Her Instagram bio reads as 'Actor. Dancer. Gymnast.’ And all three she is. She is also living the dream as is confessed in her bio too. And why wouldn’t she be? While she doesn’t give herself as much credit for her hard work as she deserves, what comes across in my conversation with her is that she has an innate sense of meaning and direction. She is also far more humble than many I’ve spoken to and gracious in the way in which she looks at life. Making her debut in Hindi cinema with Munna Michael, Nidhhi has gone on to do some huge films in Telugu and Tamil, and is millions of followers strong on social media. And yet, she remains grounded. Here’s my chat:
I want to take you back and talk to you a little bit about childhood. You were an avid television watcher, and in your mind, you thought that maybe you could do this one day. Do you remember a crystal clear moment that you thought you could do this with the surge of confidence required to be in the industry?
Of course, yes. I’ve read all of these books which say that you kind of envision what you want and that then actually happens. I think the first time I watched a film, my first memory of it, I always knew that I would be in the films. I don’t know why or how I recognized that feeling as a child but I always knew that this is what my life would be.
I would look at actresses with long eyelashes and long nails and make-up and looking wonderful. I would think about whether they were human and I would think to myself, but I’m a human being. I never thought actors were people – like that is how young I was when all of these thoughts were crossing my mind. I remember Deepika Padukone’s sister was in my school and we were on the same bus. I heard that Deepika was going to be in the same film as Shah Rukh Khan and we are both from Bangalore.
I agree with you. I grew up thinking these people were larger than life.
Yeah! So, I remember I saw her pick her sister up one day and I was like, “oh, she’s a person, she’s a human, I knew her sister so maybe it is possible.” That is when I really started to pay attention to how I can groom myself. Luckily for me, I went to a school where extra-curriculars were always very important. The system of exams and marks was not as important. Every day, from 2 to 4 pm, we had to participate in some sort of new sport. So my mind was always very open to doing different things. My mom has probably taken me to every single class possible – horse riding to baking to mehndi to tennis. Every single thing. Somewhere, that also helped me become more confident.
It was not about knowing everything perfectly, it was more that I could learn this. I had the ability to learn. Even my first film, I did not really know what I was doing. My co-actor had to move me. I trained in a lot of things but I had not trained in acting, but I learnt on the job. So I have always I think had the confidence in my ability to learn.
Now, for For Munna Michael, you were one of hundreds of girls that had auditioned. If you are not from the industry, you must think “oh, I may not have a shot at this.”
Do you remember, in your or after your audition, that there is something that happened that made you think you had done well or was it a complete blur to you?
I do remember because there were so many rounds. I had to send in a video tape of me dancing. I had to send in a video of me acting. Then they made me come in person and they made me act in front of them. All of this was being done by a person who is not trained. I also have not given many auditions – I think I have given maybe three proper auditions. All three were for films – I got two out of them.
I chose Munna Michael because it was a much bigger scale and the role I got was quite important in that film.
I could say my audition was really good but I also think I was lucky and I was at the right place at the right time. I think the whole dancing really helped and the role was for a dancer. I was really happy that I got that training in dancing as I had done ballet for eight years. I did not have much of a doubt though. I feel like I always know something is going to happen – I just didn’t know which film I would get as a launch.
I also think I’m a bit spiritual that way that I really believe that whether it happens or it doesn’t happen, it is for the best. So I think I have been very lucky but yes, I have also worked hard.
You talked about being a bit spiritual, being confident – as I said that the perception that a lot of you are humans but not really even though I talk to so many of you – that perception still exists…
Social media is really breaking that perception. Before social media you did not even know what somebody really looked like. It really has broken that façade.
But it still exists right – the perception that you make a lot of money, there is so much glamour. What happens when that confidence, the spirituality is shattered?
My confidence has been shattered many times, not just once. I’m a very pampered child at home. I come from a family in that my parents will say, do not study so much, you will get a headache. Marks were never a priority as there was no pressure from my family.
But out in the real world, that was a real challenge. Coming back to your own home alone is a challenge because there is nobody there to say that you did so well today, or go to sleep.
I met so many people before I got my first film – let’s see if you actually get a first film. After that, oh, let’s see if you actually do well. Let’s see if you will actually continue. I also think there is a side of me that is stubborn – it is a very positive emotion but I feel motivated. But it takes a lot to bring yourself back up. More than confidence, I think you just really need to have faith – you just need to have something to believe in, that no matter what, you will be okay.
At least two clear phases of my life, I remember thinking whether I was even good enough or I even chose the right profession. But then you have to make sure you don’t doubt yourself because some groups of people do not believe in you.
Given your dance background I must ask. Dancers have a sense of discipline and creativity blended and I find most dancers do well in front of the camera. How has dance helped you in those two aspects?
I think dancing has really, even in my acting career, helped me in casting for films. It could be a big plus for the songs in a film. It is a huge reason why I started and why I’m here today.
Coming to the discipline part of it, dancing is almost like meditation, where you are in connection with yourself completely. That’s I think where the confidence comes from as well.
Even as a person, you want to stretch every day and I watch so many videos of dance universities and I will show steps to my choreographer and those can become the hook step. Discipline also helps you do stuff for your own body. It is like a form of meditation.
In terms of creativity, dance is a form of expression and there are so many forms and it is beautiful to watch but even more beautiful to do.
So what’s your guilty pleasure dance number?
(Laughs) I love very mass-y, Indian songs, the typical Salman Khan kind of songs. You could be in London and you could really listen to that kind of song…That seeti-type, hip thrusts type. They feel great. I keep my hair open, except when I’m doing ballet if course, get in front of the mirror and practice. Or I just let loose and dance.
With this lockdown now, had it made you value something more perhaps something you took for granted?
Everything. I did an Insta flight count and I took 163 flights last year, and this year I had done only 25. 163 is a lot – like once every two days. I was coming home maybe 1 or 2 days in the year. So I realized, coming home is so important. The internet is so important. I have watched so many films, so many shows. I don’t know what I would do without the internet!
I have also taken this time to realize my own priorities. I was running and running and this has made me stop and realize that you will be fine. And everything that you have is right here, inside you. It has made me realize that my family members are the most important people in my life. As long as they are okay and inside I’m okay, life is okay. Every time they call me now, I will pick up their call…unless I’m in a shot or something (Chuckles).