Interview With

Dayana Erappa

Dayana Erappa, a supermodel who has scorched the ramp in national and international circuits, is making her film debut in Mani Ratnam's Chekka Chivandha Vaanam (CCV) as Simbu's on screen pair. In an interesting tete-a-tete with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Dayana tells us about herself, her debut film, Mani Ratnam and Simbu among many things. Over to Dayana!

Tell us about yourself

I am from Coorg and I did my schooling there. Later, I did my 11th and 12th in Mysuru Mahajana College. For my graduation, I moved to Baldwin Methodist College in Bengaluru. I never wanted to be a model. My dad wanted me to be a Defence officer; he wanted me to join Army as my entire family is into Army. It was just not my dad's dream; even I wanted to be in Defence. I was in NCC and also was a state level basketball player.

You are a super model. Was that your ambition? What are the brands/designers you had endorsed so far?

I had never planned modeling. When I was in college, my Principal told that I will be a good model and felt I should meet Prasad Bidappa, the fashion guru of the south, as he was his friend. He made me meet Prasad and I got trained under him. In 2011, I took part in Miss India. I was in top 10 and had a great experience. I had signed with an agency in Mumbai and things went on really well for me. I did a lot of shows. I represented India in Elite Model Look Of The Year in Shanghai in 2012. I did Lakme Fashion Week, Amazon Fashion Week and many such shows. I was Kingfisher Calendar girl in 2015 and 2017. I had walked for all the leading designers of India like Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliyani, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna, Manish Arora, Rohit Bal and the likes. I also shot for most of the designers. Editorial wise, I had shot for magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Bazaar, Bazaar India, Elle, Femina and Maxim to name a few. I was on the cover of Vogue, Bazaar Bride, and Maxim.

I wanted to go internationally. I went to Milan for three months to see how it works. I did a lot of commercial work and did a Season. In International, they have a Season for commercial and fashion. I shot for a make-up brand and the TVC as well. I was also a model for Moschino, a famous brand. I enjoyed my stint there and came back. Upon my return, I did various campaigns that included a jewelry campaign as well.

When it is the dream of every actor to be directed by Mani Ratnam, you are debuting in his film. How do you feel?

Yes, you are right! For ever actor it is a dream to be in a Mani sir film at least once in their life time. I should say I am lucky and privileged that I am debuting under his direction. It is a stellar star cast with a brilliant technical crew like Santhosh Sivan and AR Rahman sir. It is surely a dream come true. I am still not able to believe that I have done a movie under Mani sir. It feels like a dream and I am yet to come out of the dream.

How did Chekka Chivandha Vaanam happen?

I got a call from Madras Talkies and I first thought it to be a prank call. I realized it was not and I was asked to send my pictures. After two months I did my auditions, one in Mumbai and one in Chennai. I met Mani sir in Chennai. I was very nervous as I auditioned before him. After a couple of days, I was told that I was part of the movie. I was so excited. I couldn't believe. I also didn't know that I was one of the leads and didn't want to know what I would be doing in the movie because I know all his characters are well written and every character will have its screen space. I was not concerned about what role I would be playing because I know I am going to be in good hands. After some time, when the movie's name came, I knew I was one of the leads.

To top it all, like a cherry on the cake, I was paired with Simbu, one of the talented actors, who has been acting for almost 3 decades. He is a dancer, composer, director and is a multifaceted personality. As a person, he is so down-to-earth, humble and great to work with. He was very helpful and helped me with my continuity. He also told me how to handle situations at the sets.

What was your family's reaction when you bagged CCV?

My family has always been supportive of my decisions. They just tell me that I should be happy in whatever I do and have faith. They were happy about CCV because we have all grown up watching Mani sir's films and they all know about his work.

What is your role in CCV like? How close or far are you from your role?

My character Chaaya is somewhat like me, is what I felt. We have so many characters as person, somewhere we relate to each character. Here it was more prominent. This girl is fun, free spirited and adventurous. In Mani sir's movies women are elegant and also strong. I enjoyed playing Chaaya. It is also special as it is my first movie. It was easy for me and not intense.

