Priya Waj Anand is a juggler shifting between different industries, roles and in control of her commitments

Listening to Priya Waj Anand hold forth on growing up, family and work is like listening in to a delightful banter. This isn’t random ramble but an assured woman with a mature head on her shoulders sharing her thoughts. Behind the chirpy facade is an actress who manages her dates herself, returns home after a hard day’s work and sets her house in order all by herself. “I read somewhere that girls are constantly trying to seek attention that they don’t realise they aren’t getting enough respect. I am not an attention seeker; I like to earn respect,” she says.

The Hindi audience first saw her as Radha, the empathising girl who encourages her aunt (Sridevi) to learn English in English Vinglish. Then came Priyadarshan’s Rangrezz, a BO cold turkey. Ritesh Sidwani and Farhan Akhtar’s production Fukrey, releasing this month, will see her get a lot more spot light. “I auditioned twice for my role. There were many girls and it was tough. The production house had set high standards and was looking out for quality performances. These auditions happened before English Vinglish released,” says Priya.

Directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, Fukrey stars Faizal Ali, Pulkit Samrat and Richa Chadda. “The director has worked on only one film (Teen Thay Bhai) earlier, but I was amazed by the way he guided all of us,” says Priya. The song ‘Ambarsaria’ gives us a hint of Priya’s role, a Punjabi middle-class girl. “This is a girl about 17-18 years of age, based in Chandni Chowk. She is curious about boys, the world outside of her home and colony. Born to a Marathi-Telugu father and a Tamilian mother, I’ve lived in South India and the US and could connect in some way to most other characters I’ve essayed before. But in Fukrey, everything was alien to me. I didn’t know anything about that world of a young Punjabi girl. It was challenging,” she says.

Compared to working with seasoned ad/feature filmmakers like Jayendra (180) and Balki (producer of English Vinglish), working with a young cast and crew brought in a fresh perspective, she says. “I was doing four other regional films at that time. On the sets of Fukrey, I realised I knew so little. There was no room for complacency.”

Priya’s recent Tamil release Ethir Neechal got both critical and commercial acclaim. She got noticed for her role in Ko Antey Koti as well. “I’ve been lucky to be offered such roles by intelligent filmmakers. I enjoyed Ko Antey Koti, the range of emotions that were required to play a girl doing her bit through street theatre,” says Priya.

Three Tamil projects — Vanakkam Chennai, Vai Raja Vai and a new film with Vikram Prabhu — are in the offing and Priya likes juggling between three languages: “I work out the dates on my own,” Priya stresses. Being conversant in Tamil and Telugu has its perks. She is one of the few actresses to dub her own lines. “My work comes full circle with dubbing and takes me one step closer to the audience. For Ko Antey Koti, I took help since I had to speak Rajahmundry dialect. At that time, my grandpa was hospitalised and it was a tough time. Yet, I am happy I dubbed my lines,” she says.

It would be easy for Priya to get straight jacketed into playing bubbly roles, similar to her off-screen persona. But she wants to make careful choices: “I am hyper and cheerful but not over the top and annoying. Thankfully I don’t get uni-dimensional roles.”

Working in different industries means living out of suitcases and returning to a house that begs for attention. “There’s so much laundry and vacuuming to be done after a long outdoor stint. There’s some help but I like doing things myself. It keeps me grounded,” she signs off.