Interview Movies

Meet Roopa Koduvayur and Chandana Koppisetti, the women of ‘Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya’

Roopa Koduvayur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Until the Telugu film Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya began streaming on Netflix, its makers were tight-lipped about its leading women. The story warranted Telugu-speaking women who could look like natives of Araku valley. Roopa Koduvayur (as Jyothi) and Chandana Koppisetti (as Swathi) were chosen after an audition process, after which they went through a workshop with the rest of the cast. As the film continues to receive warm response, Roopa and Chandana speak about their first step in cinema.

Dancer, medico and an actor

Roopa Koduvayur

“My foundation in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam helped me while acting in the film,” says Vijayawada-based Roopa, who is on the verge of completing her MBBS course. In 2017, a classical dance video of her performing to ‘Saaho re Baahubali’ was widely shared and got her noticed.

Dance and academics have been her mainstay, but when her friends noticed a casting call for UMUR, they suggested she give it a try. During the audition, she impressed director Venkatesh Maha’s team by dancing to a medley of songs, which was a test for the flash mob sequence in the film.

Habituated to seeing picture perfect on-screen women, Roopa was surprised when she was asked to be her natural self, sans make-up. “Many women end up straightening their hair or using concealers to hide blemishes even for small occasions in real life. It’s normal for girls to have acne or dark circles due to hormonal imbalance. I was happy to just be my confident self,” says Roopa.

She, Chandana and Kushalini (who plays V K Naresh’s daughter) stayed at the home of Jyothi (who plays Chandana’s mother) and got to interact with the locals in Araku. “We observed the gait, mannerisms and food habits of people,” says Roopa.

The much-appreciated flash mob sequence was filmed as a long, single shot without cuts, she reveals: “The original length was nearly 4.5 minutes and we shot three versions — long, middle and a close up shot. It was an overcast day at Paderu. So we shot the three versions with short breaks. Film shootings don’t happen often in Paderu and a lot of people had gathered to watch us.”

Apart from the direction team’s meticulous workshop and rehearsals, Roopa had help from actor Satyadev for some of the scenes: “He gave me tips on how to be mindful of the camera angles.”

Roopa Koduvayur

Roopa Koduvayur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Her family was surprised when she told them she intended to act. “Ours is an orthodox family and doesn’t watch too many movies in the theatre. Vijayawada might be a film-crazy town, but not many would want their own daughters to act. Some of my relatives asked why I wanted to act when I could pursue a ‘decent’ profession like medicine. Now that they have watched the film, they understand why I wanted to do it,” says Roopa, who has won State and National level awards for classical dance.

Looking ahead, Roopa wants to pursue medical oncology: “My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was preparing for EAMCET exams. That shook me. She is a cancer survivor and my staunch supporter; my hero. I want to become an oncologist and treat as many people as I can,” she says.

Physiotherapist turned actor

Chandana Koppisetti

Chandana Koppisetti

Chandana Koppisetti   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kakinada-based Chandana Koppisetti is scouring social media, taking in the warm responses to UMUR. Meme pages have been having fun, pointing out how her character Swathi gorges on Ponganaalu cooked by Mahesh (Satyadev) but ends up being unfair to him.

She impressed the direction team at the audition when she enacted a scene from Imtiaz Ali’s Highway: “I hadn’t come prepared. On the spot, I remembered the scene in which Alia [Bhatt] narrates how she was abused as a child. I performed that scene and was happy when Venkatesh Maha clapped. I was selected, and was told that I would either be cast as Jyothi or Swathi. After Roopa was chosen for the part of Jyothi, I was cast as Swathi.”

Chandana spent her growing years between Kakinada, Hyderabad and Asansol as her father, a bank employee, moved from one city to another. “I can speak good Hindi, thanks to the time we were in Asansol. But I enjoyed being in Hyderabad the most,” she says.

She remembers being fascinated by cinema as a child: “Every Saturday we would have a movie outing and I would be enamoured watching the female leads.”

Hailing from a non-film background, with both her brothers in the IT sector, Chandana hopes she can find realistic roles in Telugu cinema. A qualified physiotherapist, she’s keen to give cinema a shot: “I think this is the right time for me to act; I can always practice physiotherapy later,” she says as a parting shot.


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 9:43:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/with-uma-maheshwara-ugra-roopasya-physiotherapist-chandana-koppisetti-and-dancer-medico-roopa-koduvayur-make-an-impressive-debut-in-telugu-cinema/article32259170.ece

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