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'I haven't done homework for my films'

April 08, 2024 09:44 IST

'I am a spontaneous actor. I follow what works for the character.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyamani

If there was a pan-India list of Southern actors who have successfully crossed over to Bollywood, Priyamani would definitely feature on it.

The National Award-winning actor, who can fluently speak five Indian languages, has had a successful track record in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and now, in Hindi cinema.

Even though it released way back in 2013, you will still remember the 1234 Get On The Dance Floor song in Chennai Express where she swung her hips next to Shah Rukh Khan.

Ten years later, Priyamani has back-to-back blockbusters in Hindi with the Web series The Family Man and the film, Jawan. Her latest Hindi film, Article 370, where she plays the gutsy Rajeshwari Swaminathan, joint secretary to the prime minister, is also a hit.

Priyamani will be seen in the Eid release, Maidaan, co-starring Ajay Devgn.

"We had been working on Maidaan for a while and I can't wait for people to watch it on the big screen," Priyamani tells Divya Nair/


Post The Family Man, you have been a part of successful projects like Jawan and Article 370, where you have played mainstream roles, more like Priyamani 2.0. What is the formula that has worked for you?

I was always a mainstream actress.

But yes, I understand what you mean about my work in mainstream Bollywood.

I am happy that the films have worked for me.

I think I am just fortunate, there is no formula.

These are some of the projects that came to me that I could not say no to.

We had been working on Maidaan for a while and I can't wait for people to watch it on the big screen.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyamani

When you sign on a project, what interests you the most -- the overall script and story, or the character you will be playing in it?

The script, followed by the story.

I want to know more about the character I am playing. If I think I am capable of doing it, I take it up.

This is what I have been doing since my first film. Fortunately, most of them have worked for me. Some have not, which I think is okay.

What sort of homework do you do before playing a character?

I have not done any homework so far for any of my films.

I am a spontaneous actor. I follow what works for the character.

Also, I don't take my characters home. The character doesn't linger with me after pack-up.

But in future, if a character or role needs me to do a certain kind of homework or research, I'd be more than happy to do it.

IMAGE: Priyamani in Article 370Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyamani/Instagram

After Baahubali, we are seeing a trend of South directors turning to Bollywood, like Atlee in Jawan, A R Murugadoss has announced a film with Salman Khan. As someone who has worked with Atlee, what difference do you think Southern directors bring to a project?

Each director will have his own vision, and they'll be the best to comment on that.

But if you are asking me about Atlee and Jawan, the way he has portrayed a hero as a mass figure, the way he should look on the big screen was new to Bollywood.

It probably comes from his background and his inspiration of watching stars like Rajini sir and Shah Rukh... he envisions his characters to look a certain way.

The camera may focus on the hero's biceps when he is flexing his muscles, or capture the anger through his eyes... they know how to get to the skin of the character through visuals.

Murugadoss sir's approach, on the other hand, is more natural, and casual. He would most likely capture his hero as a normal person walking on the road.

While both approaches are different, each one can be appealing in their own way. Depending on the story and actor, it helps connect with the audience.

The thing about directors like Atlee or Murugadoss is they know how to cater to the mass audience.

IMAGE: Priyamani with Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan.

You have worked with superstars Mohanlal, Mammootty, Venkatesh and Shah Rukh Khan, as well as actors like Manoj Bajpayee. Have these diverse experiences influenced your learnings as an actor?

Not really. I feel each one approaches their characters differently.

What makes Shah Rukh Khan or Mohanlal different from Manoj Bajpayee is how they envision and bring their characters to life.

The same character can be performed differently by each of these actors.

Sometimes, the actor brings something to the table. But it also depends on what the directors want from the actor.

Some actors, for example, will would add a small characteristic trait or a nuance like the way they adjust their shirt or glasses in a scene, which stays with the character.

For example, in Jawan, you see the young Shah Rukh dusting his hands for effect. It became a style, a personality of the character he is playing.

Some actors would let it be organic.

These are little things you watch and learn.

Tell us about your experience about working with Ajay Devgn.

One word: Brilliant.

We worked together for 12 to 15 days. I have always admired the variety of films he has done, right from Golmaal which is a no-brainer but very entertaining to Bhoot, which is more serious.

He doesn't go overboard unless the script demands it.

His body language in each role is different. His eyes speak volumes.

In Maidaan, we share so many scenes where I am the one talking and he is just reacting with one word. And even that works so well.

The way he has moulded himself in Maidaan as Rahimsaab (Syed Abdul Rahim) is amazing.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyamani

You have been working since 2003 and your social media is only about your work. We are curious to know what is the real-life Priyamani like. How does she unwind?

(Laughs) I don't post about my life because I don't want to share it with everyone.

I am a normal, simple person like anyone else.

I like home-cooked food.

I like putting my legs on my sofa at home and watch TV.

I enjoy spending time with family.

I sleep in the afternoon, catch up with friends, go out for coffee...

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyamani

The last time we spoke, you were hooked to K-dramas. Any interesting films you've watched recently?

That was a phase (during COVID), it is wearing off now.

But I am watching this South Korean series called Flex X Cop on Disney+Hotstar.

I also saw this Telugu film called Hanuman. I think it is interestingly made.

An interesting character or film you'd love to play in the future?

I would like to do a grey character, a negative role, or a full-on comedy like Golmaal.

Language is not a barrier for me.