It has been over 24 hours since the most-awaited Telugu web series released on ZEE5. Gods Of Dharmapuri or G.O.D has been making waves over social media in a fashion that the Telugu OTT industry has never witnessed before. It’s a family-gangster saga that is set in the ’60s and ’70s, in the fictional border-town of Dharmapuri. As interesting as this sounds, the 10-episode series is clearly far, far better. The show is helmed by Anish Kuruvilla and is shouldered with an interesting and a strong ensemble cast. One of them is Chandini Chowdary.
Chandini plays Swapna in the show and has been busy with promotional activities. She found moments between in her hectic schedule to speak to us – in what was the most candid conversation. Although supremely vocal and confident about her opinions, Chandini has an energy that’s so happy and chirpy it’s almost infectious. Read the edited excerpts of the interview below.
Q. Let’s settle the debate around your name and identity…
A. I was born in Vizag. I can speak, read and write Telugu. My favourite food is Pulihora. People say I don’t look like a Telugu Ammayi or I don’t sound like one. I don’t know what’s that supposed to mean. But I am a Telugu Ammayi! They are confused because of the surname, but no, I am from Andhra.
Q. Let’s talk about your journey into the world of films…
A. I actually started doing short films while studying my Mechanical Engineering in Bangalore. The videos went viral and I started to have a following of my own. This got the attention of folks from the film fraternity and they decided to encash on it. I started to get offers but I took them up only after I had completed my graduation. Sadly, I had to let go of many good projects that eventually went on to be good hits. And this was because I was tied under the contract by a producer for two years, who never came around making a film. So yes, that’s how it all started. But I would have had a lot less struggle had I skipped that contract.
Q. How did G.O.D happen to you?
A. I started doing films and it was going well. Offers from and for the web-space were the same old. When I was doing digital content, I didn’t understand the market very well or the scope of growth it had. Actually, at the time, it wasn’t great anyway. We were doing romantic-comedies and such things. Although I do like it, it had stopped being of interest to me. And that’s when the badass script of G.O.D came my way.
Q. Tell us a little about your character, Swapna?
A. Swapna is young and full of love. She places the man she loves before herself. Through the show, the character gets married into the Reddy family and has to deal with them, the unfairness, the drama, the mental pressure and other things. She also ages through the show into an elderly woman. I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. So, I challenged myself and went ahead.
Q. What are the similarities and differences between you and Swapna?
A. Well, I never saw myself playing a character like this – someone who took the back seat for someone else. I always want to play strong and independent roles. That’s the biggest difference. The one similarity we have is… Like Swapna, even I will accept someone who I like or love with all their flaws. But given that they understand the gravity of the situation and work towards mending it.
Q. Did you have to prepare to play your part?
A. My biggest challenge was the language. I speak Telugu but it’s very different from the Rayalaseema accent that is used in the series. Since I was used to pronouncing words in a certain way, losing the flow of the accent was a problem. So I had to practise a lot for it. I observed the girls around. They were so comfortable in their sarees. I wasn’t and it shows on the camera when you’re uncomfortable. So that was another task.
Q. What was the most exciting and nerve-wracking part of your job?
A. The most exciting part was trying to fit the bill. All the other actors were too good at their job. Also, I did not have to do any make-up for my character. But yes, I did have to get my hair done every day. Because I, very spontaneously, decided to chop off my hair for no reason. So I had to get extensions. And the most nerve-wracking part was the timings. We were barely getting any sleep and then we had to wake up and travel because the location was far.
Q. You are the romantic partner to actor Satyadev’s character Venu Reddy. How was it working with the actor?
A. Working with Satya was a breath of fresh air. He’s the best actor I have worked with. It’s so easy to work with him. Even when we had some romantic scenes, I did not stiff up, like I normally would. He is from Vizag, too, and we have known each other for some time because of our mutual friends. He is such a sweetheart. We would crack jokes and laugh, no one else would get it because it was colloquial to us. We were supposed to work together in the past as well, but those projects never materialised.
Q. What are some of the lessons that you took back with you from the process of G.O.D?
A. I learned that I can cry on cue without any glycerin. That was like a tremendous achievement for me. Sruthi (Jayan), my co-actor, is such an incredible artiste. She has a way of embodying her character. I learnt how to get into the skin of her character physically and into the mood from her. Anish and Naveen (the DOP) told me to keep calm even when things were going haywire all around me. Radhika (producer, Ellanar Films) gets a lot of flak… but she knows how to deal with things. I learnt from her how to keep a smile on your face and still say what needs to be said.
Q. What’s your favourite memory on the sets?
A. The ADs, artistes, writers and everyone else were staying at the same place. So after a tiring and hectic day at shoot, all of us would gather and share the highlights or the funny incidents from that day on the sets. In the show, we have a character named Pasha – for some reason, everyone was trying to plan a spin-off for him. Like Joey after F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Better Call Saul from Breaking Bad. We would all laugh and go bonkers. Karthik would even give the graphic details of everything. I wish someone comes out and talks about it properly. Especially Karthik and Satya, they are so good at story-telling. It’s so funny!
Q. What’s next?
A. Well, there is this one film for which only one song is left. I have two more movies which are yet to go on the floor. I am just so glad that I am able to find good work. In a time where it’s difficult for Telugu girls to get work, I am glad that I am finding it. I hope it grows and becomes normal than an exception to have Telugu girls in Telugu films.
We’re truly excited to see what she brings to the table and for the day when she reigns supreme. Hoping the best for this homegrown queen before we sign out. But you shouldn’t miss out Gods Of Dharmapuri on ZEE5.