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'I won't kill anyone to get what I want'

June 14, 2023 09:55 IST
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'Nobody told me upfront that you are a Marathi girl so we will not cast you.'
'I questioned myself: 'Am I not good enough?' 'Am I not good-looking to be in this industry?''

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priya Bapat/Instagram

Priya Bapat was one of the most sought after actors in the Marathi film industry when she decided to stop acting in Marathi films and plunge into Bollywood.

As it usually happens, the transition was full of struggle. But Priya persisted and the gamble appears to have paid off.

The actress, who was noticed for her spunky role in Director Nagesh Kukunoor's political drama City Of Dreams, is currenly basking in the praise for her performance in season 3 of the show.

Breaking into Bollywood was never easy for Priya, and she tells Mayur Sanap/, "You are an established actor who has done successful films and then, you move to a completely different zone, where nobody knows you. So you are offered small roles or side characters."

What makes City Of Dreams so special for you?

This is my first Web series in Hindi.

This is also my first big project, which is out on an international platform.

Then, I am working with my favourite director, Nagesh Kukunoor. He is a brilliant director. I've loved all his films.

I have never played a politician before. I was always offered girl-next-door, ghar ki ladki type roles.

I did a lot of path-breaking roles in Marathi, but in Hindi, I had not gotten an opportunity to explore my talent.

When Shruti Mahajan (casting director) called me for an audition, she said it was a role of a lesbian and that it has an intimate scene. She asked if I would be okay with that.

I said if the character is powerful, that is secondary to me.

I gave my audition and got the part.

I was extremely happy because I had never gotten an opportunity to play this arc on screen before, and in a language that is not limited to just one specific region.

The whole country, probably even worldwide, will understand.

This is my dream-come-true moment.

IMAGE: Priya as Poornima Rao Gaikwad in City Of Dreams.

What personality traits do you share with this character?

We are honest and righteous about everything.

We will fight for the right thing.

But I can never associate myself with the shrewdness Poornima has.

As a politician, she can go to any extent to get what she wants. We have seen this in the second season.

I don't think I'll ever kill anybody to get what I want. (Laughs)

Are you a politically-inclined in real life?

No. I'm politically aware because things happen right in front of your eyes and you can't really avoid them.

But I don't absorb that information attentively. I feel it consumes a lot of energy out of you.

IMAGE: Priya Bapat and Atul Kulkarni, who plays her father, in City Of Dreams.

You once said that it's because of this show that people from Bollywood have started recognising you. How has the reception been so far?

People didn't realise the potential of this show in the first season.

The reviews after the first season were lukewarm. But people loved the show, and we made a second season. But it did not translate to work.

Though my journey with City Of Dreams started in 2018, I started enjoying its success only after the second season in 2021.

Suddenly, people started taking me seriously as an actor.

You see it with the parts casting directors approach you for, and the shows you audition for.

Now, I was not just testing for any random show. I was testing for good directors, good production houses and good lead characters.

This shift happened only after the second season.

You have been a part of the film business for the last 20 years.

I did my first Marathi film as a child actor when I was in the 6th standard.

I did a cameo in Munna Bhai MBBS when I was in the first year of junior college.

Are there any biases when a regional actor tries to break into the Hindi space?

The struggle was too much.

It was difficult to convince someone to believe in me and give me the opportunity to pull off a lead character in a language other than Marathi.

Here, you are an established actor who has done successful films and then, you move to a completely different zone, where nobody knows you. So you are offered small roles or side characters.

That happened to me for about four or five years.

I auditioned for every possible big production house that is there, both for leads as well as smaller parts, but things didn't work out.

I think it's just a matter of time and luck, and somebody trusting you.

IMAGE: Priya says there were a 'lot of disheartening moments' in her career. All Photographs: Kind courtesy Priya Bapat/Instagram

Were you fed up with this struggle?

I've had those bad days.

See, nobody told me upfront that you are a Marathi girl so we will not cast you.

There is no specific reason that I can point out and say that this was a reason why people rejected me.

But there were a lot of disheartening moments.

I questioned myself: 'Am I not good enough?' 'Am I not good-looking to be in this industry?'

Many Marathi actors and film-makers are making their foray into Bollywood. Directors like Om Raut and Sameer Vidwans are helming big projects, and you have worked with them in Marathi. Do you see working in Hindi as the upward graph for Marathi talent?

It depends on what your journey is and what you want.

I was done with what I had to do in the Marathi film industry. I have reached that saturation point where there nothing new is happening, in terms of the films that are getting made and the roles offered to me.

If any actor or director feels that way, they will try and make the shift happen.

When the region changes, the audience, the storytelling, the scale, the narrative, the performance, everything changes.

But I don't think everyone has that ambition.

I'm very happy that my friends are doing amazing work here.

I was a part of Om's first film, Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush (2015) and Sameer's first film, Time Please (2013). I did my first play with him as well.

When I watch Tanhaji or Adipurush, I feel proud because I know Om has struggled so hard to get where he is. The same goes for Sameer.

Did you stop doing Marathi films because you were not creatively happy?

Yes. I didn't do any work in the past five years in Marathi.

My last Marathi film was in 2018.

I didn't like the scripts. I didn't like what was offered to me.

City Of Dreams happened, and we are in the third season now.

My first Hindi film Visfot is coming up.

I have another Web series and an anthology that is in post-production right now.

Do you credit OTT platforms for your success?

Oh, yes! More opportunities are created.

But I wouldn't say it has become easy to get work.

There is a lot of good talent and there is a lot of competition.

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