Sobhita Dhulipala: Moved me to see Mani Ratnam bring ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ to life

Sobhita Dhulipala speaks to us about the success of ‘Major,’ and what lies ahead as she prepares for projects like the second season of ‘Made in Heaven’, Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ and her Hollywood debut ‘Monkey Man‘

July 25, 2022 03:11 pm | Updated 05:46 pm IST

Sobhita Dhulipala

Sobhita Dhulipala

With her last release Major, the upcoming Mani Ratnam epic Ponniyin Selvan, and the much-anticipated second season of Made in Heaven, Sobhita Dhulipala has had her hands full. “I gravitate towards what naturally moves me,” says Sobhita about how she chooses her roles.

According to the actor, who has starred in Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu films, her choices have given her an opportunity to quench her curiosity by exploring the professional medium in different languages, and through these languages, delve into different cultural landscapes.

Major is only her second film in her mother tongue: Telugu. Having even studied Telugu as a second language in school, Sobhita carries pride and love for the language, and looks forward to essaying more roles in Tollywood. “To do more Telugu films would be amazing, but I hope that happens on its own, organically,” she says over a phone call with The Hindu.

Major is also the second time she has collaborated with director Sashi Kiran Tikka, and actor/writer Adivi Sesh. Having previously worked with them on Goodachari (2018), Sobhita had a front row seat to the genesis of Major, which charts the journey of Sandeep Unnikrishnan who was killed in action during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. 

In Major, Sobhita plays the role of Pramoda Reddy, a guest at the Taj Hotel who is eventually rescued by Unnikrishnan (Adivi Sesh). Based on a real person’s account of the 26/11 attack on the hotel, she regards her role as a privilege, calling it a significant experience. “When a character is fictional, there is always scope for improvisation and room for interpretation. I could sit and argue with my co-actors, with my directors… but when it’s based on a real person and a series of events, the responsibility and intention is to honour that journey, and have it represented truthfully,” she says.

The promising feedback for the film has been rewarding for Sobhita, who has been with the film since it was merely a concept. “To see its journey through so many changes and finally for the film to be out, and be taken in such a positive light, is very encouraging.”

While Major garners praise at the big screen, what catapulted the star into mainstream fame was her role as the head of a wedding planning agency in the web-series Made in Heaven (2019). Three years since the show’s debut, a second season is eagerly awaited, and Sobhita promises that with this one, “The intention is very much to level up from Season 1”. However, throttled by COVID-19, the production, which she admits is a fairly expensive one, was delayed.

Sobhita: There’s a certain fearlessness with which we are taking up new subjects in the second season of Made in Heaven

Sobhita: There’s a certain fearlessness with which we are taking up new subjects in the second season of Made in Heaven

Sobhita says, “When the first season was happening, we weren’t huge stars and it was such a new time within the digital sphere; we only had Sacred Games and a few other shows. The subject that our series addressed was also quite sensitive and uncommon.” 

This, according to Sobhita, motivated them to experiment further with the narrative in Season 2.

“It has far more depth in my understanding, that’s how I felt as an actor. There’s a certain fearlessness with which we are taking up new subjects, so it was an incredible experience for me to shoot in. We have really scaled up,” she says.

This year will also see Sobhita star in the first part of the historical epic Ponniyin Selvan. Helmed by Mani Ratnam, the film is an adaptation of the Tamil classic of the same name, spanning five volumes. 

However, the vast background reading was an added bonus for Sobhita who says that it’s always good news for her to have more material to read. “It’s such a beautiful amalgamation of so many things, that when I was reading it, I was really engulfed by it,” she says. 

Explaining that she gets to play a character who is “light on her feet,” the actor says that the experience was a pleasant departure from the usually-intense characters she has played so far. “I love history, so it was something I always wanted to do… it feels like such a gift to bring life to that character.”

Praising Mani Ratnam’s collaborative spirit, Sobhita elaborates on the experience of working with him, “This is such a large canvas, and there is such a responsibility that he has with this project. It’s not only extensive, but there’s just a lot of curiosity from people who have read the book over the decades. I saw him cherish bringing it to life, and that really moved me.”

The actor says it feels like such a gift to bring life to her character in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvaan’

The actor says it feels like such a gift to bring life to her character in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvaan’

Adding to her list of adaptations, she will also be playing a pivotal role in the remake of the British show The Night Manager (2016). Sobhita describes it as not a straightforward remake, but one that naturally fits in the Indian landscape: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself look like I do in this particular project, so that has been a surprise. It’s very new, the kind of stuff I have done in that.”

TheKurup star’s upcoming ventures are also taking her to Hollywood land with a role in Dev Patel’s Monkey Man. Describing the film as a “joyride”, she says, “There is serious muscle that is attached to this film, and this is a project that Dev has painstakingly put together over the course of many years. I enjoyed being a part of that vision.”

Pondering over her career so far, Sobhita comments that a part of her feels lucky, but she also doesn’t want to dismiss the hard work she has put in. “I heard someone say the harder you work, the luckier you get,” she smiles.

“It’s such a gift to be able to have variety in your filmography. Everyone aspires to it, but to be at the receiving end... it really makes for some character building. Subconsciously, the parts you play affect the way you see the world; I have had a good life,” she concludes.

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