Getting back to music, working with Vijay Sethupathi: Shruti Haasan talks to TNM

After making her debut on TV as a host with Hello Sago, Shruti Haasan is back in Tamil cinema with a village-based drama titled Laabam. Directed by SP Jananathan, the film has her and Vijay Sethupathi in the lead roles, with the film going on the floors recently in Rajapalayam, Tamil Nadu. The actor is thrilled about collaborating with Vijay Sethupathi for the first time in her career and says that she’s been a huge fan of the actor’s work.

“He’s my most favourite actor after Irrfan Khan. I love the way he brings an element of humanness to his characters and he makes everything look so easy. Besides, I really like SP Jananathan’s approach to his work. He’s quite modern in his thought, but rooted in his approach. I have been in talks for this film for a while now, and I’m glad it’s finally happening,” Shruti says, while hinting that it’s too early to talk about her role yet.

Courtesy: Instagram/Shruti Haasan
Shruti’s last Tamil film, S3, the third instalment in the Singham franchise, had released in 2017. Although her much-talked about film, Sabaash Naidu, where she collaborated with her father and actor Kamal Haasan, was shot for a few weeks, it was put on backburner after Kamal suffered an injury. Later, Shruti signed another film to be directed by Mahesh Manjrekar and it’s still under production.

Although Shruti spent quite a lot of time in London, where she has been working on her new English music album, the actor says that she has been keeping a tab on Tamil cinema too. Ask her if she has noticed any change in the kind of content being made these days, Shruti says, “Of course. The roles actors get have improved. There’s a lot more to do, if I may say so. There’s a vast difference in terms of content when you look at films being made now compared to what it was a few years ago. I still love mass entertainers, but at the same time I’m happy that we are also actively making different kinds of cinema within the mainstream space.”

Back to making music

For the past few months, Shruti has been working closely with Grammy nominated music producer Dan Lancaster, who has worked with the likes of Blink-182, Bring Me the Horizon and Avril Lavigne to name a few, on her music album. “A lot of people had been telling me to get back to music since that’s where I started my career. I have given almost a decade of my life to movies, and I felt that I had to dedicate a lot of my time to writing songs and composing music. It’s been an amazing journey and it has transformed me a lot. Since I have acted in films, now I have a wider audience for my music as well,” she smiles, adding, “It was quite challenging internally because I hadn’t gotten back to my creative roots (composing music) for a long time. I think all those words and music were trapped inside me all these years. But once I got started, it all came out so naturally. What I realised is that I haven’t changed much as a musician. I’m a very positive person even if I’m put in a negative space. That helped a lot.”

Calling music the “best and the most successful relationship” she has had in her life, Shruti confesses her music is quite autobiographical in nature. “It’s quite authentic and comes from inside. You evolve as a person with time and sometimes, you can’t articulate what you want to. Music gives me the chance to do just that. It has never been about wanting to succeed or gain fame. God has been kind to me. My journey has always been spiritual,” she adds.

“To be honest, while I was performing at venues in London, I was expecting audiences would wonder how a brown girl can write English songs (laughs). I’m talking about places where they don’t know my work here in India and the name ‘Haasan’ doesn’t mean anything. It helped me shed a lot of inhibitions. The response was quite uplifting for me. I could make an emotional connection with the audience. I think it has more to do with me channelling my modern aggressive person and feminine energy. And my music is a symbol of who I’m.”

One of the most memorable instances, Shruti recalls, was performing to a packed audience at The Troubadour, London in January this year. “For the first time, I put up a post that I would be performing at this venue which has hosted several legends in the past. I wasn’t expecting a big turnout of people who knew me, but much to my surprise, there were quite a few of them at the event. In the midst of all that, I was scared that someone would yell that I sing a popular chartbuster from one of my Telugu or Tamil films (laughs), but thankfully that didn’t happen. They were all so open to this new material I had written. I’ll never forget that moment,” Shruti recalls.

Admittedly, the actor has fallen in love with London, where she spends quite a lot of her time now. “I love the city. There’s a part of me which tells me that I belong there, but then I also yearn to go back home. We live in a globalised world where we belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That feeling was so strong that I ended up writing a song and sang it at the venue. I saw a woman crying after she heard me sing. That’s what I live for... to touch an emotional chord.”

Balancing music and films

For now, she admits that she’s trying to strike a balance between her music and acting careers. Incidentally, cinema has had a huge influence on her music too, and Shruti says that she writes cinematically. “I love hooks and all that, but more than that, I can see songs, if you know what I mean. It’s very visual. Cinema has changed my music! And I’m not scared of performing on stage,” she says.

With another gig coming up in London in the first week of May, Shruti says that she’s at peace with herself. “I’m not compromising on either (music or films) now. I’m taking time out for myself. I didn’t go on a long vacation during all those years when I was busy doing films. It’s not normal (laughs). My friends say that there’s something different about the way I speak now. I think I’ve always been a confident person, but now there’s more self-assurance with everything I do. My internal battles are over,” Shruti signs off.