Never taken my famous last name for granted, says Shruti Haasan at YourStory's Creators Inc Conference
“I have never taken the brand behind the ‘Haasan’ (family) name for granted. It has opened doors and come with a lot of blessings and responsibilities. But it is something that I had to forget immediately as soon as the door opened. If I took that too seriously versus myself seriously I wouldn’t have had the courage to take some risks or make some mistakes, which is a big part of everyone’s journey,” says Shruti Haasan, the actor, singer and composer.
Born to superstar Kamal Haasan and prominent actor Sarika, she says that despite the perks of a famous family name, she had to carve out her own path.
Speaking at the inaugural edition Creators Inc. Conference, Shruti highlighted that cinema has been more challenging because the levels of expectations have been just so high because of having acclaimed actor parents. However, she managed to keep that “at the back of her mind” and take one day at a time.
She joined the conference virtually while taking a break from the shoot of her OTT (over-the-top) release, 'Bestseller' with Amazon Prime Video. Shruti points out that the most important thing for her as she juggles music, acting, and “self-discovery”, is to enjoy the unique journey she is on.
“We should all take a second in our lives and give gratitude to the doors that opened in our lives…for whatever jobs. And for the brand name that the Haasan name gives is something I am always grateful for. Things changed for me when the Telugu film Gabbar Singh became a hit [sic], until then everything was a touch and go situation for me professionally. And had no sense of my footing. The initial four years were challenging,” Shruti shares.
A box-office hit in the bag strengthened Shruti’s belief in perseverance - “If you keep hitting the hammer, the metal will bend at one point.”
Having not learnt acting like she had been trained in music, Shruti explains, the journey has been about learning and failing “in front of people”. This made her find grit and determination.
Her first love
Shruti feels that everything from fashion to acting to music has been an act of expressing what she feels and how she sees the world. While she’s been seen in several Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu movies such as 7am Aarivu, Singham 3, and Welcome Back, Shruti says her first love is music.
She was all of five when she had started singing for stalwarts like Illayaraja, by six she had performed live in Singapore at her father Kamal Haasan’s show. But it was during the pandemic induced lockdown when she finally released her first single called Edge. It was shot entirely on the mobile phone by herself.
“I started songwriting when I was 19 and acting took over every day of my life. But I was still writing. Around 2016 and 2017, I decided to take a break and clearly step off the treadmill without FOMO (fear of missing out). And then I realised I simply haven’t done my music. So I started performing in London. I had the best time of my life. It was truly liberating. I took steps to make music in the UK. And in the pandemic I focussed on my music. And Edge was just making that music from home on my piano. And it felt intimate. It was a strong part of me, and Edge was that.”
Trained in Hindustani classical music, Shruti also learnt music in the US. She teamed up with American musician Dave Kushner (of the band Velvet Revolver,) and was the first Indian musician who collaborated with Dave, writing lyrics and singing alongside him.
Shruti had started with playback singing after which she wanted to get into rock and the hard rock scene.
She spoke of this in detail in an earlier conversation with YourStory- “But I listen to Slipknot… the women singers I liked are Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos, and they had an awareness of their sense of difference and weirdness that was so impactful to me. As a child, it made me relate and think ‘that is how I can be, that is how I can sound’. I didn’t have to sound perfect like a movie song, I could be this other person. This didn't sit well with people in the beginning.”
While today Shruti has found her path and niche, speaking of what has really helped her along the journey so far, she says:
“I started young in the world of music and acting young. And I had a firm voice. And there is a big difference between taking on good advice and losing your voice, and I feel that as a person who lost their voice, and found it again. It is important to be proud of your voice. It isn’t about ego, you will know your voice. And that voice can be applied in any field and in any genre.”
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Recognising the burgeoning creator ecosystem and the new wave of entrepreneurship that comes with it, YourStory is celebrating the works of both established and emerging influencers in an initiative aimed at identifying, celebrating and accelerating the journey of digital creators who make extraordinary, unique and engaging content. We've partnered with Trell to bring you the Top 100 Creators challenge, which you can apply for here.