(From L to R) Rashmika Mandanna, Samara Tijori and Piyush Mishra
The Nation’s Sweetheart Irreplaceable, says the tattoo on her arm, and as the “country’s baby”, she truly is. Born in Kodagu, working in Hyderabad, and now in Chennai and Mumbai as well, Rashmika Mandanna was popular since her debut film Kirik Party (2016) but Pushpa: The Rise (2021) elevated her to the nation’s sweetheart. Wherever she goes now, the 26-year-old is followed by people either singing ‘Srivalli’, or doing the step from the Sami song in Pushpa. The girl who thought she would end up helping her parents on their coffee plantation in Kodagu is now happy being a hustler, an extremist, someone who doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. So much so that she is a well-known name in Bollywood even though not a single film has been released in Hindi so far—she has already shot Goodbye with Amitabh Bachchan and Mission Majnu with Siddharth Malhotra. She is currently shooting Animal with Ranbir Kapoor, directed by Sandeep Vanga Reddy. The actor, who spent most of her school years, since the age of six, in boarding or as a paying guest, while her parents travelled for work, is fearless on screen. Whether it is acting opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Goodbye where she has to psych herself into believing he is just another co-star so she doesn’t get intimidated, or whether it is standing knee-deep in a paddy field for nine days to shoot the Sami song, Mandanna is unafraid. A favourite of the paparazzi, Mandanna retains the freshness of the girl who won Bangalore Times’ Clean and Fresh face in 2014. Pushpa was special for her, she says, because “every time we did a particular shot in the film, it wasn’t about technical bits. Both the director Sukumar Sir and Allu Arjun Sir would only be concerned with the emotion of the scene. Even if there was some stammering on screen, if the scene had the magic, they would go with it.” Shot during the pandemic, the makers of Pushpa are now waiting for the second part to be written. Working with different teams is giving her such joy, she says, because she is constantly picking up something from each one and loving it, becoming better at her craft. As for Bachchan, she says, “I’ve realised what a simple human being, and a caring and fun person he is. We would have these conversations while everyone was setting up their lights. We would sit and talk about everything under the sun. As a costar, I realised I have to be as good as him. The chemistry has to work and the difference in our years should not be visible on screen.” Clearly, she will go far
Life in the Slow Lane
“Jisne kaam ka wait kiya, uska khatma ho gaya (Whoever waits for work will be finished),” says Piyush Mishra who is seen as the patriarch in SonyLIV’s new web series Salt City. “You have to create your own opportunities,” says the National School of Drama-trained actor, referring to his travels with his music band, Ballimaaraan. He’s been to Bhopal, Khairnagar, Jaipur, Pune and Mumbai this year, and will now take it to Europe and Ireland. “I love to interact with young people, find out what abuses are in.” He’s at work on his novel Tumhari Aukat Kya Hai, Piyush Mishra, and is fine-tuning his play Woh Ab Bhi Pukarta Hai, to be premiered at Prithvi Theatre. “The country is changing,” he says. “Everything has changed from the way people express love to the way they speak. Earlier, one had to imagine everything, one had to make an effort. Now, everything is readymade. And yet,” he says, “it remains the country of Ram, of the purdah culture, of touching the feet of elders.”
Scene and Heard
Some offspring of actors are more celebrated than others. But Samara Tijori, daughter of actor Deepak Tijori, deserves to be noticed. Last seen in Bob Biswas, she plays a troubled daughter in Disney+Hotstar’s new web series Masoom, and holds the screen against a stalwart like Boman Irani. The series is a slow burn, an atmospheric family drama heavy with mystery, and yet more proof that our onscreen families are coming of age. The cracks and crevices in which grudges grow and love withers away are depicted all too well. The impact will be felt over the years, allowing people to imagine different ways of loving and living. It will also allow women such as Samara to play roles that don’t fit into the babe-behen–bhabhi stereotype. One to watch.