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Brothers in arms

Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna

Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Actors Rahul Ramakrishna and Priyadarshi in a free-wheeling conversation on their friendship, journalism days, movies, and negotiating sticky situations

At the moment, Priyadarshi Pulikonda and Rahul Ramakrishna are among the most exciting actors navigating the comedy-character artistes space. As Mithai, their film together, is slated to release later this month, we caught up with them amid their shooting schedule for director Vivek Athreya’s Brochevarevarura. Edited excerpts from the conversation that unfolded between laughter, samosas and jalebis.

When did you both first meet?

Priyadarshi: 2009. I was doing MA in Communication and Journalism and we were organising freshers’ party. Rahul came along with a friend. Back then he was even thinner, like a malnourished kid.

Rahul: He didn’t think highly of me at all. I was dating his junior. I was inclined towards liberal arts and would attend their classes, rather than pursue my engineering.

Priyardarshi: We had a strict rule of not allowing outsiders for the party. We had pooled in ₹50 each and we needed biryani for 80 people.

Rahul: He wanted to throw me out since I was a freeloader. He couldn’t be rude and took it easy. He’s been taking it easy with me ever since.

Priyadarshi: We later met in 2012 when I was working in Tharun Bhascker’s short film Junoon. Rahul was a reporter with Postnoon. On Ganesh immersion day we were wondering how to move about in the city. He had the air of a reporter who had an all-access pass and said we could go with him. We were a group of friends who would hang out at Vivek Sagar’s (composer) place.

Rahul: That place was the centre of gravity for us. We were also part of a short film group.

Did you think Rahul would become an actor?

Priyadarshi: Not until I saw Tharun’s short film Sainma. I had been requesting Tharun to cast me in it. He didn’t. But when I saw the rough cut, I was blown away.

Rahul: He called me around 1.30-2am and asked ‘ela chesavu ra’ (how did you do it?) Similarly, I had seen his short films and then with Pelli Choopulu, he had arrived.

Priyadarshi: There’s a story behind Arjun Reddy too. Initially I was supposed to do his part. The night before the shoot, Sandeep (Reddy Vanga, the director) called to tell me about a change of plan and offered me the lawyer’s role instead.

Rahul: I knew Vijay (Deverakonda) since I had written three songs for Pelli Choopulu and we played cricket together. I met Sandeep and Vijay the night before Arjun Reddy shoot and Sandeep felt I would fit the part of Shiva. I had a casual, laid-back approach. But one Friday changed my life. I was doing odd jobs, to earn better than what my reporting would fetch me. There were financial constraints at home and I wasn’t able to fill the holes. Acting helped me earn better.

Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna at Ramanaidu Studios

Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna at Ramanaidu Studios   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

When did you both become good friends?

Priyadarshi: It happened gradually over the years.

Rahul: Over a lot of biryani and beer.

Priyadarshi: I remember his distinct quality of being rebellious, even in college days.

Rahul: I never learnt the art of diplomacy. After entering cinema, I’ve been asked to tone down my rants on Twitter, but I can’t help it.

How accepting is the industry when you aren’t diplomatic?

Rahul: Now we are in demand so they are considerate. When that changes, I’m sure they won’t tolerate it. Darshi fares better than me.

Priyadarshi: We need to have filters to what we say.

How do you manage to look beyond being typecast as the hero’s friend and take up films like ‘Mallesham’ (biopic of Padma Shri awardee Chintakindi Mallesham), ‘Silk Road’ (Rahul headlines this English film), and the dark comedy ‘Mithai’?

Priyadarshi: Ten years ago, it would have been a far-sighted dream for a comedian to do Mallesham. I’m fortunate. But it’s up to us to take up different films and avoid getting repetitive. For Rahul, Chi La Sow came as a breath of fresh air. He stood out brilliantly. Some writers and directors, and the audience, want something new. We owe it to them.

Rahul: The struggle lies in re-inventing ourselves and not becoming stale props.

You both are among the most sought after comedians/character actors today. Given your schedules, do you sit back and introspect where you’re headed?

Priyadarshi: I get so consumed by what I’m doing. There’s no time to re-engage with life. At times I don’t have time to watch the films I’ve been a part of. My wife analyses my work critically.

Rahul: Once, after the SIIMA awards, some of us decided on a whim to head to Goa. We needed that break to not get burnt out. Also, we could also talk freely there. In Hyderabad, even the walls have ears.

You (Rahul) postponed your wedding because you didn’t have time?

Rahul: I thought I could take a week off for a simple, registered marriage. It didn’t happen.

Priyadarshi: 10-15 day holiday is luxury. Even then, I get calls saying some dubbing work has to be fine-tuned and if I can do it on whatsapp!

How do you (Rahul) manage to act and write? You’ve written for ‘Mithai’?

Rahul: Mithai is 52% my writing — the dialogues. There are other stakeholders as well. So if it backfires, I’m not responsible (laughs). I haven’t done serious writing or reading in a long time. I am self-critical to a point where my fiancé or mom snatch my phone and laptop to ensure I don’t trash what I’ve written. I miss the time management and efficiency of my days in journalism. On the sets, we are eternally waiting for things to happen. In 24 hours, our actual work might be for three hours. The rest of the time is spent waiting, travelling or applying make-up.

Priyadarshi: I sometimes feel we’re paid to wait. It’s tiresome but we can’t complain. It’s a choice we’ve made. Talking of Mithai, it was fun. We bonded, had the freedom to try something new. We both play Hyderabad-bred Telangana guys. After the state bifurcation, people are more accepting of actors talking in Telangana dialect. Earlier I’d be asked to speak in Krishna-Guntur dialect.

Rahul: We also have more actors and directors from this region now.

Priyadarshi: True, and Mallesham will also showcase cultural artefacts of the region (artist Laxman Aelay is the art director).

How do you see the shift from journalism to cinema?

Priyadarshi: Journalism helped me become a better actor. The 5Ws and 1H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) guide me.

If you feel uncomfortable with certain lines or a scene, can you be firm and say no?

Priyadarshi: I try. Sometimes I negotiate and change and there are times I can’t. I don’t feel good if I’ve said or acted in something that I feel is unacceptable. It’s okay to play flawed characters. The problem is when it’s endorsed or normalised.

Rahul: I voice my protest. If it doesn’t work, then once a film is released I take to Twitter and wash my hands off it. Stalking is not okay (remember his character egging on Vijay Deverakonda in the bus scene in Geetha Govindam?). It’s a horrible feeling when you realise a film is out there in public domain. You never know who you are influencing.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:06:10 PM |

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