Posted on August 19, 2022 at 10:39 am

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SPINning into Hollywood: Avantika Vandanapu’s Journey to Stardom

Avantika Vandanapu

Disney’s newest star, Avantika Vandanapu, has been riding on the success of her recent films “SPIN” and “Senior Year”, which have propelled her prominence in the film industry. 

“SPIN” featured Avantika in the lead role of Rhea Kumar, a young teenage girl who works in her father’s restaurant, but is immensely passionate about music. The film was Disney’s first coming of age movie featuring a South Asian lead, and received positive reviews from the audience, especially first-generation South Asian Americans.

For Avantika, she explained that the film felt like it was a “long time coming”. 

“I definitely think [with] India being such a big market and with so many Indians being in America, it should have come a lot sooner, but I’m glad that it finally did. I auditioned for this role almost 3-4 years ago, and it came to fruition now.”

The past year has been monumental for South Asians in the American film industry, with shows like “Ms.Marvel” and “Never Have I Ever” leading the charge amongst young adult viewers. 

“I definitely think that from that year, there were a lot of projects in development … that year was kind of a really cool year for South Asian projects.”

Before becoming a teenage star, Avantika acted in the Indian film industry as well, specifically in Telugu films. She explains that although the Telugu film industry gave her a foot in the door, there are differences between both industries. 

“The South Indian film industry is just a lot more go with the flow and chilled out … whereas in America, everything’s really organized and really strict, but at the same time, you don’t have to think about anything here because it’s already all taken care of.”

As a child actress in India, Avantika Vandanapu explains that her experience was quite unique. 

“I kind of worked there when I was a kid, so it’s going to be different working there as an adult … I would absolutely love to work in Hindi [cinema] too, and there are a couple things now in development that if they come to fruition, I will be working there so that will be really fun.”

Avantika explains that the story arcs for female characters in the Telugu and Tamil film industry are different from Hollywood, and that impacts the types of roles she would want to play. 

“I really love working here, I love the character arcs you can get. You have to work a bit harder in India to find a strong role for a girl, whereas here, it’s a little bit easier to get a character with depth.”

Avantika credits the beginning of her acting journey to her time on the Indian dancing show “Dance India Dance”. For her, Mumbai was where her love for performing and acting really grew. 

“I started out as a dancer, so I kind of always knew that I wanted to be in the performing arts … so Mumbai was kind of my first taste for the film industry, and I fell in love with it.”

She explains that after her first stint in Tollywood, which was only supposed to last a few months, she ended up working in India for over three years. 

“If a director likes you, it’s not a really lengthy complex audition process like in America, so that movie ended up taking like six months to film, and in those six months, I ended up getting cast for like four more movies.”

Coming of age films are quite rare in the Indian film industry, which is something Avantika noticed, since she could only audition for characters that were children, or the younger versions of the lead character. 

After three years in India, Avantika sent in her audition for “SPIN” and decided to move to LA, however the film was soon shelved. 

“I spent a year there [LA] because my parents gave me an ultimatum, and they said “you have one year to prove yourself in LA … but ‘SPIN’ ended up getting shelved during that time. But in that year, I ended up testing for a lot of projects and that’s the last stage in audition process, so it’s big deal to screen test for something even if you haven’t booked it.”

However, “SPIN” did eventually release on Disney Plus, and it was also the first film in which Avantika worked with actor Abhay Deol, who she says she has always looked up to. 

“He’s actually so amazing, and I grew up watching his movies, and the day before they called and told me that ‘he’s been casted as your dad’, I had just watched ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and it’s insane to actually work with him.” 

“SPIN” is out on Disney Plus, and Avantika Vandanapu’s newest film, “Senior Year” is also streaming on Netflix!

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