Did you prepare for your character?

I did prepare for my role. I had workshops in Chennai with Kalai Rani ma'am. Then I had workshops with sir. I did a few workshops in Mumbai as well. I wanted to be occupied and stay connected to acting. Acting is something you do every day. It is not like you sit and watch movies and say 'I am a good actor'. To me acting is all about doing. Although the character is somewhat like me, it cannot be same in all the aspects, right? I did not want 'me' to come into the character Chaaya. The character should be different from something what you are. So I was working on that.

Can you share us your first shot experience? What did Mani Ratnam say about it?

My first shot for CCV was near the beach. We were shooting in Serbia. It was amazing. It was chilly with cold breeze. They did not want me to get into the waters first and hence kept pouring bottles and bottles of water on me. I was freezing and was nervous too. But Mani sir was calm. Since he knew I had no background in films, he explained to me how it was done. It made me feel good. He kept calling me 'kanna kanna', which made me feel comfortable to talk and thaw.

I was meeting Simbu for the first time and he was very sweet. He is a 'one take' guy or a maximum of two takes. I explained to him that he has to bear with me as this is my first film. He was fine with it and was concerned about me throughout the film.

Mani sir usually does not say anything about a shot. When he moves to the next shot, we will know that our previous shot was good. If he feels it is not ok, he would say let's work out something.

On your co-star Simbu

Simbu was a quiet person and used to keep to himself. I used to make him talk as we had many scenes together and I felt we should at least have some interactions. I used to say random things to him. He was very concerned about me throughout the shoot. He thought I was this 'lost kid', running all over. He used to say 'don't loiter, stay in one place'. I was always restless and could not sit in one place for a long time.

Any interesting incident while shooting?

Every day was a learning experience in CCV and every day was fun shooting for the film. In Serbia, it was raining and the soil was clayey. The tires of the jeep were all stuck in the mud and so we couldn't take the vehicle. We all walked, me, Mani sir, Simbu, Santosh sir, Shaad and the team. Walking was even tougher as it was difficult to take out our feet and walk. We all had to walk like horses. Mani sir and Simbu took real good care of me and were concerned that I have to be safe.

Were there any challenging scenes? If yes, how did you go about it?

In the first movie, even a smile is challenging, right? But I can talk about it after the movie. Every day was challenging for me as we were playing so many different emotions. You have to feel from within too; you are going through something within and you have to play the other emotion, totally the opposite one. Sir was quite cool and easy and was there to help me throughout. It will be easy for me to explain about the challenging scene after the movie's release.

Who else in the cast, did you have combination scenes with?

I met them briefly. I wish I could work with these stars. I have been watching most of their movies- Jyothika ma'am, Jayasudha ma'am, Prakash Raj sir, Aishwarya Rajesh, Arvind Swami. I wish I had more scenes with them so that I could get to interact. They were all very warm and supportive and did not treat me like a newcomer.

Did you dub for yourself in the film?

Yes, I did dub for myself. When I signed the film, sir said, if you can't speak in Tamil, we will see what can be done. But after the last day of the shoot, he told me to work on my Tamil and that I could dub for myself. I was very happy as I would never say NO for anything. If I get an opportunity, I will give my 200%. Sir had given me this big opportunity and I was like I WILL DO IT. I can speak Tamil but a few words had the influence of my mother tongue. So I worked on it and dubbed for myself.

Now, is it modeling or films?

I have always been doing modeling. In modeling also there are different stages. I did modeling here and then took a step ahead and went international. I would also continue to do modeling as I am connected to most of the designers and stylists. I will work for them and do campaigns for them. I will definitely be in touch with modeling for sure. I have made such good friends with so many people, I would never say no to them.

I would also like to focus on movies and work on my craft. I have learnt a lot in this movie, what to do, what not to do. In films, I would like to try all genres, comedy, drama, horror and action. As an actor I would like to be open to all types, both commercial and artsy.

All the best, Dayana Erappa!