Who’s that Girl?

Meet the new pop­u­lar face of In­dian ad-land.

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­raj Ram­nath su­raj.ram­nath@afaqs.com

Re­mem­ber the teenager from a re­cent Sam­sung TV com­mer­cial who be­comes a foot­baller in the end? Or the 20-some­thing girl from The Ladies Room (a web se­ries from Yash Raj Films) who played ‘Khanna’ or a visu­ally im­paired bride in an ad for Eyetex Daz­zler or even one half of the ur­ban cou­ple in Ama­zon Prime Video’s ads? afaqs! Re­porter gets to know Shreya Dhanwanthary, 25, through a quick chat over salad.

Dhanwanthary, a Hy­der­abad-born girl raised in Delhi, sub­se­quently lived in West Asian coun­tries (Qatar, Bahrain, UAE) for 17 years be­fore mov­ing to Mum­bai and ad-land. She tells afaqs! Re­porter, “I was al­ways fond of films. One of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries of films is watch­ing ‘Ter­mi­na­tor 2 - Judge­ment Day’. Peo­ple in a ‘nor­mal’ fam­ily, who are sup­posed to grow up to be­come doc­tors and engi­neers, don’t think that a ca­reer in films is an op­tion... es­pe­cially be­cause it turns out to be a fam­ily busi­ness in our coun­try. So, it doesn’t oc­cur to you to be a part of it. But when it did oc­cur to me, Mum­bai was the only place to be.”

Dhanwanthary had en­rolled her­self in Elite, a tal­ent man­age­ment firm in Delhi (now de­funct), be­fore com­ing to Mum­bai to pur­sue act­ing. But the per­son who con­vinced her to come to the land of Bol­ly­wood was none other than ac­tress Bhumi Ped­nekar who was then an as­sis­tant cast­ing direc­tor for Yash Raj Films work­ing un­der Shanoo Sharma, cast­ing direc­tor. “I was au­di­tion­ing for Dhoom 3 and (Bhumi) Ped­nekar had seen it and asked me to come down to Mum­bai,” says Dhanwanthary.

So how did ad films hap­pen? “Oh it’s just a part of earn­ing my rent. Mum­bai is an ex­pen­sive city and one has to stay in And­heri if they have to at­tend au­di­tions; you will hear a sim­i­lar story from ev­ery­body...” Dhanwanthary says with a shrug.

Dhanwanthary has been seen in close to 20 ads. She has worked in Tel­ugu films, such as Sneha Geetham and Josh, in a small role. She was a fi­nal­ist at Pan­taloons Fem­ina Miss In­dia in 2008, but got her first op­por­tu­nity to act in a Tel­ugu film while she was pur­su­ing an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from NIT

“When I shoot an ad, even if I do three ads a year, you see me fre­quently on TV, which is why one might think I am there all the time, but it is still just three days out of 365 days in a year. I have 362 days of noth­ing but re­jec­tion.” SHREYA DHANWANTHARY

Waran­gal. She rec­ol­lects, “I was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing at that time and the direc­tor of the film I shot for was an alum­nus of the same col­lege... and that’s how it hap­pened.”

afaqs! Re­porter asked Dhanwanthary to rec­ol­lect her top five ads and she replies, “...I thought the Fastrack Closet ad was pretty cool be­cause it was a very clever take on a tabooed topic. The Sam­sung ad was pretty good be­cause I love to play foot­ball and it (the ad) did very well.”

“When I shoot an ad, even if I do three ads a year, you see me fre­quently on TV, which is why one might think I am there all the time, but it is still just three days out of 365 days in a year. I have 362 days of noth­ing but re­jec­tion...” Dhanwanthary says.

Talk­ing about her ini­tial strug­gles when she shifted from Delhi to Mum­bai, Dhanwanthary says, “When I came to Mum­bai I re­alised that you can’t af­ford to look bad. You have to look a cer­tain way and if you look a cer­tain way, you can’t take the lo­cal train or au­tos. So, I used to carry two sets of clothes — I’d take the train, reach the stu­dio and then change. And the days I didn’t have time to do that, I would take a cab... and if I took a cab, I wouldn’t eat be­cause when Uber and Ola weren’t avail­able, cabs were ex­pen­sive. Once there was an auto strike and I was fol­low­ing that story for weeks and pray­ing that they don’t in­crease the fare be­cause my bud­get would also in­crease!”

To­day, most artistes, even those strug­gling, have got their own Wikipedia page. But in Dhanwanthary’s case, the first thing that pops up on a search en­gine is her In­sta­gram page. She says, “I got onto In­sta­gram re­cently... be­cause I lost a bet. I am re­ally ‘anti’ so­cial. I know I should have a page (Wiki), but I am one of those peo­ple who be­lieves that I don’t have to do all this to get no­ticed. I feel my work should speak more. Un­for­tu­nately, these things don’t hap­pen in this day and age.”

No op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hindi movies? She says, “I have been in this in­dus­try for 10 years and I have got noth­ing yet. It is not easy.”

About Hindi TV shows she says, “Let me po­litely say that In­dian TV shows are dif­fer­ent from my taste. I can’t be a part of some­thing I don’t watch. TV shows around the world are com­ing up with amaz­ing con­tent and they are ri­valling films in terms of con­tent and op­por­tu­ni­ties for ac­tors. It’s just that I don’t think those op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able on In­dian TV.”

Dhanwanthary has even writ­ten a book, ‘Fade to White’, a con­tem­po­rary fic­tion novel. “I am now get­ting into writ­ing scripts as well. Peo­ple seem to like it, but there is a long dis­tance be­tween lik­ing and ac­tu­ally buy­ing that script. I would love to learn edit­ing and di­rec­tion even­tu­ally...” adds Dhanwanthary. ■

Dhanwanthary has even writ­ten a book, ‘Fade to White’, a con­tem­po­rary fic­tion novel.

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