EXCLUSIVE: Avantika Vandanapu on her Disney movie SPIN & why her Desi family covers the remote with plastic

Indian American actor Avantika Vandanapu opens up to Pinkvilla USA about her experience shooting for Disney's SPIN and about South Asian representation in Hollywood

Updated on Aug 14, 2021  |  04:03 PM IST |  343.3K
Avantika Vandanapu met with Pinkvilla USA to talk about her Disney movie SPIN
EXCLUSIVE: Avantika Vandanapu on her Disney movie SPIN & why her Desi family covers the remote with plastic

Avantika Vandanapu, the rising Indian American star in Hollywood, is super excited about her big release today - SPIN. With this movie, she becomes the very first Indian American lead in a Disney movie in Hollywood – not a small feat for sure. As SPIN reaches all corners today, Pinkvilla USA talks with the young and talented actress, who is breaking barriers and paving the way for many.

Avantika is an actress, a dancer, a singer, and a model. She is not new to fame. Vandanapu’s career took off after she won second place on Zee TV's reality show Dance India Dance little masters North America. In SPIN, she plays an Indian American teenager who finds she has a passion for DJing and uses music to blend her Indian heritage with the world around her.

Have you always dreamed about being on Disney?

What teenager does not dream of being on Disney channel? I have always thought about it. But it was tough for me as a young Indian girl to think one day I would be on that screen. But as we see representation coming to Hollywood, it was like, 'Oh may be this is something I could finally get to do’. And then SPIN was here, and it was just so unreal. It was a crazy experience, and I have to constantly pinch myself to be able to live out my dream like this.

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How was it balancing school and work?

I was doing the first semester of my sophomore year. It was online. Meanwhile, I was also shooting during Covid, so it was a different experience. There are so many actors in LA who do that, they manage school, college, and acting. Being in LA and having that community of people around you, that helps. I take pleasure in managing it because I feel so blessed to be able to do it all.

How was your schedule on the set?

I would wake up 6 AM, eat Oatmeal, and then we would have to get our Covid test done. We would have to get the test every day, as per protocol. After that, I would go through my script and prep myself. Following this, I would shoot, and then come back home. During the shoot sometimes we all stayed at the same hotel. That was fun, we used to go to each other’s rooms, watch a movie or just hang out.

Were you nervous, what were you feeling on Day 1?

I was super nervous, but it was good nervous though. Doing a movie like this, it was important for me to do it well. I think those good nerves helped me do a good job. It wasn’t too bad as we had done rehearsals, we knew the team, the people, etc.

Did you learn how to DJ?

I took lessons and it helped me feel prepared. I took it for a month and half, I had a set up in my hotel room, so that the moment I woke up, there was something to do. It was a great experience. My DJ-ing is however not good at all. I understand where I am going wrong, but I just cannot fix it. You can ask anyone, and they will all say that Avantika is the worst DJ ever.

How else did you prepare for the role?

Some other aspects of Rhea are her coding and her being a waitress. So, coding I am familiar with, but waitressing and serving people, tending to tables, and doing dishes in a restaurant setting is something I have not experienced. I had like a tray, and heavy ceramic plates in my room so that I could practice serving people whenever I got a chance.

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What can you tell us about working with Manjari Makijany and Abhay Deol?

Manjari is very sisterly, she has me call her Manjari akka, which means sister. She truly is like family and if you are working on a set, the best thing is to feel like you are working with family. She left me feeling comfortable, secure, and safe. I would go to her house, and we would stay up late. Her being able to do that for her actors, that’s the best part about working with her.

Abhay plays my dad, and I am lucky to have to say that because I grew up watching him. He is so down to earth, humble, and approachable. I was intimated to work with him. Having this experienced actor play your dad, you feel like you have to live up to certain expectations. I remember there was this emotional scene and he just did a very great job giving me space and allowing me to go through whatever I was going through.

Are you a lot like your character Rhea?

I don’t think I am like Rhea. There are some similarities, we are determined, and we put more on our plate than we can handle. I resonate how she helps other people as I do too. But she is more introverted, and her sense of humour is very different. She’s a little bit diff than who am I and that’s what made my experience so great.

As an Indian American lead in a Disney movie, did you have any sense of how important this role would be?

I had an inkling of how important it would be. But to get this kind of response has been very unreal, I did not expect it to be this big. It’s important for us to bring attention to projects like these. I had a feel that we would get a lot of attention and support.

Did you discuss with Manjari about how the character felt about embracing Indian culture?

We see so many Indian influencers and activists these days. I feel like girls are becoming more comfortable with embracing their cultures and SPIN kind of covers that. Up until now so many films that we see were just POC representation. The narratives are centred around this person, who is struggling to embrace their culture. SPIN establishes that Rhea is comfortable with her culture, she loves wearing Indian jewels and kurta, and is comfortable with her Indian heritage. Now let’s have her experience conflicts like how a modern-day girl would. It’s true that as modern-day Indian girls, we are all very comfortable with our culture. And also, not everything has to be centred around our culture.

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Have you had to deal with that, personally? embracing your culture?

I definitely struggled to embrace my Indian culture. maybe until age 10 I struggled with it a lot. Going to school with coconut oil in my hair and having people make fun of me. But what helped me become comfortable was that I went to India for 3 years. I saw how beautiful our culture was. I realised this is not something to be ashamed of. When I came back to the US, I began embracing my culture.

How do you think things will be for the next generation?

I cannot tell you because I wonder about it too. Everything right now is so chaotic, but I feel like every generation will have its struggle. I cannot deny the progress the older gen has made for us. So, I hope that I can make those steps for future generations.

Avantika also played a fun, rapid fire session with us.

When asked what is that Desi thing she always had to explain to others, Avantika said, “I always have to explain to people why our family puts plastic covers on remotes. I feel like that’s something a lot of desi families do, and I always had people ask me questions about that.”

Here are some of her other replies:

Favorite Bollywood movie?

Raazi, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Favorite Bollyood actor?

Hrithik Roshan

One thing people may not know about you.

I wash my hands one at a time.

Well, do watch Avantika SPIN some magic with her Disney movie, which releases today. The movie is directed by Manjari Makijany and produced by Zanne Devine.

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Richa Moorjani talk about Never Have I Ever S2, Sheila Ki Jawani dance cover

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Pinkvilla Desk
Entertainment and Lifestyle

Pinkvilla is a leading entertainment and lifestyle portal, with its coverage extending to Bollywood, Television, South, Hollywood, Korean, Lifestyle,

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