Ten films later Priya Anand’s energy and drive is as it was four years ago. She’s determined to play the game on her own terms and make it in her own way. Defying the norms of the glamourous industry she belongs to she’s won hearts down South with her interesting selection of roles. In Hindi cinema she remains to be a new face, but one we want to see again and again. On the eve of the release of her 10th film, Fukrey, Priya catches up with me to talk about her latest Hindi outing and the experiences she’s gathered in the last four years. Read on for a stimulating discussion on the making of Fukrey and the making of Priya Anand as we know her today.
I’m actually quite excited driving around Chennai seeing the posters everywhere. I’m excited for everyone else in the film as well because everyone is very new and they’re all trying to make a new life so I hope the film is what they are looking for.
How did the role come your way?
I was so anxious when auditioning for the part knowing very well this was very different to what I had done in the past but at the same time I wasn’t sure if its something I could do. So when they rang me back I was thinking why on earth are they calling me back! Mostly because I had realised in the audition that Mrig (dir: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba) was a very tough taskmaster and so didn’t think I could do what he required me to do. When I walked into the audition it was a scene out of Luck By Chance where there are so many people waiting to audition! So many girls I recognised from ads and other work so I just said to myself that there’s no way I’d make the cut. It just so happened they liked what they saw in me and their only concern was of course the language. Not only am I South Indian but more importantly I have an American accent and this film was to be shot in sync sound.
You said in an interview that Priya in Fukrey is very different to the real Priya, how so?
I think for starters our backgrounds, I’m a Marathi/Tamil/Telugu girl and that is what I’ve played in my films thus far. But here for the first time I play a Punjabi girl from Subhash Nagar. The way we look is also very different. Priya in Fukrey is very simple with a braid and salwar. Makeup requirement were nil for the film so everything you see is just mascara and eyeliner. So yes from background down to the look, I don’t think we’re alike at all.
Apart from your look, what else was new for you with Fukrey?
With Fukrey I got the chance to portray ‘young love’ for the first time. All my work till date be it 180 of Ko Ante Koti they’re all mature love stories. I think the reason a song like Ambersariya has made it to the top of the charts is not only that its a brilliant piece brought to life by Sona Mohapatra but also that it transports you to that moment in life when you experienced your first crush. So I think this was perhaps what made Fukrey so new for me.
So Fukrey is a lot of firsts did this mean extra preparation was required?
I was just so happy to celebrate my 10th film with something so different. One of the main things I had to be aware of was that I had my dialect and accent well prepped because we were shooting on live locations in sync sound. So there’s a pressure of getting things right and wrapping it all up on time especially when you’re shooting in a place like Chandni Chowk. I think getting into the character got easier once I got into the clothes. More than that half the battle is won when you have someone like Mrig directing you. He was so prepared for me and everyone else that we didn’t have to think too much but just follow instructions which is something I truly needed with this film. Usually I’m left on my own to attempt a scene but since this was so out of the box I really needed the step by step guidance.
The film is very relationship centric so performances are no doubt very interactive. Did you do any preparatory work such as workshops etc with the rest of the team?
We most certainly did and I think that is the perks of working with a production house like Excel because they’re very systematic in the way they function. They are brilliant with their pre-production. I’ve always been lucky that I do get scripts in advance for films even down South so I’m never left to enter the set without knowing what I’ll be doing, but with Fukrey the preparatory work went beyond that. We had a narrative sitting where every actor, no matter how big or small their part in the film is, came and we read out lines. This helped us as we got to know what the film was going to shape up to be. In way we heard the film before we saw the film. I thought it was a brilliant initiative which I’d never experienced before and would love to be able to do something similar for my films down South.
It’s a well known fact now that the reason you went for that intimidating audition that day was because it was backed up by Excel Entertainment, so how has your experience been working with one of the best production houses we have today?
It has been amazing! I’m enamoured by the way they promote and market a film. They also go to such great extent to ensure everyone is on the same page from the word go. I am someone who really is interested in the technical side of film making so it was a huge learning experience that I wish to take back down South with me. I think Fukrey again highlighted the only major difference between the three industries (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi) which is the way the they approach the promotion of a film. Furkey’s promotion has just been so innovative! We had our director and producers entering an event on bicycles and the boys on a horse! It was so out of the box and appropriate for the film.
