Dubai is favourite city for Indian-American showbiz star Avantika Vandanapu

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Pune - The teenager, who traces her origin to Hyderabad, is making a mark in the US entertainment industry

By Nithin Belle

Published: Sat 28 Aug 2021, 11:15 AM

Teenager Avantika Vandanapu’s exposure to showbiz in both the US and native India belies her tender age.

The 16-year-old Indian-American actress-dancer-singer is recognised as an emerging celebrity in the Indian diaspora and is busy with her acting and other related careers in entertainment.

Her latest film is Disney’s Spin, directed by Los Angeles-based writer-director, Manjari Makijany, and features Bollywood actor Abhay Deol. She plays the protagonist in the film.

How was it rubbing shoulders with the likes of Deol, Meera Syal, the British comedian, writer, actor, playwright and singer and Aryan Simhadri?

“They're humble and considerate,” she told Khaleej Times.

“They remind me to stay grounded no matter where the industry takes me. Abhayji (Deol), Meera ji (Syal), and Aryan (Simhadri) believe in sharing and caring. It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside them,” she added.

The jet-setting actress, who travels between the US and India, is passionate about Dubai.

“It's my favourite destination for holidays and shopping,” she said.

“My favourite place other than my home is Dubai. It 's beautiful, rich in culture and is in sync with contemporary reality. I’m fascinated with its multi-culture and food,” she added.

As a daughter of Indian immigrant parents, she always looked forward to a trip back home. “We'd stop over in Dubai for a couple of days and spent memorable moments at Burj Khalifa. It’s a thrilling experience. I’m a huge fan of jewellery and I personally like shopping for gold jewellery. And what is the best place other than Dubai?” she wondered aloud. She loves Arabian music, which is so magical and relaxing, she added.

The home-schooled Californian discovered her artistic calling early when she was barely five years’ old. She trained in ballet, contemporary, jazz and Indian classical (Kathak, Kuchipudi) dance forms and competed in the maiden North American edition of Zee TV’s reality series Dance India Dance Li’l Masters and secured the first runner-up spot. Her dance videos were quick to trend on digital media, earning her the moniker of a young ‘Madhuri Dixit’.

She attended drama lessons at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for around three years to hone her acting chops,

“My love for the expressive arts and the beauty of cinema drew me to films,” she said. “I grew up being a dancer - and my pursuits led me to the film industry,” she said.

None of her extended family members were involved with acting. It was a new journey for her. “It was difficult and, perhaps, it'd have helped to have guidance from a family member in the industry. But I'm extremely grateful for the experiences I have had,” she said.

At the age of 10, she forayed into acting and made her debut in the Telugu film Brahmotsavam through an open call audition (Telugu is her mother tongue). The three-month brief trip in 2015 turned into a three-year-long sojourn as the robust south Indian film industry beckoned her. She was cast in over a dozen commercial Indian feature films such as Rarandoi Veduka Chuudham, Oxygen, Premam, Balakrishnudu” andBhoomika.

She had also featured in over 25 commercials and was hailed as the “Fortune Girl” in Indian advertising representing brands like Barbie, Amazon and Toyota in the US and Fortune Oil, Saravana Silks, Chennai Silks, South India Shopping Mall in India. She had interviewed actors Mahesh Babu and Kajal Agarwal, which went viral on digital media, when she was only 10-year-old.

“I loved working consistently and constantly being on set,” she reminisced about her three-year stint in India.

“The pace of work is very different in India. Once you bag a few projects, the audition bid isn’t all that important. It was undiluted fun to jump from assignment to assignment and without worrying when I’ll land the next offer. Those three years were, indeed, productive,” she added.

Besides, her mother tongue Telugu -- her family traces their origin to Hyderabad in the south Indian state of Telangana --- she is also proficient in Hindi and is also learning Spanish.

She has undergone training at actor Anupam Kher’s acting studio in Mumbai.

However, she returned to the US due to the limited range of roles for teenage female actresses in India and also to try her luck in Hollywood.

She bagged many roles and there has been no looking back for her ever since. She has featured in Hollywood films like Senior Year (which is likely to be released on Netflix this year) and MOXiE! (2020), TV series like The Wilde Bunch (2019), Brat (2018), “Prince Ea” (2018), Brownies (2018) and Teen Depression PSA (2018); theatricals like High School Musical” (2019) andAladdin Broadway Jr. (2019). She also lent her voice for Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures (2020) and Teen Yoga Series (2019).

She has also won several awards including the Silicon Valley Got Talent Award” (2014), American Telugu Association Star Dancer Award (2016) and American Telugu Association Best Upcoming Actress Award (2017).

She has evolved into a multi-hyphenate artist with an abiding passion for storytelling. She aspires to turn producer soon and release content that highlights marginalised communities in a bid to integrate them with mainstream media.

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