There’s something incredibly powerful about finding strength in vulnerability, a quality that Aditi Rao Hydari has held onto with absolute conviction over the years. For this trait is what love is ultimately all about...the ability to let your guard down, express your needs in the most authentic way, and to truly show up as you are. “In a relationship, I’m a ‘giver’,” Hydari reveals in an intimate conversation. “Even as a child, I was very empathetic, and I still feel compelled to feed into people’s emotions...it comes naturally to me. It’s just who I am. And this makes it easy for some people to take advantage of me. But a few years ago, I realised that you should never change yourself because the responsibility of reciprocating kindness rests on the other person...”
With Brides Today, Hydari speaks from her heart about love, her dreams for the future, the qualities she looks for in a partner (respect and lightness feature high on her list), and who would design her bridal ensemble (which includes a filmmaker!). But in doing so, the actor shares some invaluable lessons on being yourself, and loving without fear...
Read this special interview to know all that’s on Aditi’s mind...
Nandini Bhalla: What is your current state of mind?
Aditi Rao Hydari: I’m happy, and I choose to be so because I have come to realise that happiness is a choice that one makes. That said, in certain situations—especially when things are out of my control—I do get anxious, stressed, or tend to overthink. But I remind myself that whatever is happening around me, it’s okay...it’s going to be fine. And so, I am truly happy, and have learnt to take things in my stride.
NB: What do you think is the secret to ‘choosing to be happy’?
ARH: I think it’s something you need to have the right bandwidth and mindset for. Yes, many people are unable to do so—but I am talking about everyday, nitpicking situations. I have, over the years, taught my brain and told myself that I can either be grateful and look at the bright side, or let things that are beyond my control weigh me down and stress me out.
Now, if I choose to look at the positive, the not-so-good things cease to take up too much of my mind space. That’s not to say that you can just wish the negative away... I don’t believe in being an ostrich and burying my head in the sand or running away from my problems. But there’s also a lot of good to focus on—give that your time and energy for it will fuel you to deal with the not-so-good parts. Happiness is a work in progress…
NB: How has your definition of love evolved over the years?
ARH: Honestly, I think the intangible, fairy-tale version of love is what has changed, for me. I’ve come to appreciate the tangible, which makes things more exciting and fulfilling. Today, for me, love is synonymous with respect. A few years ago, perhaps, I would have said, ‘Love is a fairy tale...it’s forever, it’s eternal’. But now I know what is really important is to find somebody—and be with somebody—who you are able to respect and who respects you, and you can enjoy with at your silliest. Then, comes playfulness, trust, and kindness... No matter who you are, love should be free from egos and traps.
NB: Speaking of fairy tales, which is your favourite one?
ARH: For me, even Notting Hill  is a fairy tale, in many ways. In fact, I have also acted in a Telugu film that is very similar...
NB: Do you believe in love at first sight?
ARH: I do, actually. And it’s not just love from a partner. I am a very instinctive person, and I am sensitive, too. So, I can feel people’s energies...I am able to trust and love immediately. While, at other times, it takes a bit longer...
In a relationship, I’m a ‘giver’. I feel compelled to feed into people’s emotions...it comes naturally to me. And this makes it easy for some people to take advantage of me. But a few years ago, I realised that you should never change yourself. Today, I’m very comfortable being myself, and don’t feel that people are taking advantage of me. And if they do, it’s on them. Even in a relationship, it’s very important for me to be with somebody who nurtures me...I’m very childlike. My definition of love has also evolved as I’ve become more comfortable with myself. Along the way, I’ve been advised by many to change many things, but I’ve realised that in the end, you should be who you are, and everything will be alright.
NB: May I ask you what sort of advice you’ve been given on what you need to change about yourself?
ARH: I’ve been given a lot of advice, especially in the industry... You know, when I first joined, a lot of people told me to grow a thick skin, not be sensitive, to behave a certain way, to not let anybody give me s**t...but I think it all boils down to self-respect, right? You don’t have to throw your weight around to gain respect. Nor do you have to be thick-skinned to garner self-respect. So, as I grew up, I understood these lessons through my experiences and interactions with others. I’ve learnt that I function best when I’m given the freedom to be a child.
NB: What is your primary love language, and why?
ARH: Perhaps, physical touch...it’s important for me. Even as a child, I gave and received a lot of affection. Not just with a partner—love isn’t just a type. Also, I give the warmest hugs!
NB: Tell me, what do you think keeps the love alive in a long-term relationship?
ARH: Respect, effortless trust, and playfulness.
NB: And what do you think keeps the lust alive in a long-term partnership?
ARH: Oh, my God, I have absolutely no idea. I should speak to you about this after 20 years [laughs].
NB: What is the most important quality you look for in a partner?
ARH: To be able to laugh together...that, to me, is one of the most important things. If you can laugh together, then you can deal with any situation—it’s us against the problem, not the problem between us. There’s sort of a lightness and playfulness, you know, almost like the two of you are a team.
NB: How do you manage fights, misunderstandings, and arguments?
ARH: I can be quite childish, actually.
NB: Are you a sulker?
ARH: I can be, but I try not to be. I also laugh pretty easily, and can let go of things. It’s quite easy, actually, to get me out of a state. But I can be quite a child...I’m trying to learn not to be one, but it doesn’t seem to be working out. So if I’m indulged a little bit, I get rid of my temper quickly. It’s not that difficult...if a person can deal with it, it’s fairly easy.
