‘To be the heroine of people’s hearts’: Jubilee actor Aditi Rao Hydari on stardom
After the success of Prime Video’s Jubilee, actor Aditi Rao Hydari talks about living her dream and achieving unmatched success in the OTT era.
A patient, life-changing journey to stardom is the best way to describe Aditi Rao Hydari’s time on the silver screen. Petite, elegant, and a breath of fresh air since her debut in Hindi movies in 2011 (Rockstar), Hydari has always been the one set to become a popular heroine, but falls short of a suitable opportunity.
With Prime Video's Jubilee having won accolades, Hydari’s layered character of female superstar Sumitra Kumari has proven her stature as an actor. She explains that preparing for Sumitra—supposed to be loosely based on erstwhile movie star Devika Rani—was a collaborative process led by director Vikramaditya Motwane.
“Vikram Sir and his team had a method with which they worked. Each time I would tug in a different direction, they would tug me right back into their way, which was very systematic,” Hydari tells YS Life.
As an individual, Hydari reveals she is different from her character Sumitra Kumari’s public persona. “There is a kind of pride and a quality of living your superstar life,” she says.
“That comes from being a lady superstar in a man’s world… from the period in which you are living and the inaccessibility; and the fact that you try to protect your very fragile heart from people around you. I found that quality—the ability to protect your heart from the outside world by looking down upon people, like dropping a wall in front of you—quite interesting,” the actor immediately defends her character.
Hydari has been working in Hindi films for 12 years, having dealt with the pitfalls of becoming a leading woman as an outsider within an insular industry. “When I started, I didn't really know much about this process. All I knew was I wanted to be a Mani Ratnam heroine,” she confesses.
After landing in the city of dreams, Mumbai, in around 2010-11, Hydari worked with incredible directors, including the likes of Sudhir Mishra. “But it was not easy. I would do a film and wait for it to be released. People would pat me on the back and say that I am talented and would make a great heroine, but I did not really have a project or the backing of people to make projects for me,” she adds. “But I never resent it. I feel like everybody’s journey is different, and I kept the faith.”
Meanwhile, the actor’s parts were swapped or shortened in films like Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar (2011) and reduced to side characters mostly. However, like her screen persona, Sumitra Kumari, in the applauded and cinematic series Jubilee on Prime Video, she kept her chin up and focused on fulfilling her dreams.
Having made her debut in a Malayalam film, Hydari’s fortunes changed with Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai (2017), where she was cast opposite Karthi, a Tamil superhit star. “I realised this is what it means when dreams come true!” Hydari exclaims.
“This is what it means to be working in the movies. I wanted to recreate this experience over and over again. Working in cinema (for me) means working with a director you love and respect, and a director who allows you to take risks, be curious and childlike… learn and fall, and you will be picked up and put back on the cliff to fly again. I have only sought such experiences at work, and I have found them,” she adds.
Hydari’s classic looks and mysterious eyes that speak volumes finally brought her validation and opportunities to do quality films. Be it Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat (2018) or the Telugu film Sammohanam (2018)—one can see the evident shift in her body of work.
In fact, the era of OTT brought Hydari unmatched success—first with Sufiyum Sujatayam (2022) and then with Jubilee—and an added advantage is her ability to work in different languages. But the actor never realised it initially.
“It (Sufiyum Sujatayam) was made for a theatrical release. The day I was told it would be released on OTT, I wept,” Hydari discloses. “But I realised the power of the medium,” she adds.
Like language, the medium is no barrier if the content touches people’s hearts, she realised. “It really is about making people enter your world and make them believe in it. The kind of acceptance that Sufiyum Sujatayam got me, despite being a Malayali film, made me realise I was so silly!” Hydari says.
The actor believes that the shift from theatres to OTT is actually unifying the world. “The language, medium, or country does not matter. You have to be the heroine of people’s hearts,” she says.
Hydari’s belief in choosing a film director she resonates with has driven her to make eclectic choices. Beyond Bhansali or Mani Ratnam mega films, she has delivered appreciated performances in smaller films.
With small but impactful parts—like Priya Sharma in Geeli Pucchi, the short film in the anthology Ajeeb Daastaans (2021), alongside Konkona Sen Sharma—has kept her focus on going with the director’s vision.
“When I work with a director, I just look at them as human beings with a passion that wants to tell a timeless tale, and I want to be their heroine… I chose Geeli Pucchi because of the director (Neeraj Ghaywan). The director’s vision and passion to create a world that I can immerse myself and transcend into this world is what’s important,” she explains.
For Hydari, the number of films a director has made holds no weight. “It is important for me to surrender to their vision, and I hope that audiences see themselves in my story,” she says.
In the competitive and unforgiving world of cinema, where a single error of judgement can gaslight a star’s career, Hydari has had to fight for her corner. Now is her time in the spotlight for having been consistent and selective in her film choices.
Up next for Hydari is Bhansali’s Heeramandi, a web series on Netflix, and Gandhi Talks—a silent feature film with Arvind Swamy and Vijay Sethupathi.
Edited by Suman Singh