National Award-winning actor Priyamani talks about the challenges involved in playing conjoined twins in her upcoming film Charulatha
It’s been two years since we’ve seen Priyamani in a Tamil film. Now, you’ll get to see two of her in Charulatha, a Kannada-Tamil bilingual of sorts directed by Pon Kumaran, where she plays conjoined twins. Loosely inspired by the Thai film Alone, the film has Priyamani playing an innocent character and another teetering on the grey. The film, due for release soon, will be dubbed into Malayalam and Telugu too, considering she’s quite popular in the two States.
“When the producers came to me with the script, I was hooked. As far as I knew, nothing like this had been attempted before in mainstream cinema. It was a challenge,” says the National award-winning actor.
The process of getting into the role was interesting, she says. “We had a look test and a make-up test for the roles of the naïve twin and the tomboyish one.” Everything had to fit in beautifully because both would be seen together. The challenge was to bring out the subtle differences, she says.
Helping her essay the roles better was her body double, Deepika. Priyamani gives due credit to her efforts. “She’s done a very credible job. She’s been with me through this journey, and we’ve been constantly helping each other out — with inputs, body language, etc.,” she says.
Priyamani has great hopes from the film. “It might be in the commercial format, but it was like acting in two films, thanks to the dissimilar characters.”
It’s been five years, but you can’t resist mentioning Paruthiveeran to the actor. After all, it won her the National Award. “My life and career can be divided into pre- and post-Paruthiveeran,” she admits. “It marked my second innings in the industry, became a calling card. Till then, I was not sure if I really wanted to be in films. But, I also did not have a Plan B. Thanks to director Ameer, I realised this was where my destiny lay,” she says.
Though she dabbled in other languages before Paruthiveeran, the film opened the floodgates for her. “There were so many roles coming in, almost of all them like Muthazhagu. I took a conscious decision to do something starkly different. I wanted people to know I could play a glamorous role too,” she says. The result was a slew of movies, mostly commercial, in Tamil and Telugu, including Malaikottai and Thotta. There were the odd gems in Malayalam though, such as Ranjith’s Thirakkatha, where her acting came in for much praise.
This ability to switch languages with ease has been Priyamani’s greatest strength. “I am comfortable with all four South Indian languages,” she says.
Her tryst with Hindi films has been interesting too — she played a small, but pivotal role in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan/Raavanan. “It was a Mani Ratnam film. I did not have to know anything else. I’m happy my role was appreciated,” she says. The same holds good for Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakthacharithra II, where she played Suriya’s wife. Now, she’s discussing more scripts in Hindi, but is yet to sign on the dotted line. “I don’t want to go to Bollywood just to prove I’ve worked there. I don’t want to be typecast. The role has to attract me,” says the actor, who’s done about 40 films. Talk of Bollywood and the conversation veers towards her relative, Vidya Balan. “I don’t know why people keep comparing me to her. She’s somewhere else. I am in another space,” says Priyamani.
And yes, back home Priyamani is still looking out for roles of substance, but does not shy away from reality. “Regular commercial films are the flavour of the season. How many women-centric films are we making?”
As an actor, she’s waiting to explore comedy. “That’s a genre I’ve not done so far. Let’s face it. Comedy is not easy. A negative lead will be nice too — something on the lines of what Ramya Krishnan did in Padayappa or Kajol in Gupt,” she concludes.