(photoshoot) Shruti Haasan waited patiently inside a box for her cue. It was to be a surprise performance at an event starring her famous parents. Her mother was to query, “Where’s Shruti?”, and the consummate ideal of a celebrity daughter would pop out and make her singing debut in front of a 2,00,000-member audience. And then she popped out but the music wasn’t there to back her up – just the vast silence of expectation. But instead of cracking, Shruti thought, “Screw it, I’m gonna sing anyway,” she explains, “and I went a capella. Then the track finally queued, people started cheering, and I just went ‘This is the shiz. This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life.’” She was seven years old.
Twenty-three years later, she hasn’t much strayed from her decision, made at an age when you couldn’t be trusted to tie your own shoes. “There’s just been nothing else that gave me that feeling,” she says. “Even singing in the studio,” she explains, “is nothing like singing in front of people. I get a similar feeling sometimes when I sneak into a movie screening of mine and the audience is really going nuts for a scene. Only then do I feel like I’m standing onstage. That immediate energy you receive from the audience is the stuff I live for.”
“I was just a weird, awkward kid, “ she giggles, “and then growing up I was an awkward teenager, and then I became an awkward adult, and I just realized that I am awkward as a person. I’ve had crippling confidence issues, or image issues, so many things. And now I’ve just come to a point where beyond a point I generally don’t give a crap about things I can’t change. There is a kind of peace. I guess it’s taken me longer than most human beings to get to a place where I’m absolutely cool with myself… I really don’t know how to play the game. I am still an outsider.”
Aside from the trilingual movie with Dad, 2016 is the year Shruti Haasan the movie star gets back to her roots: Blues. Rock ’n’ roll. Punk. LA punk, like The Germs. “Now I’m grown up,” she says. “I’m crazy in a way that works for me, as opposed to how it works for the business. But you know, I still relate to the same stuff, I’m still pretty much complaining about the same stuff as ten years ago, the whole ‘Why don’t you love me? No, I don’t need you. Oh well, fuck it, I solved it myself.’ Which pretty much summarizes my whole life. So it’s fine. I work so much, if I were to actually have a boyfriend, he’d have to be a pilot that takes me around, you know? It’s angry girl music.”
Shruti’s a bit cagey with the details of how this renewed music phase will play out, aside from saying that she’s finished a track with British alt-rockers Dinosaur Pile-Up, a kind of Lemonheads-meets-The Ramones in a strip-mall massage parlour. And she won’t/isn’t allowed to talk about which other international artists she’s collaborating with. What she does confirm is that the lack of her musical presence online is on purpose. “All you’ll find is a trailer for a song I did a while ago, but that was more me experimenting, the new stuff is far more me. There was a time when, like most musicians, I didn’t know if I had the courage to be a frontwoman, the courage to put myself out there. It was music that projected my personality, and it was cinema that opened it up further. And now I’m just an uncontrollable, messy show-off.”