She has her hands full this year and thinks Tamil cinema is beginning to come of age. Be it about being stereotyped, item numbers or just trying to find her calling in a male-centric industry, Priya Anand tells it like it is.
Priya Anand has a marked American accent, something she picked up during her Journalism course at the University of Albany. She’s also articulate and obviously believes in plain speaking, again a trait she picked up from there. And it has its side effects as well- “On the film sets, I keep questioning the dialogues or the body language of my characters. I used to find a lot of it silly but I’ve slowly come to terms with it,” she begins. [quote align=’right’]Aishwarya is very vocal on the sets, totally hands on. She is very focussed. This is the only film set where I behaved properly[/quote]
After 180, she has been on a learning curve, slowly coming to terms with the foibles of the film industry and understanding the possibilities it offers her as an actress. She has three major releases this year to bolster that theory – Arima Nambi with Vikram Prabhu, Aishwarya Dhanush’s Vai Raja Vai and Irumbu Kuthirai co-starring Atharvaa. Each of them quite unlike the other. So Arima Nambi is a “smartly packaged and sleek Hollywood style action thriller where she assists the hero in every feat, a departure from usual action film heroine who often ends up being mere eye-candy;” Vai Raja Vai is about gambling and Irumbu Kuthirai “is about bikes. It’s something that has never been attempted before.”
Vai Raja Vai gets a special mention- her third outing with a female director. It is also the only film where she prudently kept her “creative inputs” to herself- “Aishwarya is very vocal on the sets, totally hands on. She is very focussed. This is the only film set where I behaved properly,” she grins. She doesn’t hide the crackling chemistry she shares with her co-stars either. Irumbu Kuthirai’s co-star Atharvaa is her “bestie” and Gautham Karthik and her “go back a long way.”Priya has an “instinctive love for languages,” and she wants to experiment with films in different languages. So after an extended cameo in English Vinglish in Hindi she opted for an equally avant-garde Fukrey. She’s an advocate for “indie films that never border on the predictable, movies like Lunchbox and English Vinglish.
Her unconventional choice of films is by design, with the actress preferring to wait for the right opportunities and prioritise a film with a solid technical team over a bankable co-star- “I don’t plan my career. If that is the case I wouldn’t have opted for a Bollywood launch that starred Sridevi in the lead. I don’t sit and think about what others do. I don’t go out for opportunities, all of them come to me. I look out for a good production house, director and cinematographer,” she tells me.
She brushes aside the “homework” theory as she thinks, for the kind of light-hearted, well-written roles she gets, spontaneity is the key. Casting, she believes is one area where Bollywood scores over Telugu and Tamil films. “Bollywood is more structured in everything. They have a casting director and I think it makes a lot of difference to a film. Everybody is auditioned for a role, like I auditioned for Fukrey. Lot of people don’t do that in South. Here roles are given simply because someone happened to be around,” she offers.
[quote align=’left’] She is underwhelmed by item numbers even though every heroine does them.[/quote]Does she think heroines need to push beyond glamour for longevity? “To start with we don’t have a long shelf life. How long can we rely on good looks alone? So many pretty young things keep coming into films. Glamour has no staying power,” she reasons.
The “lucky mascot” tag is irksome- “It is so superficial, shows the double standards of the industry. What better way than this to hide the limitation of the director and the actor? Heroines make easy scapegoats,” she fumes.
With characteristic candor, Priya offers some plausible theories on why heroines don’t get enough mileage down South. “Here, there are far too many typecasts and I am not just talking about the one-dimensional roles we get. We are keen on fair girls from Mumbai and they invariably come with no talent. Besides they don’t speak the language well and I think that affects their performance. So we don’t have enough actresses to carry off roles like Queen or Kahaani.”
Having said that she thinks Tamil cinema is getting better and is interestingly poised between blockbusters and small budget films that are rooted in reality- “I loved Soodhu Kavvum, it’s a quirky film. I want to work with new ideas and stories and established tags don’t matter,” she admits.
She’s been the romantic lead in many films. Has she ever been attracted to her co-stars? “Come on, it has never happened to me, especially when lot of people are staring at you from various directions. I am just focussed on getting my expressions right,” she quips. [quote align=’right’]The “lucky mascot” tag is irksome. Heroines make easy scapegoats.[/quote]
A “radical feminist who dislikes being undermined because of her gender”, Priya finds item numbers underwhelming even though every heroine does them these days. She’s clearly not as interested in money as doing characters with substance – “This industry is so fickle and nothing speaks like success here. What works for me today might not work for another,” she muses. Continuing on, she says “There is no set formula for success. Everything is a number game and we learn it the hard way.” She does think actresses can be friends. “I think men can be as egoistic and competitive but they never get talked about,” she points out helpfully.
The stint in Albany didn’t really inculcate a love for partying in her. She dislikes clubbing, loves baking cakes at random and would give anything to keep traveling. She also loves doing ads as they gives her the opportunity to work with some of the best technicians in the business- “besides it gets aired all the time. Gets me good mileage,” she says. Of course twitter ranks high on her priority list as well- “It helps people to know the real me. It’s my own words, not a journalist’s misinterpretation of facts,” she laughs.
Give us the full picture then? What’s the real Priya Anand like? – “Someone who is constantly evolving, is not stuck in a rut and definitely can’t be summed up in a few words.” We counted, and that was less than 140 characters.