While we are in 2022, the audience still can’t get over one of the final treats 2021 offered them. Allu Arjun and Rashmika Mandanna-starrer Pushpa: The Rise hit the theatres last month and took the entire nation by storm. While it did exceptionally well in the South of India, in the Hindi markets too, this Allu-starrer managed to roar. So much so, that the songs and the dialogues of the film are trending on Instagram. While the audience is already excited to see what happens next, I had a brief conversation with Rashmika, where we spoke about her brilliant performance, her character and what she expects from the sequel. Read on.

You played a character so different from what you have done before. It was raw and you brought a certain innocence to this one. How much preparation did you go through for this?

As you said, I do agree that Srivalli gets a lot of rawness and innocence, which is sort of a breather for the film. While Pushpa Raj has a lot of highs in his ways, like his actions stunts and heroism, when it comes to Srivalli, there’s romance, some freshness, and a little comedy. For the preparation, I think all of us in the film had to work super hard to get our dialect, mannerisms, body language and expressions right. We had to stay close to the earth for this film because it’s all about being in the forest, being in these closed and sacred places – much closer to the earth. We had to give birth to a new character altogether.

Most Indian films have men at the forefront and rarely do we see women play a strong role to take the narrative forward. Pushpa belongs to the latter. How important is it for you to be a part of a story where you contribute to it?

For me, honestly, my character has rather brought a breather in Pushpa. Since the story is – Pushpa: The Rise, it was all about the man and his name. The man who comes from nothing, to conquer what he could. And Srivalli is a part of his journey where she brought the fun part of it like the romance, the joy and the comedy. Srivalli was a breath of fresh air in his life, a subtle break that Pushpa needed in his journey.

Of course, playing a part that contributes to moving the story ahead, is very important but I think, we should always find the purpose behind the character that we are involved with. For example, in Pushpa, without Srivalli, the film would be too overwhelming because there are so many things happening, so many constant highs, that there was a need for a break for the audience. We didn’t want them to come out of the theatre just holding their heads and being like ‘Oh my god! What just happened? The film is amazing but it was overwhelming!’ We wanted the highs and then the breather and then again the highs and the breather. And for me, fulfilling the purpose in the film is more important. So, I would just be a part of the film if I love the story. For me, the purpose and what I contribute to the film is much more important.

Whether it is Baahubali, KGF or now Pushpa, a recent trend that we’ve been witnessing is dividing the story into two parts. Even Hindi cinema has started adapting to this change. As an actor, does that ever build a pressure of maintaining the similarities, because a year later you have to come back to the same character?

I think a couple of films are too long to be told in just two-and-a-half or three hours because the story itself is so long and vast. So, I think all of these films like KGF, Baahubali and Pushpa, have too much to say. Parting the films into two halves wouldn’t be called a trend, but I think it’s done to do justice to the story. There’s nothing wrong with making it in two parts, after all you just have to do what you have to do!

In terms of the difficulty, I would say that it would be hard for the first two days but post that, it becomes easy as you just sort of remember. It’s more like muscle memory. So, talking about Pushpa 2, I have to live the same character which I have lived before, so I wouldn’t find it hard. Although it’s the first time I am doing it, so it’s going to be new for me as well, but I am sure all of us can do it.

Srivalli may be innocent but she has her heart in the right place and knows what she wants. Was there ever a conflict between Rashmika and Srivalli when the morals of the character were concerned?

The only similarity between Rashmika and Srivalli would be that the latter openly likes and dislikes, while the former likes openly but she does not dislike that openly. But when it comes to morals, I don’t think there was any clash or anything. It was just really weird for me to initially start doing this character because I had not seen or heard of or never been through this kind of character before. As days passed by, we all sort of figured out what this character was like. I think now I have a better clarity of what Srivalli is like. Now that I have watched her, it is also going to be easy for me during the second one. I have a big feeling that I will do a better job in the second half because in the first half we were just figuring out the character. But yes, I don’t think Rashmika and Srivalli had any conflict as such.

Yes, the audience has loved Pushpa, Srivalli, and all the characters that featured in the film for sure! I wouldn’t say that it’s baggage but I think, as an actor, I am personally super excited to go back into shooting the second half because I am curious. Now, as the audience has seen what each character goes through, I am intrigued to know what happens next. I want to perform Srivalli more, I want to be Srivalli more. So, I think it’s fun. There’s going to be more curiosity within all the actors too. Now that all of us have witnessed what our characters go through, I am sure we are going to work harder and perform better. I, for sure, want to do everything above justice to the character as I want to live it again.