Melanie Kannokada is a breath of fresh air, an upcoming fame, who made her acting debut through ‘D for Dopidi’. Born and grew up in Chicago, Melanie like any other normal kid, learnt martial art, piano and dance as an extra-curricular activity and obtained her degree in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. However, the actress always knew she wanted to pursue her passion in acting. So she left her engineering profession and flew down to Hyderabad to be a part of an independent film ‘Love Lies and Seeta’. Later, to her complete surprise, took home the female lead role in ‘D for Dopidi’. Read on what she said about her experience filming her first Telugu film ‘D for Dopidi’.
Please tell us about yourself. What's your background like?
I am born and brought up in Chicago but my family roots are in Kerala. Growing up, I was a martial artist, a pianist, a dancer, and also very much into math and physics. I attended Stanford University and earned my degree in Mechanical Engineering, but eventually I decided to leave the engineering profession and to explore my childhood dream of becoming an actress. Acting is now my full time profession, but I also am involved in a lot of charity work.
How did you become a part D for Dopidi?
I was in Hyderabad for a screening of an independent film I acted in - Love Lies and Seeta. Afterwards I was approached by the filmmakers Raj and DK about their film D for Dopidi and the role of Shalini.
How was it doing a film in an industry that is far from what you are doing in LA?
The whole experience was quite foreign to me and did take some adjusting. The language barrier was a challenge at first. Also there was the discomfort of not having any friends or family in Hyderabad. However, the D for Dopidi team was amazing - they made me feel more than welcome and and took great care of me. And by the end of my time and I had a great appreciation for Hyderabad and the Tollywood industry.
What do you think of the D For Dopidi Team?
Everyone was a pleasure to work with! Raj and DK are visionaries and did a superb job pulling this all together. Siraj was such a friendly director and was extremely easy to work with. Sundeep, Varun, Naveen, Rakesh - all four guys were so fun and talented, it was a blast.
Did you prepare for your role? Especially since it's a Telugu film. How did you manage the Telugu dialogues?
I actually only had a few days to prepare. I hadn't seen the final script or my dialogues until I landed in Hyderabad (from LA) just 2 days before my first scene. Luckily, I didn't need to do much work on my character of Shalini. But since I'm not fluent in Telugu, learning the dialogues was a challenge to do in such a short time. I worked with Siraj, the director, and other team members to get the language down as best I could. It was hard at first, but became easier as the days went on.
What did you think of the film D For Dopidi, when you finally watched it on screen?
I was really impressed how everything came together - the comedy, the music, the cinematography, all top notch. I saw it at a screening in Chicago with my family and we all loved it. And I was proud that the Chicago audience was loving the movie too.
Will you be doing more films in India/Telugu?
I've been approached on a few, but just waiting for the right one. It's challenging since I also have projects in the US. But I'm trying to find a balance between both industries.