Sitting in her magnificent 7th floor suite room at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chennai, Anushka is a pretty, dignified presence. She ensures that we are comfortable, offers us snacks and responds to our questions in a calm, collected manner. She is also one who doesn’t encourage frivolous questions without depth. And the fact that she is fitness conscious and propagates the values of staying fit is unmistakable as she coaxes us to start exercising towards a healthy life. In this hardworking phase of losing the excess weight that she gained for her ‘Inji Iduppazhagi’, Anushka engages us in this interview.

The main reason to choose an out of the box film like Inji Iduppazhagi? A chance to prove your versatility as an actor or as an endorsement of the message that the film conveys?

More than the chance to prove my versatility or the message in the film, the main thing was the story. When Kanika narrated it to me, I was able to relate to it instantaneously. This is something which every girl child faces in her family. Her parents would want her to settle down with a good life partner, send her to the US with her mappillai etc.

I play a fat girl in the film and my mother wants me to thin down so that I become eligible for marriage. Many girls in the society have this insecure feeling that if they are fat, they are ugly and not desirable to men. The message in the film would be very subtle, but with powerful dialogues.

Aware of the comparisons with Kamal and Vikram - your fellow ‘bodychangers’ ? Your response to such praise?

I would just say that it is not easy. They have been doing this for so many years and are so successful. It was never a conscious decision to try out something like them. When I heard the script, it struck me hard and I wanted to do it come what may. We thought of using prosthetic makeup initially but it was looking artificial. This is a sweet and simple girl being portrayed and she had to look natural. Hence I took it up to gain weight, thinking that I can lose it eventually.

I put on around 17 kgs and I am still trying to lose about 8 kgs more, to start Baahubali 2. I am still in that process and it is very difficult to lose weight. Baahubali 2 shoot starts in December and I am working hard. There are many body issues when you gain and lose weight like this. Weight loss also should be done in a healthy way, especially for women as our bodies are governed by hormones. Drastic weight loss would affect our skin, hair etc.

How was the process of gaining weight?

I just stopped working out, something which is an integral part of my life for the past 15 years. I then ate normal food, like how everyone does. I didn't opt for fried food, as it isn't healthy.

Any aid from technology to look heftier on screen?

We didn't use any technology, it was mainly with my natural weight gain and also with the help of costumes for certain areas where I couldn't put on weight naturally.

My normal diet regime comprises healthy food with proteins, fruits, carbs and also with workouts twice a day. But I ate whatever, for this role, with lot of carbs mainly.

How is the pressure of shouldering the burden singlehandedly when you do films like Inji Iduppazhagi and also Rudhramadevi and Arundhati?

Thankfully most of my directors like Kodi Ramakrishna garu, Rajamouli garu, Gunasekhar garu, Prakash garu are all senior and very much into homework, preparation and research. They make my work easier, but definitely when I get to play such roles which involve intense scenes and action sequences, it is exerting much more than the usual song - dance heroine roles. But it’s totally worth it.

How do you handle the extra burden?

I just sleep to maintain my equilibrium (gestures and laughs). When we get that 8 to 9 hours of sleep, the system is refreshed and negative energy is weeded out. I should say hats off to the heroes of our industry who have to manage such extensive burden for all their films.

About the plethora of leading stars doing cameos in Inji Iduppazhagi, such clean goodwill right?

It has been very sweet of them. Though they are all close to PVP, me and Arya, they also felt connected to the core message of the film - 'To love and accept yourself the way you are' and that ‘beauty is reflected by one's own personality’ and not by using beauty aides, fairness creams and other accessories which go behind the so-called perfect models in all these fashion magazines. But staying fit too, is emphasized in the film, for obvious health reasons. All these celebs identified with this thought and hence did their cameos.

You and Arya have been a much-loved pair. What does he bring to the table for this film, where you garner all the attention and spotlight?

Arya, as we all know, is into fitness big time. He does varied kind of activities and also keeps pushing his crew to keep fit. He raises awareness among the public to stay fit and healthy. This is such a good trait to possess as the thought of staying fit shouldn't begin only when we are pushed to the edge by our bodies. People don't take it seriously unless doctors warn them about adverse effects.

Arya is a big hero in his own right and it is really worthy of appreciation and respect that he accepted to do this film. In the teaser and trailer, there are hardly any shots of him but he didn't push the director in any way and just went by what the script needed. It is not easy to do this and be so magnanimous.

Do you miss being the glam girl of late, with such heavy roles coming your way?

I really want to get back to that glam girl mode. I miss those days, there should be a balance of all kinds of roles.

Given a chance, will you do ‘masala’ films like Rendu and Vettaikaran again, after reaching such a stature now?

Ultimately it is about working with good people and with good scripts. There is nothing like not doing such roles after reaching a certain level or stature. An artist's stature is all in one's own head, the audiences never see such things.

The Baahubali corner

- Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj and Nasser sir are in a different league. Ramya mam's presence and the way she delivers is so strong. We may start to wonder if we can even match up to her.

- Baahubali 2 has a very well-written role for me and I am really looking forward to it. Am sure the audiences would also love it. It involves some light stunts, not to the levels of Rudhramadevi.

How important is dubbing to you?

I feel it is really important, because when you perform and also dub on your own, the soul of the character grows stronger. But the character should also suit your voice, and other elements like dialect are also involved for films like Baahubali and Rudhramadevi. For Vedam, I initially dubbed but later backed off as the movie was itself experimental by nature and I didn't want to risk it too much. In future, if the role suits my voice I would take it up. And time constraints shouldn't be there. I have to also feel comfortable while learning and delivering my dialogues on spot so that I can carry on with dubbing. I don't have any language issues as such, with Tamil or Telugu.

How involved are you with the success and failure of your films? That too, when you are such a dominant factor in most of the films you do.

I just don't want people to lose money in my films, whether I play the lead role or just a guest role. It is not easy investing 70 or 80 crores and then losing that. I don't stress over money matters and box-office collections, but just make sure to ask if my producers recovered their money and didn’t lose anything. Ultimately, I just want to satisfy my director as it is his vision at the end of the day. The way it is received is not in our hands.

After 10 glorious years in the industry, do you feel triumphant?

I wasn't a movie buff at all, before coming into the industry. Initially I wasn't very serious about my career and just wanted to quit. But gradually when films like Arundhati happened, I started getting more interest and started learning more about the industry. The past 3 or 4 years, with movies like Baahubali and Rudhramadevi, have been very exerting and taxing, but these are once in a lifetime movies not just for an actor but for the industry as a whole.

I am generally a very chilled out, relaxed and unfazed person but the industry has taught me to keep moving with time and not be bogged down by ups and downs. I have learnt to be on my feet constantly. This industry does that to all.

Finally what next? After films like Baahubali and also pairing up with the likes of Rajini, anything else on the wish list? Bollywood calling?

Bollywood means more exposure, that's it. I either want to work with legends like Rajinikanth garu or with very good scripts or with great directors. Whichever industry offers me that, I would take it up. We should stop this Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam industry divides and focus on taking our cinema to international platforms given the kind of talent, potential and big legends here.

Anushka, you are such an elegant charmer !!! Thank You …