Shruti Haasan interview | On Hollywood debut, gender parity and why she considers herself a storyteller

Shruti Haasan doesn’t see herself as politically aligned, but she is eager to give voice to women’s rights on any platform 

Updated - June 26, 2024 12:58 pm IST

Published - June 24, 2024 05:15 pm IST

In the vibrant realm of entertainment, where talent meets perseverance, Shruti Haasan, singer, composer, and actor, stands as an example of artistic versatility and social consciousness. From captivating audiences with her soulful melodies to leaving a mark on the silver screen, her journey attests to her twin focus on personal growth and professional achievement.

On a bustling Saturday afternoon suffused with anticipation, Shruti walks into the office of The Hindu in Chennai, brimming with excitement as a host of journalists waited to shoot: questions first, and selfies later.

As soon as she enters the brightly-lit hall, she wastes little time in holding forth on her latest song album Inimel under the banner of Raaj Kamal Films, which she both composed and conceptualised. The lyrics are penned by her father, actor Kamal Haasan, and the album stars Lokesh Kanagaraj alongside her. Shruti says this marks her latest original composition after Unnaipol Oruvan in 2009, and that she was excited to collaborate with Raaj Kamal Films . “It was a moment of excitement and creatively challenging to be with my dad,” she says.

A musician at heart before entering cinema, the actor-singer highlights how she channels everything in her life through music. “I had no intention of joining cinema, but cinema has always been around me, and I am a fan of cinema. It’s two really different parallels that run. And it’s two different parts of my mind that I use in two different parts of my artistic soul. So it’s very different.”

Beyond her musical passion, Shruti discusses her diverse roles in both independent and commercial films. “For me, it’s about finding a balance,” she remarks thoughtfully. “I never had a problem being part of big ticket films because, who doesn’t want to be part of a film or a story that works? There are films where you are there for three hours and it doesn’t work, and there are films where you are there for ten minutes and it works for you, so it’s really a balancing act. For me, a perfect balance is really a commercial film in which I have value.”

Shruti Haasan at a meeting with journalists at The Hindu

Shruti Haasan at a meeting with journalists at The Hindu | Photo Credit: Dinesh Krishnan

From Bollywood to Hollywood

Asked about her debut thriller Hollywood film directed by Daphne Schmon, The Eye, Shruti shares her experiences of navigating through different film industries, which she is accustomed to. “My big breaks came through the Telugu industry, and I always say that. It was a language I didn’t speak. Today, of course, I do. So it was the same kind of mindset while starting an English film as well.” 

Her entry into The Eye was particularly empowering because of a lot of firsts that marked out the film, from it being an independent English film to her working with the first female-led team; producer, writer, and director. 

As the conversation turns to her experiences at prestigious events such as the Cannes film festival, where she has been twice in the years 2017 and 2023, Shruti expresses a blend of admiration and concern. “It’s too much pressure. And what I found super disappointing this time at Cannes is that it was so much more about the clothes and the shoes, and a lot of people didn’t watch the movies. I feel we must not forget that it is a film festival, where art is celebrated.”

Voicing up social issues

Beyond the glamour and accolades, Shruti recalls how she uses different platforms to champion causes close to her heart. “I am not very politically aligned, but if there are certain things in society around me that I care about, I choose to voice, such as menstrual health, mental health, and women’s rights, be it any platform.” 

Shruti Haasan at a meeting with journalists at The Hindu

Shruti Haasan at a meeting with journalists at The Hindu | Photo Credit: Dinesh Krishnan / The Hindu

She also stresses how important it is to have conversations around gender parity in the Indian movie industry. “We are working towards bridging the gaps; I think the distance is quite far and wide.” She adds, “The day we stop saying words like female-centric, then we’ve won something.”

Navigating social media 

In an era dominated by digital interaction, responding to a question from the audience on how she filters out the negativity online, Shruti says that social media gives her the opportunity to put across her narrative in the most authentic way. 

Looking forward, Shruti shares how she wants to veer towards storytelling, be it through music, video, poetry or lyrics, which is untapped, which is the part of the feminine psyche, relationships, and all of the in-betweens that we choose to avoid. “I see myself as a storyteller,” she says, hinting at aspirations beyond acting and music.

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