ELLE Cover Star: All Rise For Rashmika Mandanna

Rashmika Mandanna

Fortune is a funny word. To ascribe Rashmika Mandanna’s meteoric ascent in showbiz to a stroke of pure luck makes for a convenient, yet lazy, hand-waving of her industry-obliterating success; as though to suggest that she is riffing on a particularly potent brand of pixie dust or that the universe slipped her a pair of fortuitous aces when the croupier was looking the other way. For some, it is a tempting narrative. After all, the actor has shared screen space with some of the biggest names in the industry over the last seven years, including Amitabh Bachchan, Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu. And yet, to say that the 27-year-old merely got lucky would be to write off the sun as a glossy marble in the sky—an analogy that does little justice to the flaming virtuosity with which she has tipped over from a regional favourite to a pan-India star.

Asymmetric long shirt by Akok. Classic single line diamond necklace by Mahesh Notandass. Mesmera ear cuffs and rota bangal, both by Swarovski.

The result is a tale that is now as old as time. Having accidentally fallen into showbiz, the actor drafted plans of returning to her father’s business if her debut movie, Kirik Party (2016), failed to make a mark. Fate, however, had other plans, and the romantic comedy would go on to become one of the highest-grossing Kannada films of all time. “The experience was totally alien to what I had ever done,” she reflects. “There was a lot I didn’t know about the industry back then, and maybe that’s why I could keep it real on screen because I didn’t know how to act. Watching myself on screen for the first time felt so surreal… even today, it still feels new,” she adds.

All over blouson jacket, all over pants and all over bustier top, all by Versace.

Before Mandanna had the chance to get too comfortable, Tollywood whisked her away with memorable roles in Geetha Govindam (2018), Dear Comrade (2019) and Pushpa: The Rise (2021). It wasn’t long before Bollywood was courting the emerging star, and she made a confident Hindi debut in Goodbye (2022) alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Neena Gupta before setting her sights on more commercial fare, like Mission Majnu (2022) with Sidharth Malhotra. “Nowadays, writers and filmmakers are writing and looking at meatier roles for women in the industry. Audiences today demand content-driven and character-oriented subjects, which is what is driving us towards the shift now. As a self-made actor, I hope we can continue to work on making the industry more accessible for outsiders,” she says.

Handcrafted emoji jacket and handcrafted emoji jeans both by Dhruv Kapoor. Veronica bralette by Bhaane. Double dill baalis by KICHU.

Now having wrapped up Animal with Ranbir Kapoor—“One of the most committed actors I’ve ever worked with who makes the working environment so comfortable,” she raves—and a multilingual project with Dhanush to look forward to, Mandanna stands on the exhilarating tipping point of an industry-wide awakening of the shrinking barriers of language.

Technical jersey contrast accent body, frayed hem bootcut jeans, cruiser earrings and nova sandals all by Louis Vuitton.

While there has been an element of culture shock in hopping between different industries, she finds that her process as an actor remains the same. “For me, there is always one cinema: Indian cinema, which connects all the parts of the nation. To prep for any character, I just place my faith in the director’s vision and hope it translates well onscreen,” she explains.

Technical jersey contrast accent body, frayed hem bootcut jeans, cruiser earrings and nova sandals all by Louis Vuitton.

Offscreen, the actor has a boundless, unrelenting sense of positivity to offer her Instagram family as she regales them with glimpses into her everyday life. Strip those 38 million followers away, and it would be easy to fool yourself into believing that she is just another girl next door—swaying to viral anime bops, chiding herself for ordering dessert before the main course and ending each day with furry cuddles from her pet cocker spaniel. Somewhere in between, the actor finds the time to leverage the fame thrust upon her to script a new blueprint for the modern, pan-India star of today. Call her lucky if you must, but if you believe you’ve seen everything that she has to offer, Mandanna would be the first to let you know: she has just skimmed the surface yet.

ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Photographer: Nishanth Radhakrishnan (Feat Artists); Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Asst. Art Director: Sanjana Survana; Words: Haseena Jeelani; Makeup artist: Tanvi Chemburkar (Versi Entertainment); Hair: Priyanka Borkar (Entourage Talents); Bookings Editor: Aliza Fatma; Assisted by: Jade Christina, Siya Gupta (styling), Kesha Patel (hair), Nirja Shah (bookings); Production: CutLoose Productions; Automobile: AUDI Q8 Sportback e-tron; Location Courtesy: Rustomjee Spaces

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