It’s a busy weekend for Amala Akkineni, the much-loved Telugu actor, and wife of superstar Nagarjuna. What with travel, meetings, and promotions for ZEE5 Original series High Priestess, her first on a web platform! But text her asking to chat and pat comes her reply.
Her calm and composed persona comes across even through a messaging platform. “Shall I send you links of all interviews I have done so far?” she asks politely. And shares the links promptly too. Quite exceptional for an actor and a star of her calibre, isn’t it, in the multiple PR dominated world of entertainment content?
Her humility is evident over the course of the next two days over which this freewheeling chat is conducted. Polite and professional, she doesn’t hesitate to reply in between meetings and even sends you a “Will start answering from the airport lounge,” text at 6:40 am, knowing one is anxious enough to finish the interview before the series launches. And she keeps her word. We speak about her love for the web format (and Game of Thrones), working with friend and director Pushpa Ignatius, her interest in occult and more. Here are edited excerpts from the first of this two-part interview.
Q. You made a comeback with Life Is Beautiful in 2012 and went on to do cameos in films in different languages, such as Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015) and Karwaan (2018). How does it feel to get on a relatively new platform like OTT?
A. It’s exciting since I watch a lot of web series. I know it’s a whole new world and there’s life here for artistes like me. OTT platforms also allow a wider range of stories to be told.
Q. What made you choose the story of High Priestess?
A. Pushpa (Ignatius), my director and writer of the series, is a dear friend. She sent me the script and asked me to play the character of Swathy Reddy – a psychic and tarot card reader. I liked the script but had a few concerns which she addressed immediately. I was comfortable with Pushpa, I trust her sensibilities and I liked her script, so I came on board.
Q. Are you in general interested in occult?
A. I had a very occult phase. But now I have moved on. I understand it very well and respect the learning.
Q. You said you watch a lot of web series. What are your favourites?
A. Game of Thrones of course. But I have been watching the favourites for years – Grey’s Anatomy for its writing, The Good Wife, Madam Secretary to mention a few.
Q. How did you prepare for the role?
A. I learnt how to deal tarot cards, got a grasp of reading them, though only basic. Pushpa is an experienced tarot card reader and I am nowhere near her level of reading. I worked hard in the dubbing – it’s the first time I have dubbed for such lengthy dialogues in Telugu. I am a bit anxious about my accent.
Q. Did you refer to shows like The Mentalist or books to get a hang of your character?
A. I love these shows. But I didn’t read up or research anything as my director Pushpa was very clear that she wanted me for my calm and peaceful persona.
Q. What kind of stories do you like to watch on an OTT platform?
A. I love series’ with strong women characters. Recently, Yellowstone and The First caught our interest. The amazing part of OTT is that everyone will find something they are looking for.
Amala Akkineni has loads more to say. Read the next part of the interview tomorrow as you start watching High Priestess on ZEE5. In the mood for something supernatural, catch up on more on ZEE5.