She’s enchantingly beautiful, talented as hell, successful in both commercial and parallel cinema, recipient of the prestigious National Award and above all, has the rare ability to have her feet planted firmly on the ground. Priyamani literally has all arenas covered! She had a small and modest dream debut in Hindi cinema in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan as Beera’s fearless sister. Ram Gopal Verma then went onto cast her in a fearless film that has recently shook the nation, Rakht Charitra. The immensely successful South Indian actress has now wrapped up a busy 2010 filled with surprises, success and even a bit of failure however her energy remains solidly intact. She reveals all the details of her first year in Hindi cinema in this exclusive interview for Bollyspice readers only!
So firstly talking about your background before acting, you come from a very versatile family of a sportswomen, your mother, and a singer, you grandmother. So what made you zero down on acting?
Well I did start and try to do singing. I went for classes however I found it a little too boring so I didn’t pursue it any further. I also tried my hand at badminton since Mum was involved in that, but then I lost interest in that. So after all that when acting came my way I thought why not lets give this a shot!
You’ve got a rather extensive list of films, awards and box office successes down South however you’ve delayed you debut in Hindi, any particular reason?
It is only now that I debut in Hindi because honestly I never expected to be offered a role by Mani sir in the Hindi version of Raavan. Once he offered me that role I immediately said yes and I guess the Hindi debut thus happened.
Even though it was a small role in Raavan, what still made you want to debut with?
I think it was purely for the reason that I wanted to work with Mr Mani Ratnam. When he told me about the film and the casting I immediately knew that when he’s casting people like Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan there is no chance for me to be the main lead because he didn’t have that in mind for me. He told me about the character very clearly and I said yes without thinking twice.
Of course I have to ask you the most obvious question, how was the experience of working with Mani Ratnam?
It was fabulous. Anybody and everybody would love to work with Mani sir at some point. I am very happy that I got to work with him as he’s a true legend! I’d love to work again with him in the future.
And now talking about Rakht Charitra, how did that happen?
I was shooting for a Telugu in Malaysia and my director Mr Puri Jaganath is very good friends with Mr Ram Gopal Verma. I got a call from Puri sir telling about Ramu Sir’s interest in my work and passed me on his number. Immediately I called him up and so he told about RC and the fact that it’ll be in two parts and I’d be cast opposite Surya. The moment he told me about the film I simply said yes because A it was Ram Gopal Verma and B it was opposite an actor like Surya and I absolutely didn’t want to loose the opportunity to work with both people.
You’ve mentioned Surya and how he was one of the reasons you did RC, so I have to ask, how was it working with the Southern superstar?
He is! It was great fun working with him. It was the first time I was working with him. He is so chilled out. So dedicated towards the film and always finding ways to enhance his character. Ramu Sir and him used to sit down and have long discussions after every shot because naturally it’s a character based on real life people. So he was always finding ways to make the character more convincing.
Now both these films were bilinguals, was it tough doing each scene twice?
Not really. Mani Sir’s Raavan was tough because it was change of cast and some costumes. However still it was relatively the same and smooth.
Did the fact that Raavan didn’t fair as well as expected in Hindi bother you?
As an audience I saw the Hindi version too and I don’t know why it didn’t do well in the Hindi version. But I think people liked my performances. But regardless I think it’s a wonderful film to which everyone gave their best efforts. Why it didn’t work out in Hindi version I’m not too sure!
So how has the experience been in Hindi cinema and in Mumbai so far?
Well I haven’t started off really. I am getting offers but I’m taking up my time because I’d like to see what Bollywood has to offer beside the regular films. So despite the fact that offers are there, I’ll take my time in accepting one.
You’re so immensely successful down South with a State award to many Filmfares, is it tough to start from scratch in Hindi where that status is no present?
I really don’t mind starting from scratch. I’m up for the challenge because regardless of film and industry, I treat each project as my first film so I’m ready to take up the challenge and start from scratch.
Would you consider moving full time to Mumbai?
I don’t think I’d ever shift base to Mumbai and solely concentrate on Hindi. I started in South and that is where my priorities will always lie. I don’t think I can ever leave my south Indian connection. Having said that I don’t think I’ll end my journey in Hindi cinema, if there is something good coming my way I’ll surely take it up, otherwise I’m comfortable doing film in South.
From your contemporaries in South that have now shifted to Hindi such as Genelia, Asin, Trisha, who do you think is doing really well?
When I see the current crop of South crops who’re doing films in North, I think Genelia is doing very well. She’s done the maximum amount of films of them all I think. So I think Genelia would have to be the actress from South that has also managed to come a long way in the North.
Down south you were initially known for very character driven serious roles but recently I read that you’re heading for a more commercial appeal these days, is that true?
Yes I do! Because it is not necessary just because I have a National Award behind me that I only do performance-based roles. At the same time, I’m not saying that I’d like to completely stop doing them but I definitely want to do commercial cinema equally because strictly speaking that is where the mullah lies so why not!
What side of cinema would you like to be in when it comes to Hindi, commercial or alternative/parallel?
Definitely I would like to do both!
Wishlist of directors you’d like to with?
Everybody! Because I have grown up watching Hindi films so I have a long wishlist!
Lastly, Hindi films that you’ve enjoyed in recent times?
I personally thought My Name is Khan and Shahrukh’s performance in that definitely should bring him some acclaim in the award season to come. In previous years I’ve enjoyed Paa for which Mr Bachchan definitely got his due acclaim, and also Aamir’s performances. Kurbaan is another film I truly liked however I don’t think many people liked it. It had fabulous performances by all three leads I felt.
There’s no doubt that here’s a lady to keep you eyes out for! For all of you who are eagerly waiting for her next release in Hindi we suggest getting you researcher-self together and searching out her work down South. In particular her Tamil film Paruthi Veeran (for which she won her National Award for Best Actress) and her Malayalam film Thirakkatha (for which she won a State award) are not to be missed!