After Priyanka Chopra in Quantico, Shruti Haasan is set to make a splash the world of American TV. Starting October, the universe of Matt Damon's 'Jason Bourne' will expand into USA Network's Treadstone. Shruti stars in the show with Patrick Fugit, Brian J. Smith, Jeremy Irvine, Michelle Forbes, Omar Metwally, Tracy Ifeachor, Han Hyo-joo, Gabrielle Scharnitzky and Michael Gaston. We caught up with the actress to find out more…
Tell us more about your character Nira Patel in Treadstone.
Shruti: It's a recurring guest role and it's this whole universe of assassins and their subtle operations. She's an Indian assassin. The concept of a female assassin of an Indian origin is very unique and I just thought it'd be a kicka** part to play.
The Jason Bourne universe by Matt Damon is already a popular one. Are you feeling any pressure being a part of a spin-off?
No, I'm just excited to be doing all kinds of work. I have watched the Jason Bourne movies and I really like The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
Was viewing the Bourne films part of your prep?
No, not really because I don't like references. I've seen the films, I know what that world is but the show is different.
What kind of training did you go through in order to play an assassin?
I was in fight training in Budapest and then we shot in Delhi and Dharamshala. There was a lot of close combat-fight training. I've done stunts in India but this is different than anything that I've done. We had proper fight choreography; as women we do not get a chance for close combat fights, so it was really interesting.
It's an ensemble cast. How were your co-stars?
The show is as such that not all the characters interact with each other. We are all doing separate things. I've only shot with myself so far (laughs).
Any fun anecdote from the set?
We shot in Delhi, and it was really crazy because you know how it gets in India, it gets really crowded. We were shooting in old Delhi's Jama Masjid and it was a crazy shoot. That was exciting for me as well because I've actually never shot in Delhi, I've only gone there for promotions. I've shot in Lucknow, Uttarakhand but never in Delhi. It was fun.
How did you land the role?
I've never auditioned in India, to be honest with you. I know it sounds horrible but I haven't. This was the first time I auditioned, really. I got an agent in the US... people were saying why don't you get an agent outside of India and I had never really taken it seriously. I'm the kind of person who just takes any opportunity. So I got an agent in the US, I auditioned and I got the part. It was really exciting.
Was that a conscious choice to navigate from the Hindi film industry to the West?
No, it wasn't a conscious choice that, 'okay I want to go to Hollywood'. I'm really really happy working in Indian cinema. I'm really happy to be doing music in the west, that's my focus. But this is just an additional thing, like why not?
What's the major difference in the work culture while working in India and America?
You have many more emails... like a lot of emails (laughs). I've never seen so many emails in my one lifetime since working with a non-Indian production.
It was Priyanka Chopra who got the ball rolling by starring in a lead role in an American TV show. Was she an inspiration for you?
I think it was Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) who got the ball rolling, to be honest. I remember when I was very young, I saw Aishwarya Rai on The Oprah Winfrey Show and it was really exciting for me. I've always really liked her, so when I saw her on Oprah, it was amazing. I'm the biggest fan of Irrfan Khan and to see him in some wonderful movies and giving us such wonderful roles... and then Priyanka went there and took it to another level and that's amazing. Her career was very different from everyone else who had come from India, I think. We have so many Indians and so many non-resident Indians who are born and brought up in America as well, that's a different ball game altogether.
How did your parents (Kamal Haasan and Sarika) react to you doing an American show?
The day I got the news I was with my dad in Chennai. I go to Chennai mostly for work or to visit my dad and I stay with my dad. He was in the gym and I said, 'Guess what?' and he said, 'What?' I said I got the part and he said, 'cool'. He is normal about it like he'd have been about an Indian film. It's the same, he just says 'Work hard. Do a good job'. Art is art, no matter which part of the world you do it in. You do your best and you do it with as much honesty as possible.
Do you take acting tips from your parents?
It's really funny because I never trained as an actor. I've trained in music, in Hindustani sangeet and I've been to music schools and learned stage performances. But I never got any training in acting. God has been very kind and I've a wonderful career of almost 10 years now. Like about three years back, I realised that, 'oh, I've never trained'. I was in the middle of shooting Singam 3 in Tamil and I decided to start training just for myself. I started with a teacher who has been a personal coach to many phenomenal actors. I started training at the drama centre with her in London and it was amazing. I did that very quietly, because I think education and training never ever ends. That was an amazing eye-opening experience... it was nice to go to a place where people didn't know who I was. That was really wonderful and that's what gave me an idea to get an agent.
You completed 10 years in the industry this April. How has the journey been like?
I feel very blessed and lucky. My career had a lot of ups and downs but it has been consistently pleasant, which I think is a blessing. Any people who come with a big bang, they are there for four or five years, then they are gone. It has nothing to do with their talent, it's just circumstantial. So I feel very lucky that I worked in three industries in 10 years. I find myself very blessed.
Up next, you have a Tamil film, Laabam, with Vijay Sethupathi...
Vijay Sethupathi is like one of my favourite actors, I've liked his work for a very long time. He's a fantastic actor. And the director (S.P. Jananathan) is wonderful as well, he is a National award winning director. He makes very conscientious films. It's a big project and I'm really excited. It's not just commercial, it has a wonderful message. My character is a truly modern Indian woman and I really like that, she is really open, honest, strong and takes charge of things. I think it's releasing sometime next year.
No plans to be in a Hindi film?
Well, I have one but it depends on when the producers want to release it. It's with Mahesh Manjrekar and I finished it almost a year and a half ago. I never think of it as Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, if the project seems interesting to me, I say yes.
You've also been performing around UK with your music. How has that experience been like?
It doesn't matter how many million fans you have in India, that doesn't work. You really have to do the hard work, you've to start by playing the gigs. I'm starting from the grassroot level in music, so that you have a very legitimate music career. It's been really amazing, it has been very challenging. I play with really amazing musicians there in venues that artistes I like have performed and that's beautiful.
Who's your favourite musician?
My all-time favourite is The Beatles. I absolutely love Trent Reznor and Tori Amos.
Are you simultaneously working on your debut music album?
Yes, I had taken a year off from movies. People thought I'd disappeared and getting married (laughs). I was basically writing this EP and adding more material to it. I wrote the whole EP and right now I have around seven songs. I have a second home in London and I started working on my debut EP with some amazing producers and mentors. The EP is in English and I wrote the music and the lyrics.