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Giving films her best shot

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EXPERIMENTING WITH ROLES: Padmapriya has acted with both the superstars in Malayalam cinema.
EXPERIMENTING WITH ROLES: Padmapriya has acted with both the superstars in Malayalam cinema.

SREEDHAR PILLAI

Padmapriya, who has an undeniable screen presence, is constantly testing the boundaries of her talent.

She made her debut in Malayalam with `Kazhcha,' a film that was not only critically acclaimed, but was also a hit. Padmapriya played the role of Lakshmi, Mammootty's wife. She then did the role of a Muslim girl who falls in love with a Hindu in Sibi Malayil's `Amritham' opposite Jayaram and was the heroine in 2005's biggest blockbuster `Rajamanikyam.'A postgraduate in business management, Padmapriya worked for three years with GE (General Electric) as a risk consultant. This straight-talking actress has an undeniable star quality on screen, and no one would deny that she is a fine actor who constantly seems to be testing the boundaries of her talent. Her latest release is `Vadakkumnathan' in which she plays a young Sanskrit student from a rich family who falls in love with an eccentric Sanskrit professor played by Mohanlal. Priya, as she is known among her friends is talkative and comes across as a down-to-earth person. Excerpts.How did you manage to come out with a good performance in `Vadakkumnathan?'(Smiles) I don't know, I guess it was the ambience that the project provided Remember there was Lal sir, S. Kumar, the late Raveendran, Girish Puthencherry, Shajun, Murali, Ponnamma Chechi... They all helped me. Moreover, the character was well etched out and the traits of the character were credible and life-like.Many people believe that you are a Malayali. Well, when I go to the North, people feel I am a Sikh, in Hyderabad they say I look like a Muslim, in Kolkota a Bengali, so I guess I have these various resemblances due to my multi-cultural background. I am a Tamilian.Why did you leave your job with GE and plunge into the film industry? I am here as I am passionate about films; I have the age advantage and a solid corporate experience with contacts to get back to at a later point. It was a well-thought out stand. Let me reiterate that as long as I am here, I shall be dedicated to my films and roles. Your opinion about the roles of women in our male-dominated industry? Are you happy with the kind of roles that come your way?Till now, I have had the best of roles that any actress could dream of, so I can't really complain. I am choosy, experimental and have done things that I have always wanted to do, which was intentional.On male domination, films or art to a large extent reflect society at that point of time. Women in Indian society haven't played a very active role in all professions until recently. A so-called performance-oriented role is usually restricted to heavy duty crying and things on those lines; very rarely have I seen simple characters snatching the limelight. For instance, I can't get to play a role that Arya or Bharat did in the Tamil film `Pattiyal' because you don't have characters like that. Similarly, a woman playing characters like the ones played by Vijay or Mammootty might not be accepted by viewers. So male domination is justified and natural, but things are changing. Bollywood has evolved drastically. What needs to be done down South is to acknowledge this change and present the modern woman's multiple roles and facets. But this change will take time and I believe it will evolve and come through at some point in the future.Don't you think that playing a mother in your debut film (`Kazcha') was a risky proposition?Like I said before, I am here on account of my passion for movies. I would have even played a 60-year-old woman and made my debut. I am having fun, and I am not bothered about how long I exist, what interests me is how I exist.Tamil industry feels that you lack the glamour factor. Please comment.I have done films that had no oomph factor. I agree that perceptions are difficult to break. But I believe that I can do a Sharon Stone in `Basic Instinct' or a Marilyn Monroe in `Seven Year Itch' with her billowing skirt with the same élan as Meera of `Vadakkumnathan' (laughs). It's the turn of the directors to create such characters. Let me clarify that I believe in sensuality not vulgarity. One should attract the audience not distract them.What are your future movies?In Malayalam, I am doing `Ashwaroodam' with Suresh Gopi, directed by Jayaraj, which will be a revelation of sorts and `Bhagvata Charitram...' with Mammootty and Sreenivasan, which will be directed by Jomon. It will be a fun movie. In Tamil, `Satham Podathe' with Prithviraj and Nitin, directed by M.S. Vassant.You have done films with both the superstars in Malayalam? How different are they to work with?It's difficult to find stars who are such extraordinary actors. It's beyond my capacity to comment about them. They are the best in Indian cinema.Where do you see yourself after five years?A woman who is enjoying herself in the personal and professional sphere and giving it her best shot (smiles).


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