Actor and former model Priyamani who has worked in Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films, is also the recipient of a National Film Award and three Filmfare awards in different-language films. Born and raised in Bengaluru, she is now based in Mumbai after her marriage, Priyamani made her acting debut with a Telugu film and went on to do many films that earned her critical acclaim and became award winning movies. The actor is known for hits like Paruthiveeran, Thirakkattha, Golimaar, Raavanan Chaarulatha, Mana Oori Ramayanam, Yamadonga and many more films. And who can forget her explosive item number with Shah Rukh Khan in Rohit Shetty’s film, Chennai Express?
At the moment, Priyamani is really excited about an app that she has just launched to make it easier for her to interact with her fans. She spoke to YS Weekender about her acting journey, her most challenging movies, her views on the #MeToo movement and much more…
Edited excerpts from an interview
Can you tell us about your app?
My app is a one-stop platform where all my posts have been uploaded. It is an app through which I can connect with my fans, as it has a lot of information on my professional and personal lives. It is also interactive so my fans can message me and earn stars too. The person who gets the most stars can come and meet me on the sets of the reality show I am doing. There is also a fan feed where my fans can post their pictures and details about themselves so that I can discover more about them. I also have added music to my app where I have put up the kind of music that I like to listen to. Those who visit the app can post their music too which I can listen to. It is a very interactive app which will give my fans access to my world and allow me to know about them.
Which movies/ shows are you working now?
At the moment, I am shooting for a Telugu film and at the end of the month I will be starting on the shooting of a Kannada film. I am also doing a reality show in Malayalam called Dance Kerala Dance which will release soon. I have been working of late, on another Dance Reality show for E-TV. Another project that I just finished doing a role in a digital series called The Family Man for Amazon Prime which will come out next year.
What kind of roles you enjoy doing the most?
I like doing emotional roles. It is very difficult to emote at the drop of a hat but I love taking up these emotional scenes.
What is your opinion on the #MeToo movement?
In my opinion, the guilty should be charged with the utmost punishment. I do wish some of the women had spoken up earlier when this misconduct happened but sometimes despite complaints, it could fall on deaf ears. But it is good that they have come out about these incidents now. Also, it is not something that is restricted to the glamour industry or just one industry; it must be happening everywhere – right from software companies to MNCs to several other places. I feel that wherever there has been a victim, whether a woman or a man, it is important to come forward and say #MeToo. Those who are named and accused should be punished.
When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing the most?
I enjoy chilling out with Netflix a lot. But I also enjoy badminton when possible. My mother represented India for badminton so shuttle is in my blood. Though I do not pursue badminton actively I enjoy it.
Which of the language films have been the most challenging?
I find Malayalam movies the most challenging. They offer the most different experiences and feel - right from the location of the shoots, to the houses where they are shot, to the story and the script.
My most challenging role was in a movie called Thirakkatha which is the story of an actress between the years, 1982-2008. How Malayalam films come with these script and stories is amazing. The best aspect of these films is that so many people can identify with the characters in them and the variety of subjects that Malayalam movies make is remarkable. For example, I can never forget watching a movie called Njan Marykutty. It is the story of a boy who realised at a young age that he wanted to be a woman and later went through an operation to do this. It is a story that has happened to so many people and now a movie has been made about it. Another movie that I found fascinating was Angamaly Diaries which is about gang wars. There are so many talented writers in the Malayalam film industry who can amaze the audience.
Can you tell us about your role with SRK in Chennai Express?
It was a fantastic moment for me and I loved every minute. I love Shah Rukh Khan with all of my heart and I am still an ardent fan. I am so grateful to Rohit Shetty for this role. Even today, I remember how in between shooting, Shah Rukh Khan used to play KBC on his iPad. He is such a fascinating person.
What does success mean to you?
When you get awards you do feel good but for me, success is when someone wants my signature as an autograph. At that moment, you feel you have been noticed and remembered. However, success should not go to your head. You should never forget where you came from in life.
What does it mean to be an actor?
I think being an actor is about being able to step into a role. However, talent alone will not take you everywhere. You need a bit of luck as well. You also need to be at the right place at the right time.
How do you keep fit?
I do a lot of yoga and I also have a personal trainer to help me. I am a bit lazy to go to the gym, so I like having a trainer. Also, I feel you could pull a muscle or get hurt if you don’t have a trainer to help you. I like yoga as I want to be as flexible as possible. Dance also helps me keep fit, though nowadays I am judging shows rather than dancing myself.
What are your future plans?
I don’t believe in pre-planning. I like living in the moment and taking things as they come.
If the words of writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron who once said,"Writing is what I do... it is like breathing to me..." defined the goals of Ephron's life, it would be Asha's mantra too, as she lives to create word pictures of the people she meets. She believes that the best stories "must move the heart and feed the mind". When she is not working, she loves reading novels and listening to music.