Kiara Advani on career breakthrough in Lust Stories, working with Ram Charan, and starring in Arjun Reddy remake

Hemanth Kumar
"Karan Johar saw it in me before anyone did and offered Lust Stories," says Kiara Advani, who will next be seen opposite Shahid Kapoor in Kabir Singh.

Four years after she made her acting debut with Fugly, Kiara Advani found herself in a completely different space in her career in 2018. Not only did she make her foray in Telugu cinema with Bharat Ane Nenu, alongside Mahesh Babu, but also was thrilled to see one of her longtime dreams €" to work with Karan Johar €" come true in the same year. If her role as Sakshi Dhoni in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story made her a household name, her recent works like Bharat Ane Nenu and Netflix's Lust Stories gave her a reach far beyond her own expectations.

"That's the thing that I hope to achieve as an actor €" to be relevant and reach out to a wider audience. Whether it's a Telugu or a Hindi film, you need to reach out to a global audience. If I can engage as many people as I can, then it's great. In the past, I got offers in Telugu too. However, I wasn't sure if I was ready to take them up. And then, Baahubali changed everything for me. It opened everyone's eyes to pan-Indian cinema. Now, if the role and script is good, then language is not a barrier. That's how I got on board Bharat Ane Nenu after Namrata (Shirodkar, Mahesh Babu's wife) convinced me that I should take it up," Kiara recalls, adding, "As long as people love my work in Telugu, I'm sure I'll continue to do more work here, alongside my work in Hindi cinema."

This year, in Hindi, she has two films €" Kabir Singh and Good News €" lined up for release, apart from a special appearance in Abhishek Varman's Kalank. All these developments happened after a phone call from Johar, who wanted to cast her in Lust Stories, that changed everything for her, especially in Bollywood. "One day when I got a call from Karan. I thought he was going to invite me for a party. However, to my surprise, he started narrating me a story. Since he doesn't direct as many feature films these days, I kept wondering why was he telling me all that. That's when I asked him if he's offering me a role," Kiara says, explaining how she got a role in Lust Stories. Apparently, he told her that he was looking for someone who looked young, innocent, and vulnerable, and that she was apt for the role. "I have always dreamt about working with Karan one day and I didn't think twice before saying yes to him. He assured me that people will recognise me as an actress. I had no inhibitions playing the role, but I did have to Google about how to perform a few scenes (laughs). I was kind of nervous the day before the shoot; however, I had immense faith in Karan Johar's aesthetic sense. The whole subject was sensitively handled, and I couldn't believe the kind of response from the female audience."

Perhaps, it is not an exaggeration to say that whatever Johar saw in her is precisely what adds up to her effortless charm, as she opens up about her tryst with Telugu cinema. Having spent a good deal of time in the past few months in Hyderabad, Kiara confesses that she was taken aback with the love and admiration that she has received from Telugu movie buffs ever since she made her debut in Bharat Ane Nenu. With her upcoming film, Vinaya Vidheya Rama, in which she is paired opposite Ram Charan, slated for a release soon, Kiara is eagerly looking forward to see how the audience is going to react to her performance this time. "It's completely different from what I did in my previous Telugu film. For starters, it's my most mass commercial film ever and I loved the way Boyapati Sreenu weaved my role into the script. My role (Sita) comes as a comic relief at times, but more importantly, I loved the equation which Sita and Rama share in the film. In front of everyone, Rama is more dominant, but when they are all by themselves, Sita is the boss. She teases him a lot and she calls the shots. It's so different from the usual characterisation where the girl is expected to be submissive. I really liked the way Boyapati Sreenu narrates his scripts and, even during the shoot, he adds sound effects to give you a vivid description (laughs). This is the kind of film that I would love watching as a movie-goer, and I'm glad I'm working with someone like Ram Charan and Boyapati Sreenu, who are known for their commercial films," Kiara explains.

The actress has struck a great equation with her co-star Charan, who went on record to say that Kiara is his favourite dance partner. "That was a huge compliment. I learnt Bharatanatyam and Kathak when I was young, and I became an actress because of my love for dancing. Ram Charan himself is a fabulous dancer. I had the most fun while filming the songs, especially for the song 'Rama Loves Sita'. We had hundreds of dancers in the background and the sets were lavish. I'm sure everyone will like the grandeur of the songs," she says. It is not just the songs alone where Kiara struck a great equation with Charan. He appears regularly on her Instagram stories, which is a rarity considering that he hardly uses social media. "I've a strong feeling that he has a secret account on Instagram through which he stalks others. I'm sure all actors do (laughs). But he keeps joking that he doesn't have to be on Instagram or social media in general because his wife Upasna and I keep promoting him there," Kiara guffaws.

Sreenu's films are known for their massive action sequences, grand sets and a huge star cast. Vinaya Vidheya Rama is no different. By Kiara's own admission, the film has nearly 15 principal characters. However, she is not anxious that she might be lost in the proceedings. "I believe in quality time, where I can make a mark with whatever screen time I get. Even in Bharat Ane Nenu, I had a limited screen time, but when people notice you despite being paired opposite a big star like Mahesh Babu, it's quite encouraging. That gave me a lot of motivation to push myself and show what you bring to the table, no matter what film it is or how big a star cast it is," Kiara confesses, adding, "I hope people do notice my work in  I like being spontaneous on the sets and you feed off the energy of your co-stars. I did put in a lot of effort to learn the dialogues so that I don't spend too much time on it during the shoot. I'm slowly getting a hang of the language now."

For the next few days, however, she will be busy shooting for Kabir Singh, the Hindi remake of Arjun Reddy, in Delhi. Directed by Sandeep Vanga, the film has Shahid Kapoor reprise the role of Vijay Deverakonda, whereas Kiara will play Shalini Pandey's role. "I loved Arjun Reddy, and Vijay Deverakonda is one of my favourite actors. We shot the climax first and Sandeep is quite pleased with the work we have done so far. I'm sure there are going to be comparisons between the two versions, but I hope people like the Hindi version too as much as they loved Arjun Reddy. I took up this film only because Sandeep is directing it. He's a passionate filmmaker. It's his baby and he knows the characters best. Now, it'll be our version of Arjun Reddy and we are going to do our best to live up to the expectations," Kiara signs off.

All images from Twitter.

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