Ashrita Vemuganti Nanduri, a classical dancer, actress and media anchor, has written her name in Golden Letters, when she shared the screen space with actor Anushka Shetty in SS Rajmouli’s magnum opus ‘Baahubali – The Conclusion’. Added to that before the pandemic, Ashrita featured in an advertisement where top stars – Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Nagarjuna, Prabhu, Shiv Rajkumar, Manju Warrier featured. Recently, she was adjudged as the Best Character Actress at a film awards function for her role as Y. S. Vijayamma from the film ‘Yatra’, where she starred along with Mammooty. The dancer actor has also carved a name for herself as an anchor with presentation of ‘Matru Devo Bhava’ on HMTV with the second season telecast on cards.
Speaking to Natyahasini, on the mega advertisement, Ashrita Vemuganti Nanduri, shares that she got a call early 2020 for an ad shoot of a well-known jewellery brand. “Could barely believe my ears when I heard of the cast. In a few weeks, I was in Bombay facing the camera with none other than Mr Amitabh Bachchan & Mrs Jaya Bachchan and south superstars – Nagarjuna, Prabhu, Manju Warrier and Shiva Rajkumar. Was an unforgettable experience to watch these legends unravel their magic. What stayed with me is their humility off-screen,” she says. The dancer-actor says that the director introduced me to Amitabh sir as one who featured in Baahubali. “Little did I imagine that later while taking a picture, he would joke, Baahubali, aap aage aaiye,” Ashrita says.
Admirer of Shobhana: The Bharatanatyam dancer agrees that she is deeply fortunate to have landed the part in ‘Baahubali – The Conclusion’. “Back then, I had no concrete plans and this was the only offer I took up although there were others as well. That it was a song and dance alongside Anushka Shetty was an added bonus. I never imagined my first film would become such a global sensation and till today, people are generous in their warmth,” she says. On joining tinsel town, Ashrita says that actor Bhanupriya has set the bar so high in terms of acting and dancing prowess, and she got a chance to share this with her in Chennai. “However, if there’s one star whose work has shaped my dreams of joining films, it has to be – Shobana,” she admits.
Also, Ashrita has starred in ‘Kurukshetra’ (Kannada, 2017), ‘Yatra’ (Telugu, 2019) and ‘Dear Comrade’ (Multi-lingual, 2019), and ‘Krack’ starring Ravi Teja and Shruti Haasan (Telugu, 2021), which has been declared a huge commercial success. The dancer-actor says that essaying the role of Y. S. Vijayamma from ‘Yatra’ will always be a special memory. “At the success meet in Vizag, I remember so many walked up to me, some holding my hand expressing their reverence for her (Vijayamma garu). Recently, I was adjudged as the Best Character Actress at a film awards function for this role and I must say, it’s all team effort,” she says modestly.
Tough Role: In the same breath, the actor says that her character in the latest release ‘Krack’ has been the toughest so far. “Seen as docile at first, I had to flip and suddenly become the antagonist. Took me a few trials to get the expression right. The variation worked wonders with the Telugu audiences. I value these creative experiments and can’t wait for more,” she says.
Ashrita, who began her dance journey in the world of Bharatanatyam under Priya (Karthikeyan) aunty at the age of five years and was her student for a decade before moving to train under Guru Dr. Rajeswari Sainath, confesses that she owes everything to her Gurus. “Priya aunty instilled the foundation and Rajeswari akka gave me exposure to stage recitals and the preparation process. Smitha (Madhav) akka has been a major inspiration since my teen years. Stint at Madras University opened up an exciting world with various stalwarts imparting their knowledge,” she says, adding that the past few months have been spent training under Guru Chitra Narayanan garu. “Mami’s (as she is fondly addressed) patience and involvement is truly touching. Today when I look back, I am blessed to have all their support and to have performed at prestigious sabhas,” the dancer says.
The Vempatis: Recalling her short association with the Kuchipudi doyen, Padma Shri Vempati Chinna Satyam garu and his son, Late Vempati Ravi, Ashrita says: “Srimoyi didi gave me foundational training at Kuchipudi Art Academy. Was lucky to play the lead in ballets of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam garu. Rukmini Kalyanam (2014), at the Temple of Fine Arts, Malaysia, was my last tour with their ensemble, led by the immensely talented Late Ravi master,” she says.
The All-India SPICMACAY scholar and State Awardee Youth Achiever began her journey in media as a television presenter in 2013. She has done two cultural documentaries with renowned Telugu Director, Dr. K. Viswanath – Viswanathamrutam, Kala Yasawi, along with a couple of live shows. “Culture documentaries, a collaboration with K Viswanath garu and pursuing academic research are on my wish list. The HMTV has expressed keen interest to continue hosting Matru Devo Bhava, which garnered quality viewership last year. I discovered my love for talk shows through MDB. Need to see how these roll out,” she says. Ashrita, who secured a Gold Medal in her PG (Masters of Performing Arts) from University of Madras, in 2012, is currently pursuing M.Phil. A Diploma holder in Yoga & music, she has also conducted dance workshops for children with special needs.
Blessed With Baby: Ashrita, who has been blessed with a baby boy in May this year, is currently on maternity break. “My baby boy is four months old now. In all honesty, motherhood has been challenging and I truly have a lot of respect for everyone who have tread this path. I am looking forward to resuming work after my maternity break.” The dancer confesses that balancing dance and shoot schedules can be quite consuming. “Choosing select projects has helped me streamline my interests. On the dance front, the annual ritual of temple performances during Navratri is something my partner Vaishnavi Kalasapakkam and I cherish. And enthusiastic learners of our institute ‘Sadyoni’, started in 2019, keep me motivated,” she states.
According to Ashrita, the pandemic has given her some time to reflect on her journey as a dancer, actor and anchor and the first feeling that comes is gratitude for all the opportunities that came her way. “After completing my PG, I did an internship as a content writer. Media career started with television anchoring and then one thing led to another. I soon found myself juggling between films, TV programs and live concerts. With the OTT platform booming, web-series is now another avenue to reach out,” says the Bharatanatyam dancer. She has explored playing different characters. As a stern college principal in ‘The Grill’, web series, an overbearing mother in a short film titled ‘Uday’, and a writer, who faces marital problems in an upcoming project.
The actress acknowledges the impact of social media, especially in these times. “A great way to stay connected and be informed about what’s happening. Lastly, given our societal pressure, am really thankful for the support extended by my family and friends for welcoming my unconventional choices,” says Ashrita.