– Rinku Gupta

We shot in a walnut forest filled with scorpions - Ranya Rao

When Kannada beauty RANYA RAO bagged a role in Vikram Prabhu’s Wagah, directed by GNR Kumaravelan, it was literally a dream come true. “I always wanted to be part of a love stories when I entered films, and with Wagah that wish was granted!” says the pretty girl from Bangalore. In a chat with her we discover how she decided to give up engineering to opt for a career in cinema and how Wagah turned out to be an experience of a lifetime.

First frame

We shot in a walnut forest filled with scorpions - Ranya Rao

“I decided I wanted to be an actor right after my 12 th std but my parents insisted that I pursue an engineering degree as a back-up plan. But though I joined the course, I soon gave it up because my heart was in films. My parents came around and became fully supportive when they saw my determination,” grins Ranya as she recalls her entry into cinema. Manikya, opposite Kicha Sudeep was her first film, in Kannada. When her manager brought news about the casting for Wagah, she went for the audition and met Kumaravelan. “In fact, we did three auditions. The first was a photo shoot, the second was a round with dialogues to see how well I could emote, while the third time the director wanted me to do a photo shoot with Vikram Prabhu to see our chemistry. Once he was satisfied with the results, I was in!” she laughs.

Playing a Kashmiri girl in the film, Ranya had to take care of two things, “The director told me I had to take special care of my skin because I had to fit the part of the natural beauty in the film. He told me to give up junk food and so I had to maintain a special diet for my skin. He would also keep telling me ‘Ranya, your eyes are your best asset, use them expressively for every shot,’” she grins.

A walk in the forest

We shot in a walnut forest filled with scorpions - Ranya Rao

Though she got her wish to be in a love story, it was no easy task shooting for it. “This is one experience I’ll never forget. We have shot in extreme weather conditions for Wagah. One time we shot in the snow clad peaks of Kashmir while another time we shot in hilltops of Pahalagam where the sun was very harsh due to the altitude. Another shoot was in the monsoon rains of Ooty while for one part of the shoot we shot in the walnut forests of Kashmir which was crawling with scorpions! In fact, I was so afraid to even sit down on a stool, because we could see scorpions and dangerous looking insects all around! But we didn’t crib at all. In fact I remember Vikram Prabhu telling me that as actors we get to experience a lot more things than others normally would. I agree with him and took the whole thing as a new experience to be cherished.”

Shooting for a song amongst the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir may look great on screen but for Ranya,it was a task keeping warm. “We had to trek all the way high up for the song and Vikram and I only had cordless mikes to communicate with the crew below. Between shots we would try to keep warm using the traditional Kashmiri way, using the Kangri. It’s a pot of warm coal kept in a cane basket which we would hang around our necks and keep close to our body for the warmth,” she signs off.

Click here to read the Wagah movie review.