The Kannada film Sapta Saagaradaache Ello was a poetic love story between the characters of Manu and Priya. But there was another character that shone through and tugged at the hearts of audiences and that was the role of Surabhi, beautifully portrayed by actress Chaithra J Achar. Ever since the release of SSE side B, Chaithra’s life has seen a transformation that she can’t stop smiling about. In this candid chat with Provoke, the actress and singer shares her journey towards cinema and more….

When did the acting bug first bite you?
I’ve always loved acting. I was always active in school and college functions where I’d be on stage singing, acting or anchoring.I loved the appreciation that people give me when I did these things. These kind of things used to give me an adrenaline rush. I always knew that I would become a performing artist but films, in specific, were not in my radar. In 12th grade, when our professor asked us what we wanted to be, I remember telling him that I wanted to be a biotech engineer and an actor and I ended up being both. I ended up going for an audition on the day of my convocation!

How has life been after the success of Sapta Saagaradaache Ello?
After the success of SSE, things have been great.  The way people have reacted and the reviews that have been written about my character has given me immense joy. People said things like ‘we came to the theaters to see Priya but we ended up liking Surabhi.’ While Kannada audiences knew me after the release of SSE and Toby, people across the country have gotten to know who I am and that feels really great.  The film gave me so much visibility that I’m getting great and good quality scripts my way.

 Your film Blink released  recently. How has the response to it been?

 I shot for Blink two years ago. It’s doing really well in theaters. We went from 8 shows to 80 shows, thanks to word of mouth marketing. The character I play is called Devaki – she’s an independent, outspoken woman of the 80s. It’s nice how the director has connected my story to 2020 where Deekshith Shetty’s character exists. It’s a time travel film as well as a musical thriller. It’s very nice to see how the audiences are enjoying and understanding it. 

You’re a singer and also a SIIMA award winner.  Tell us more about your musical journey. 
I am a trained classical singer. I started learning Carnatic music when I was in 4th grade. I continued until my 11th, but later my teacher passed away, so I had to find a new teacher. But by then, I was in engineering so I couldn’t make time for music. But I never stopped practicing,  so even today, I practice even if it is a film song, light music or carnatic classical keerthanas that I’ve learnt. Singing has never felt like a profession to me. I do it because nowadays people love to make me sing in their films and in their songs, I respect that and that’s why I sing. If they are paying me for what I enjoy doing, its great. How I got chosen for Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana ia interesting. The music director Midhun Mukundan, saw a small reel of me singing the Sojugada folk song. He liked it and I was I was happy that a music director acknowledged what I did. But by then, they were shooting for Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana and Raj B Shetty and Midhun were looking to shoot for Sojugada Sooju Mallige, so Midhun suggested my name to  Raj. Raj is a very dear friend but never had I asked him whether I could be part of his film.  Finally, the song turned out to be beautiful and I bagged a SIMA for it, which I never expected for my singing debut.

What are your upcoming projects?
I’ve been shooting for a Kannada film, a suspense thriller which is being directed by Hari. The film also stars Praveen Tej. It’s an intriguing subject. The character that I’m playing is an urban girl next door. I have also been listening to scripts from Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam industries and I finally finalized on a Tamil project. I’m really excited to work with that team. I’ve kept my fingers crossed ever since that news came to me and I can’t wait to announce it to the world.

You are part of the new wave of the Kannada film industry which is content oriented and is also gaining Pan India acclaim. How does it feel to be part of it?
I think the actresses of today are at the right place at the right time because filmmakers are exploring so many different genres. The way they are writing women characters and films is really beautiful. Nowadays, we have well- written major roles for women. I can only see it getting better from now on and I’m excited to see what I will be part of in the future.If your work is good, then it will reach people from different corners of the world and they will like it. That feels really good. 

What are your hobbies and what do you like to do when you’re not working?
 Apart from singing, I’m into fitness. I’m a fitness freak who works out 6 days a week. I watch movies of any and every kind from across the world. Reading and sleeping are my other two favourite activities.