you get the part in Mean Girls? Take us through that journey?

I initially auditioned for the project via self tape. I was cautiously hopeful as I really did not think I was going to book the part. And honestly, after not hearing back for 3 months (when typically, there should be callbacks, etc.), I lost hope completely. But when I was on set filming for my upcoming film TAROT in Serbia, I received a call that Paramount would like to offer me the part of Karen. It all happened so fast that it didn’t feel it was real until the moment I showed up to set.

What are your current releases?

Mean Girls is out in theaters right now, and it’s coming soon to India. I also have an upcoming Amazon Prime show in Bollywood, titled BGDC, and will come out on March 8 (Women’s Day). Lastly, I star in a major motion picture (Sony) titled TAROT that will come to theaters on May 10 worldwide.

Tell us how the market is for Indian origin actors in Hollywood?

It has improved significantly. Largely due to the push for representation, we are starting to see more and more opportunities open up for the Indian diaspora in the American entertainment industry, especially with roles that combat stereotypes.

What are the different languages and accents that you can speak?

I speak English, Hindi, and Telugu. I speak the Telangana accent in Telugu since my parents are from Telangana and we speak Telugu at home.

You also have a production company. What kind of movies would you like to produce?

The list could truly go on and on. But this year, specifically, I’d love to focus on developing a few indie films that center around female led stories.

What inspired you launch a production company?

This generation is filled with this vigor to take things into their own hands. I’m proud to say I share the same sentiment. And that’s what propelled my decision to launch a production company.

Any Tollywood and Bollywood plans?

I would love to work in both the industries.

How do you deal with gossip? Does it affect you?

It definitely hurts to see public perception be contrary to my truth of course. I try to keep myself grounded though, and surrounded by people who I trust and cherish like my parents and family. That way, I constantly have reality checks around me instead of getting caught up in the nonsense on the internet and how it dehumanizes public figures.

Who are the directors in South and Bollywood that you dream of working with and why?

I would love to work with Rajamouli sir, Sanjay Leela Bhansali sir, Shekhar Kammula sir, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra sir. They have a great art of presenting the women in their films powerful, graceful and artful. And I would like to be one!

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