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The Rediff Interview
Meet India's best actress
Shobha Warrier | June 11, 2008
Priya Mani, a Malayali born and brought up in Bangalore, was introduced to films by Bharatiraja. She shot to fame with her second film, Balu Mahendra's Athu Oru Kana Kaalam.
Paruthiveeran [Images], an off-beat film based on a rural theme was not only a commercial success in 2007 but a critically acclaimed film too. She won the Best Actress award at the 9th OSIAN Cinefan film festival for Asia and the Arab world while Paruthiveeran was adjudged the best film. Soon she was chosen by the IFFI 2007 (India International Film Festival) to light the lamp at the inauguration in Goa [Images] last year.
And now a National Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as Muthazhagu, the village girl who transforms the ruffian lead character, Paruthiveeran, into a mature human being.
Ever since the announcement of her coup, her phone has not stopped ringing, and her house is flooded with the media all eager to interview her.
In between giving interviews to various television channels, she spoke to rediff.com. Excerpts:
Congratulations for winning the national award.
Did the award come as a surprise to you?
Definitely. This is the biggest surprise of my life! My father woke me up and told me the news. I didn't believe him. I thought he was playing a prank on me.
What did you do then?
After it sank in, I hugged my father and mother. After that, I went to the gym and worked out.
You must be flooded with phone calls...
Yes, since 10.30 in the morning, I have been flooded with calls. The phone hasn't stopped ringing ever since!
Did you call anyone and convey the news?
Yes, I did. I called my mentor, my guru, Balu Sir (Balu Mahendra) and told him the news. I called him first because I consider him as my father figure in the industry. He was so happy. He congratulated me and wished me more awards in the future. His words were like a big award for me.
Will you dedicate this award to anyone?
I will dedicate this award to the entire team of Paruthiveeran. But before that, I want to dedicate this to my gurus Bharatiraja Sir and Balu Sir and obviously to Ameer Sir for making this movie with me, and also guiding me throughout.
Yes, I remember you telling me last time that Ameer helped you dub the film in the Madurai accent...
Yes, it's all because of him that I have performed well. He took care of the minutest details of the character, from the body language to the modulation of the dialogues. He also told me what my expression should be when the other person delivered the dialogues. Only because of his guidance, I could dub in that particular accent.
An international award and now a national award for acting. What next?
I am in the field of entertainment. I will stay on for some more time and continue to entertain people.
After acting in a film like Paruthiveeran and portraying a character like Muthazhagu, why did you choose to do a commercial venture like Malaikottai?
I won't say the characters in Malaikottai and Thotta are shallow. Both the films revolved around my character. Both the films had their fair share of performance and glamour. But the main reason why I took up those two projects was because I wanted to get out of the village belle image. After Paruthiveeran� I was flooded with such roles. I didn't want people to think that I can do only these type of roles. I wanted to show people that I could also look glamorous.
In the end, both the movies have done well. That is all I want.
Is it very difficult to get characters of substance for an actress?
It is very, very difficult. You don't have heroine-oriented movies at all. It is a male-dominated industry.
While you were doing Paruthiveeran, did you expect this kind of a response?
No, not at all. The entire movie was a great experience for me. I didn't expect this kind of appreciation but I am extremely happy and thrilled that people have noticed me and my performance.
How are you going to celebrate the national award?
I don't know. I haven't thought about it. I may go out with my family. Frankly, I have no idea.