Shruti Haasan on her new single ‘Monster Machine’, her ambition, and breaking boundaries

As her new single ‘Monster Machine’ releases, the actor explains why she sees the album as a dark, feminine cry of self-love

Updated - October 31, 2023 01:12 pm IST

Published - October 26, 2023 08:31 am IST

Shruti Haasan describes her new single as a dark, feminine cry of self-love

Shruti Haasan describes her new single as a dark, feminine cry of self-love | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When Shruti Haasan talks about her music, she is candid, and introspective. “It is very personal,” she says. “I like playing in the shadows, the darkness people avoid. That’s where I found my solace and peace… as a musician, human being, and a woman.” 

We meet the the actor, singer, and composer at a quaint, sunshine-filled cafe on the terrace of the Raaj Kamal Films office in Alwarpet. She is visibly enthused about her new single, ‘Monster Machine’, described as a “dark, feminine cry of self-love”. The music video features Shruti in four different looks. I need a monster… I need a beast. To search me out and pull me in, to give me what I need, her four personas in the song, croon.

She brings up a conversation with her partner, artist Santanu Hazarika, where she remembers telling him how she does not need a man and is not interested in talking about conventional roles. “So what do I need? I need someone to match my ‘Monster’, and the idea for a song grew out of this conversation. I sat at the piano then and played the first few lines,” she recalls, discussing the song’s beginnings. 

Shruti’s fashion choices and her persona have often been a topic of public discussion, and she does not shy away from bringing this up when she discusses identity. “I am an ‘urban witch’, and I love it,” she says, without missing a beat. For her, the new song is a culmination of all of this. ”The verse is almost like poetry, inviting the audience in through a narrative that applies universally.”

Recurring themes

Shruti Haasan

Shruti Haasan | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Celebrating women, and their ambitions, achievements and desires have always featured prominently in her music. From the 2016 single ‘My Day in the Sun’ to the 2022 music video ‘She is a hero’, this is a recurring theme, which is not surprising given how deeply she feels about being stereotyped and boxed in. “Even within the sisterhood of women, there is an unspoken code of what the ‘right woman’ is. We are deterred from showing rage. Even irritability is unbecoming. This anger, despair, that’s what drives women to great achievements,” she says. 

For‘Monster Machine’, Shruti worked with friends and long-time music collaborators Karan Kanchan and Karan Parikh to create something she says almost feels cinematic. “A song that makes one want to dance to it till the very end, but also feels like a movie score.”

Directed by Dwarakesh, the visuals of the music video are courtesy of Bhuvan Gowda, the cinematographer of the blockbuster K.G.F. movies, and the much anticipated upcoming film Salaar: Part 1- Ceasefire, which Shruti also stars in. Bhuvan and director Prashanth Neel, she says, helped her access a part of the film’s set that wasn’t being used to shoot the music video there.

It is impossible not to bring up Salaar with the actor, given the sky-high expectations and hype surrounding the film. “I went in saying it was a big commercial film, and that I loved my character, but the people I worked with were just incredible. Bhuvan sir will be a regular future collaborator, Prabhas was a gem, and Prashanth sir is very generous as a director,” she says. 

2023 has been an exciting year for Shruti, with the release of two big Telugu films, Veera Simha Reddy and Waltair Veerayya during Sankranthi. Now, 14 years on in the film industry, with projects across multiple Indian languages, Shruti has also completed her first independent English film, The Eye, a psychological thriller directed by Daphne Schmon. The film recently won awards for Best Film and Best Director at the Greece International Film Festival.

 Music, ambition, telling personal stories

A still from ‘Monster Machine‘

A still from ‘Monster Machine‘ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I allow my personality to go wherever it wants to,,” she says when asked about how she shuttles between films and her independent music. “I keep composing, I have space for everything in my life and this has helped me navigate different industries and languages. My ambition is towards myself and breaking my internal boundaries,” she says.

A huge rock-and-roll, and metal head, for Shruti, music discussions with Santanu are often focussed on new bands and metal music. “He then goes back to Slipknot, and I go back to Korn,” she laughs.

With her father, the actor Kamal Haasan, creative discussions stem from something everyone seems to be equally addicted to — Instagram reels. “Dad is obsessed with reels. I get kids playing piano, or even videos of fathers and daughters singing. He’s online watching the most creative, musical things and he shares it. I respond in kind with music. We have a love language which is Instagram reels,” she says. 

Through the art label BLCK she co-founded with Santanu under which ‘Monster Machine’ was also made, Shruti says she envisions creating a safe corner for people to share stories that other spaces have turned down. “Music is something I’ve been listening to, and doing for many years. This is a form of expression I enjoy because I have control over the narrative, and now, I even have visual control over it. BLCK has other projects coming up as well,” she says.

She adds that she enjoys celebrating misunderstood people. “I want this space, not just for me, but for women I know to create stories around women and everyone else,” she says, adding “There’s a whole chunk of us left out — the weirdos and misfits.”

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