Do you think having a producer who also is a creative person brings something more to the table beyond the commercial knowledge about cinema?
Absolutely because Farhan can think like a director, actor, musician and the audience! In that way he has an advantage over everyone else working on the film because he’s so knowledgeable in so many aspects. He’s creativity reflects in the fact that he never repeats anything in any of his work be it as a director or producer which is why he has the kind of credit to his name and work today that he does.
We’ve had a host of movies about the youth and primarily films currently seem to target this large sector of the Indian population, so what do you think sets Fukrey apart from the others?
I agree on the face of it Fukey looks like a film about the youth because everyone is young, new and fresh but at the same time I think no matter how old you are at some point in your life you’ve been a fukra. You’ve been a brat, careless and stubborn. If not that then you’ve known one or wanted to be one. In that way I think Fukrey has a universal appeal.
Why do you think our writers love this concept of youth stories and don’t seem to run out of stories about this phase in life?
I think its because everyone’s youth is very different. So many different experience and personalities to talk about. So there’s many stories to tell about this beautiful time of uncertainty, of dreaming big and wanting so much out of life. It’s the time when you’re most positive. You’re yet to take the steps to put your plans into action, you’re just still dreaming. Slowly one comes to the realisation that reality is something else. So this is a phase we all go through but everyone goes through it in their own way so I guess there’s always a story to tell.
Today you’ve worked with actors as senior as Sridevi, as contemporary as Sharwanand and as new as the cast of Fukrey, so what do you think is the unique thing actors of all three levels bring on the sets?
Working with people like Sridevi is a grounding experience because you realize there’s so much to do still! You realise there’s a lot of learning and defining of your craft that you’re still to achieve. When you work with new people the energy is all together different. My favourite aspect about working with newcomers is that so hungry to perform! They only bring their best to the set and there’s never a bad day on set! Coming to my contemporaries, when you work with people who are the same level as you feel comfortable to go back and worth with them in a healthy competition to see who’ll perform better. The crew of Ko Ante Koti found it really weird that I was always trying to do a scene better than Sharwa, to try and be the scene stealer and would get quite upset when I knew he’d outdone me. So its that comfort that I like when working with your contemporary because you’re on the same page.
Quality of newcomers we are getting today seems to be a lot different than the quality of newcomers in the past, do you think its because everyone is entering the industry having done a lot of preparation?
Definitely! There’s much more exposure and avenues to improve your craft before you enter. When I came in I came in completely unprepared and simply learnt on the job so it took me so much time to find myself and I am still finding myself! I think the newcomers nowadays have much more focus as they’ve been dreaming about becoming an actor all their lives. They are dedicated enough to attend acting classes, dancing classes etc. I think that all that prepares you in various way. But then I have to also say that a lot of newcomer set out replace an existing actor. They want to be the next Shahrukh and Ranbir but what they don’t realize is that Shahrukh and Ranbir were the first of their kind because they brought something new to the table. I approach my career differently in the sense that I don’t want to be replaceable. I don’t want to be the girl they call because they didn’t get the other girl. I want to be the girl they call because they can’t see anyone else playing that role but me. Lucky for me I have gotten to this platform in the Tamil film industry. I think that is the most important aspect and its what gives you longevity and makes you connect with the audience.
Last but not the least, 10 films, 4 years, 3 industries. How does it feel? Do you think you’ve gotten where you had wanted to be at 4 years ago?
I think my career has finally kicked off! 2013 is the year when work has been very exciting for me. Until now films tended to drag and a lot of other stuff was happening. But now I’m at a point where work comes to me, I don’t go looking for it. I find the more open minded I am about the work I want to do, the more insane the opportunities that come my way are and that is what I am so glad to see happening. Initially you’re insecure and you see what you contemporaries are doing and wonder if you’re missing out because you’re not doing ‘that’, but then I realize that I get to do things they don’t. If you’re huge star with a massive market you don’t get the chance to travel across the country work in different industries with the best minds of the industries, which is what I get to do!
Be sure to catch Priya on the big screen this weekend as Fukrey hits a theatre near you on the 14th of June!