Varsha Bollamma: I feel incomplete if I don’t dub

Varsha Bollamma on her new Telugu film Middle Class Melodies and why she’s happy with performance-oriented, girl-next-door characters

Think Varsha Bollamma and the top recall would be the characters she played in the Tamil films 96, Bigil, and Jaanu (remake of 96) and Choosi Choodangaane in Telugu. In her new Telugu film Middle Class Melodies (MCM), which will stream on Amazon Prime Video on November 20, she portrays a young woman named Sandhya, struggling to assert herself. “I think I get these girl-next-door characters because of the films I’ve done so far and because of the way I look,” she says with a laugh, during the interview. “I am happy that there’s scope to perform and people appreciate my work,” she adds.

Directed by Vinod Anantoju and written by Janardhan Pasumarthi, Middle Class Melodies stars Anand Deverakonda as someone who aspires to open a tiffin centre in Guntur and Varsha wanting to make her own life decisions: “We would have come across many girls like Sandhya. She struggles to stand up for herself; it’s almost like there’s an invisible wall between her and her dreams. I liked that I had to emote without relying on many dialogues,” says Varsha.

MCM was initially planned to be filmed in sync sound and the director wanted a leading lady who can speak Telugu fluently. Though the film was offered to Varsha, at that point, she was hesitant. The Coorg-born and Bengaluru-bred Varsha is well versed in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam and has learnt to speak Telugu fairly well. “But sync sound is a huge responsibility. Only when they decided not to go for sync sound, did I agree to do the film. I can learn the dialogues and dub them myself,” she explains.

Her ease with languages have come in handy: “I feel incomplete as an actor if I don’t dub for myself. The dubbing artiste might do a great job but I like to do it myself, and do it well. I’ve dubbed in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu for Choosi Choodangaane. I developed cold feet for my Malayalam films,” she says.

Anand Deverakonda and Varsha Bollamma in the film  | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

MCM is set in the Guntur region of Andhra Pradesh. The script reading sessions, recalls Varsha, helped her learn the native dialect: “Director Vinod is from Guntur and he ensured that we learnt the diction. He would send us voice notes to learn the stresses and pauses. I used to speak to my driver, make-up person and everyone on set in Telugu to get comfortable with the language and the dialect.”

She credits the film’s editor Raviteja Girijala, who also edited Choosi Choodangaane, for suggesting her name: “Middle Class Melodies is much more than the story of the protagonists. The supporting characters also get to shine.”

Next up, she has a few Tamil and Telugu films and has been listening to scripts: “In the first two months of lockdown, nothing much happened. I learnt to play the guitar and pretty much did what everyone did — make Dalgona coffee, paani puri, etc. Then I brought home a pup — Hachiko and our lives began to revolve around him.”

A microbiology student from Mount Carmel, Bengaluru, Varsha remembers wanting to be an actor since age five! “I just wanted to be seen on television. My mom suggested that I study engineering. I told her I would rather be a good actor than become a bad engineer. I liked studying biological sciences but acting was my priority.”

Her bio on her Instagram page leads to Aasra, a suicide prevention and counselling centre: “I put this up on the day Sushanth Singh Rajput passed away. There could be many with mental health issues and not knowing whom to call for help. I wanted to do something even if it benefits a few people,” says Varsha.

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