EXCLUSIVE: I have greater respect for my male counterparts now, says ‘Satyabhama’ star Kajal Aggarwal

Kajal dons the khaki for the third time in 'Satyabhama', after Vijay-Mohanlal's 'Jilla' (2014) and 'Ghosty' (2023).

BySrivathsan Nadadhur

Published Jun 07, 2024 | 7:00 AMUpdatedJun 07, 2024 | 7:00 AM

Kajal Aggarwal gets candid about her film Satyabhama

For a long time in showbiz, Kajal Aggarwal has been craving the meatier share of the pie in commercial cinema, even while trying to make the most of the conventional heroine roles that came her way.

It has taken about a decade and a half in the Telugu industry for it to materialise through Satyabhama, a 7 June release. She dons the khaki for the third time in the film, after Vijay-Mohanlal’s Jilla (2014) and Ghosty (2023).

As part of Satyabhama’s promotions, Kajal Aggarwal didn’t mind taking a dig at her Telugu speeches across her events (where the Telugu segment was restricted to an “Andariki Namaskaaram“).

She made a special effort to set the record straight at the film’s pre-release event by rendering a speech completely in Telugu.

“It’s not that I don’t know Telugu well, but I become conscious of going wrong on a public forum. Telugu grammar isn’t my strength and I’m working on it,” she assures.

A cop drama, Satyabhama is centred on the mysterious past of a police officer (played by Kajal Aggarwal) focusing on her high-stakes investigation to find a missing man named Iqbal. Through the case, she unravels dark secrets that threaten to derail her present.

The film was offered to Kajal only two months after she delivered her child.

She was so impressed by the narration that she threw the ball in the makers’ court, saying, “I’m completely game for it. Let me know when you want to start shooting.”

Also Read: Kajal Aggarwal joins Vishnu Manchu’s ‘Kannappa’

On action sequences in Satyabhama

Kajal Aggarwal did some high-octane stunts as a cop in Satyabhama

Kajal Aggarwal did some high-octane stunts as a cop in ‘Satyabhama’. (Supplied)

The film threw the ground open for the actor to perform high-voltage action sequences and she relished the challenge.

“I like challenges, they give me an adrenaline high and an opportunity to grow. Satyabhama came at the right time and the right phase in my life. I’ve been inching to do action,” She tells South First.

After pregnancy, the actor says, her fitness levels altered and it took additional effort to get back her stamina and strength.

“It was exhilarating, but I got to work with a trustworthy team. I had to learn, practice, and push myself. It’s an equally emotional role (the drama is in a realistic space), exploring a side to me that hasn’t been translated onto the screen before,” the extremely talented actor recounts.

Kajal Aggarwal maintains that the action sequences in Satyabhama (designed by Subbu Master) were designed to be impactful and believable at the same time, keeping her strengths in mind.

“I can’t go around beating up a hundred people the way Ram Charan does, I’ll look like a fool. Audiences know it won’t be practically possible (smiles). There’s no point in doing action if it’s all gymnastics that don’t suit the actor. The stunt director trained me well enough across workshops,” she explains.

Kajal Aggarwal doesn’t prefer the “women-centric film” tag to be associated with Satyabhama.

“The story may unfold through a female protagonist who happens to be a cop. But as you watch it in theatres, you’ll realise it has all the makings of a commercial film. Through a mainstream genre like a cop drama, we wanted to break a few myths and stereotypes,” she clarifies.

Also Read: ‘Satyabhama’ teaser out; Kajal aces as a determined cop

On her male co-stars and Sashi Kiran Tikka

Is it pressure to be the face of a film? “I see it more as a responsibility. After a long time, there are butterflies in my stomach,” she smiles.

Post Satyabhama, Kajal Aggarwal is more empathetic towards her male co-stars, having experienced the burden of carrying a film on one’s shoulders with their presence.

Kajal says her respect for her male co-stars has increased now

Kajal says her respect for her male co-stars has increased after ‘Satyabhama’. (Instagram)

“I have always acknowledged the efforts they put into their film. But the respect has grown manifold after stepping into their shoes. Through this experience, I now know what it takes to headline a film but I loved every minute of it.”

A few of her Tamil outings for which she was the mainstay—say the 2021 web series Live Telecast, Karungaapiyam (2023), and Ghosty—weren’t received quite well, but they taught her a few lessons.

“I’m not yet sure why the projects didn’t work though I realised that I had to work with a team I fully believed in. Satyabhama had a young bunch of sharp thinkers, led by a producer (director Sashi Kiran Tikka) whose films—Goodachari (2018) and Major (2022)—I’ve loved.”

Did she ask Sashi Kiran Tikka why he chose to present it (besides writing the screenplay) and not direct it instead?

“It was my first question after the narration. While Satyabhama is truly his baby and he’s emotionally attached to it, I think the film gave him a bird’s eye view of the process. As a director, you’re hung up on perfecting the nuances to get the film right, but handling a production offers you a holistic idea of filmmaking.”

Kajal Aggarwal is appreciative of Sashi for entrusting Satyabhama’s responsibility in the hands of a newcomer, Suman Chikkala.

“Even if it’s his debut, he never got intimidated by anybody in the team. He knew what he was getting into and stood for what believed in. For a first film, he has done a commendable job, that too in a difficult genre. It must have been challenging for him and I’m sure he must be spending many sleepless nights before release.”

Also Read: ‘Indian 2’ audio launch highlights

‘Actors must be relatable’

Kajal doesn't prefer the "women-centric film" tag to be associated with Satyabhama

Kajal doesn’t prefer the “women-centric film” tag to be associated with ‘Satyabhama’. (Instagram)

How does one tell the story of a cop—a role whose contours have been explored in gazillion dimensions by male and female actors in the past—and still offer something novel and keep a viewer invested?

“I agree that it’s a part portrayed by many actors before. I still feel every actor brings a new perspective to it, especially if it’s for the first time (like for me in Satyabhama). It’s not possible to invent another genre altogether. It’s all about what you can bring to the table within a familiar space,” the actor says.

For someone like Kajal Aggarwal, who’s worked at a breakneck pace (clocking over 8-9 films a year in her prime), hopping from one set to the other across cities, having little time for the world beyond the industry, doesn’t it get difficult to understand an average viewer’s tastes?

Pat comes the response. “I think it’s an actor’s responsibility to be relatable. How do you do it? Being honest and authentic to the part is important. If you’re honest, it reflects in your performance. Audiences are too smart and they will know when you are faking it.”

Also Read: I’m ready to put in more effort: Samantha on her IMDb recognition