NB: In the past, we have talked about being vulnerable—and how you have always embraced your vulnerability. Do you also tend to be vulnerable in a relationship?
ARH: I believe that when you are able to show your core—your truest, most honest, real self to somebody, you’re at your most vulnerable. And I am able to be that in all of my closest relationships; in love, too... I don’t know any other way. I don’t think I could be with someone with whom I can’t be vulnerable. That said, I think the word can be easily misunderstood...for me, it’s being honest and real.
NB: What is the best relationship advice that you’ve ever received?
ARH: That it’s us against the problem.
NB: In a previous interview, you had mentioned that your ideal wedding would be an intimate destination wedding. Tell us a bit more about what you have in mind for your special day?
ARH: I don’t know about the exact number, but all my ‘homies’ will be there. I am very close to quite a few people, and I would want them there. The love that one surrounds oneself with is the biggest blessing you can have... My wedding would certainly be close to water. I will not be wearing heels; I’d be barefoot and dancing. I can visualise it, it’s like seeing it in a photograph... A lot of air, movement—a celebration.
NB: What do you see yourself wearing at your wedding?
ARH: You know, for the longest time, I had imagined myself wearing white. But now, I don’t know...it might change. A lehenga does feature very high up on my priority list...mulmul, chanderi, or something of that sort.
NB: Who are your favourite Indianwear designers, and go-to occasionwear brands?
ARH: I have great love for Sabyasachi [Mukherjee], because he is incredible with textile. Many of his collections are a compilation of mismatched garments, and his pieces can be quite whimsical. He is a creative genius, and just knows how to do things beautifully. But I would even go to the extent of saying [filmmaker] Sanjay Leela Bhansali...if I really, really wanted to have something designed, I would go to him.
NB: Let’s discuss confusing relationships...what advice would you give to someone who is in one?
ARH: Someone in a confusing relationship doesn’t need a harsh reality check; they need honesty, with truckloads of kindness, so that they can build the courage and confidence to acknowledge issues that must be dealt with. It takes a lot of strength to acknowledge a problem and to take a step forward. I can’t do it for them, but I do believe that I can show them a mirror...and I have in the past.
NB: You enjoy singing and have even sung in one of your films. Is that something you hope to do more of?
ARH: Honestly, I’ve always been a shy singer. I’m not trained, and I’m often hard on myself. Though, my mum is trained and I’ve grown up listening to a lot of music. I’m super grateful for those genes, and I’m less shy now. [A.R.] Rahman sir made me sing live at the MetLife stadium in New York City—I looked at his encouraging face, because the mammoth size of that stadium made me want to hide! I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, and now, I enjoy it much more. I’d love to record more...I recently recorded a song with Dhanush in Tamil and that was a big success.
NB: Have the films that you have acted in changed you in any way?
ARH: I think they have... Some of the characters I have portrayed on-screen are so special. I don’t think I realised that while I was shooting, but over the years, many of them have impacted me and my choices, how I react to situations, people, or love. For instance, Leela from Kaatru Veliyidai , Mehrunissa from Padmaavat , Sameera from Sammohanam , and Sujata from Sufiyum Sujatayum ... Coincidentally, that’s one in every language from the movies that I’ve worked in!
NB: In the future, what are the kind of stories you want to tell more of?
ARH: I want to work with people who want to tell stories...those who take you into an immersive world. I’m not picky about the genre. Though, I do have a soft corner for love stories and thriller-mysteries. I’m particular about the honesty of the intent, and that comes from the people who tell the story.
I also spend a minimum of 40 days on set. So I want to look forward to being there and to surrender to the process with trust. To learn and absorb more, and to embody the vision of the maker. It’s a huge step to surrender yourself, and I want to be able to do that effortlessly.
NB: Everyone is talking about the rise of South Indian cinema...did you see this coming?
ARH: I’ve been asked this way too often [laughs]. My choices and decisions came from a yearning to work with directors who tell stories—those whom I love and respect, and those who would nurture, value, and push me to give my best. I’ve never differentiated cinema as south or north, or through borders, or different languages. I’ve only ever seen it as human stories.
My dream, growing up, was to become a Mani Ratnam heroine. He is not a ‘South director’; he is a director whose films impacted me, as well as gazillions of other people. While I didn’t have any secret intel on the current situation, it does make me extremely happy. We are the Indian film industry, and I hope we value the power of diverse cultures and storytelling that this country has to offer.
NB: Your movie Hey! Sinamika  speaks about a very feminist concept of the house husband. What are your views on this relationship dynamic?
ARH: That was actually a really fun, light-hearted film, with a very important message for our generation. Individuality is important, and breaking stereotypes is necessary. That said, one mustn’t solely think about their own individuality, but must be considerate of their partner’s individuality, too.
NB: What is the one thing people sometimes get wrong about Aditi Rao Hydari?
ARH: People used to—and perhaps still do—misunderstand my vulnerability for ‘needing to be saved’. But I think it’s my biggest strength. I can acknowledge my mistakes, discard my ego, and share my core with you if I love you...and that’s what makes me feel empowered. I love to be loved and nurtured. I don’t need to be saved. Trust me, I will save you in a storm.
NB: What are you looking forward to next?
ARH: More love, more work, more silliness, more laughter. And basically, never growing up. Adulting is very overrated.
This article appeared in the December 2022 issue of Brides Today
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