In a span of four years, Rashmika Mandanna has established herself as one of the most popular actresses in the Kannada and Telugu film industry, and she is just getting started. 

I think of myself as an actor who is as real as she can be, because I do not want to put on this mask saying: I am perfect, I am fine, no matter what happens, things won’t get to me. My audience and all my followers just know that there’s this girl who is as next-door as she can be. She doesn’t fake it; she doesn’t cover it. And I like that,” says Rashmika Mandanna, the 24-year-old actor who has completely taken over the Kannada and Telugu film industry. What began with Kirik Party in 2016 led to two massive commercial hits in 2017 — Anjani Putra, and Chamak. In 2018, Mandanna starred in the incredible critical and commercial success, Geetha Govindam, which is one of those rare movies that broke the language barrier, and made the North sit up and take notice. For her splendid performance in the movie alongside Vijay Deverakonda, Mandanna took home the Filmfare South Best Actress (Critics) Award. Geetha Govindam is also notable because it solidified Mandanna’s co-star Deverakonda’s status as the most popular Southern import since Rana Daggubati. And he couldn’t have done it without the affable chemistry he shared with Mandanna, who stole the show from beneath some very high noses.

Since then, Mandanna has become the goddess of wealth of sorts for the production companies down South. If a film has her in it, it’s bound to make big bucks is the common perception, a perception that is backed by her back-to-back successes in Yajamana, Sarileru Neekevvaru, and Bheeshma. Yet, despite her reputation as a box office success, Mandanna’s most important performance till date is, perhaps, in a film that managed to collect a paltry Rs. 37.33 crores. The 2019 film, Dear Comrade, brought Mandanna and Deverakonda together on screen. “My performance in Dear Comrade is the closest to me of all my performances. I don’t know if it’s the best, because that is for the audience to decide, but for me, it was special because I had to strip off everything that I was, and be that character. I had to be delicate, I had to be open. In that film, I didn’t care about how I looked, but I just cared about if my emotions and what I was feeling came across in the right manner,” Mandanna reminisces.

Mandanna, like many of her colleagues, is also open about mental health, and the effect of social media trolling. Mandanna is not the only female public figure in India to get trolled and desired in equal measure, but she does believe that she is the “queen of trolls”. “It affects your mental state, it affects you as a whole. Everyone knows that I get affected by it. I’ve grown out of it now, but initially, I used to get devastated looking at the comments. Now, I’ve just accepted that when I’m a public figure, there’s going to be good and bad sides to it. I think I am open enough to talk about it now. I am open enough to accept what people are telling me, the criticism which comes by. I am accepting to work on it as well,” she says, displaying a maturity that belies her age. Having always been a hustler, the actress was initially glad for the break that the national lockdown provided this year. However, the ensuing deaths, the shutting down of the global economy, and the rising number of COVID-19 cases devastated her.

But Mandanna is back on sets and has wrapped up her upcoming Tamil project. As for the future, the 24-year-old is certain of one thing — she is going to make a lot of people proud, entertain more people, and make them smile, and feel good about themselves. But, most importantly, she is going to grow. Let’s hope 2021 is the year for all that.

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