Actress Karthika Nair, born and brought up in Mumbai, made her South Indian film debut at the age of just 17 when she starred in the Telugu film Josh in 2009 alongside Nagarjuna’s son Naga Chaitanya. Post that, she has acted in quite a few South Indian films. The 24-year-old actress is now all set to make her television debut in the show ‘Aarambh,’ which has been penned by none other than KV Vijayendra Prasad, who wrote the magnum opus film Baahubali. Aarambh, which has been directed by Goldie Behl and will air on June 24, has actress Tanuja and actor Rajniesh Duggall in pivotal roles. In Aarambh, Karthika plays the role of Princess Devasena, the queen of the matriarchal Dravidian clan, who is on a mission to save the Dravidians from an invasion from the Aryans. In an interview with Nation Next, Karthika Nair speaks about the show Aarambh, her character ‘Devasena’ and reveals what made her leave South Indian films for a year and make her television debut.
You’ve done quite a few films down south. What prompted you to accept the role of Devasena in Aarambh? Were you apprehensive about making your television debut?
I was apprehensive before I heard the story, as television is a bigger commitment than films. You can do two three movies at a time. But in television, you have to commit to a character for a long time. Then, Goldieji and Vijayendra Prasadji insisted that I listen to the story and my character (Devasena) once. In a male dominated industry, it’s very hard to get a role like that. Also, as an actress, it is really hard to say no to such a powerful character. If Aarambh had been a daily soap, which would go on for years without any definite finish, I would not have done it. Aarambh is a proper film divided into episodes. It was really nice shooting the show and I was treated like a princess on the sets.
You play a princess on the show and you were treated like a princess on the sets of the show. Is it difficult going out in the real world as a normal human being once the shoot is over?
Not at all. I’m a very homely person and I like to be the lazy me. Devasena is too adventurous and sporty. If you want to be treated like a princess, you have to behave like a princess. I don’t have much energy left after the shoot of the show. So, I’m very happy being ‘Karthika’ after the show.
There was Devasena in Baahubali and there’s Devasena in Aarambh. Is Devasena’s character in Aarambh similar to Devasena’s character in Baahubali?
The only similarity between Baahubali’s Devasena and Aarambh’s Devasena is that they both are queens. In Baahubali, Baahubali had a central character. In Aarambh, Devasena plays the central character. Plus, Aarmabh’s world is totally different. Devasena is the ruler of the entire kingdom in the show. I think, I had to do more stunts in Aarambh compared to Baahubali’s Devasena. In the first episode, I had to sit on a real elephant. Real horses and crocodiles have also been used in the show. I have also engaged in sword fights. It was by far the toughest and physically challenging role for me.
Did you undergo any sort of training for your role in Aarambh?
Rajniesh and I did a small workshop with Mukesh Chhabra just to get the body language and postures of our characters right. When you play a historic or periodic role, you can come across as fake at times; we didn’t want that. Having said that, workshops are good to an extent. Unless you’re completely prepared, you may not come across as a natural. I did my first film right after I gave my 10th board exams. I had no formal training in acting. But I was fortunate to get a chance to work with some really good directors. I’m a director’s actress; they can mould me the way they want.
When we talk about period dramas, there are opulent sets, outdoor shoots and heavy costumes. How difficult is it to recreate that bygone era?
Goldieji and his sister Shristi Arya have done a fabulous job with postproduction of the show. In the film city, we have by far one of the biggest sets. It is all because of Goldie sir’s vision that we could recreate the bygone era. We shot just four episodes in three months to enable everyone to give their best. If you see the CG (computer graphics) used in the film, it looks very natural. Tanujaji in the show is a serpent priestess, so her costume includes snakes always. She’s there in all the episodes of the show and it was quite a challenge to give that natural feel.
Tanujaji is also making her television debut with this show. She’s a fabulous and talented veteran actress. Was it daunting to work besides her?
I was actually relived to know that there’s someone else other than me (Tanuja and Rajniesh) from the film industry, who is a part of the show. Tanujaji knows my mother, so she’s more like a family. That’s the reason, I never felt intimidated by her even though we have shot just a few scenes together till now. Tanujaji is like a patakha on the set. She’s full of energy and is the life of the show.
Television shows in India start with an out of the box theme. But, with time, the TRPs, they get monotonous. Do you fear that with ‘Aarambh?’
If Aarambh was a daily soap or a long term series, we would have had a reason to worry. But like I said, it’s a proper script. There’s a start and there’s an end. Vijayendraji has written each episode, which is one hour long. When you have a start and an end, it’s very hard to stretch the story.
In Baahubali, there were clashes between families. Will we see something of this sort in Aarambh as well? Is there a love story involved in Aarmabh?
Devasena’s main motto in Aarambh is to save the Dravidian kingdom from an invasion from the Aryans. She’s a princess and the queen has passed away. She will take over the throne once she matures. The only family relationship, which you’ll see in Aarambh, is the relationship between Devasena and her father. And there’s of course a love story. When there are strong characters involved, to make such characters bond, there has to be love.
Aarambh is set in a matriarchal society where a woman has a lot of power whereas in the real world, we live in a somewhat patriarchal society. Do you think a lot of power has to be given to a woman in the real world?
Fortunately, my family has never been like that. When Goldieji narrated us the story, we were like, “You just talked about the Nair family!” The situations are indeed different in different countries and regions, but yes we are today modern just for namesake. We are not at all modern in our thought process. Matriarchal society is not fictional. In the olden days, that society existed. Now, a woman to be the queen of a kingdom is unacceptable for people. In those days, it was normal.
Baahubali 2 has crossed the 1000 crore mark worldwide. How do you feel to be associated with a show, which has been written by the same person who wrote the movie?
I feel very proud and nervous at the same time. It’s a lot of responsibility. But, you cannot really compare Baahubali with Aarambh. In fact, I told Vijayendraji once, “Why did you keep my character’s name as Devasena? Now everyone will start comparing.” He told me that he loves the name. Other than the name, there’s no similarity. Aarambh is very different that Baahubali.
On a lighter note, would you call Aarambh the Game of Thrones (GOT) of India?
(Laughs) That is something very scary! No, I would never call it the GOT of India. I would call it the Aarambh of India. GOT is a completely different show. That’s Hollywood and they have their own style just like we have ours.