Interview | Movies

Priya Anand: ‘Digital streaming platforms are being misused’

Priya Anand

Priya Anand   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The actor, who is busy filming ‘Sumo’ with Mirchi Shiva, is a straightshooter. In this interview, she voices conventionally unpopular opinions on everything from the Tamil film industry’s female-centric films, casting choices, digital platforms and more...

One quality of Priya Anand that sticks out, if you were to ever engage her in a conversation, is candour.

Sample this. She knows, despite a wave of new Tamil films with a female face in the lead, the industry continues to write poor characters for women. But she argues that the new wave isn’t about to change anything. “There are a lot of female-centric movies [being made]. It is the trend now. But I don’t think it will work because Tamil cinema heroines cannot carry a film on their own,” says Priya, last seen in the hit political satire LKG.

It is a damning assessment considering the number of such films being produced at the moment. But Priya justifies her comment thus: “You can be a very famous heroine. But in a big hero film, you are still nothing more than a prop. You’re not trusted to carry a single scene forward. How then can you carry a film on your own? Besides, these female-centric films have weak content,” she adds.

Secure place

This conversation unfolds on the sets of her upcoming film, Sumo, where she is paired alongside Mirchi Shiva. And unlike the industry practice of actors preferring to relax inside a vanity van between takes, Priya likes sitting outside and engaging with people on the set. It is the trait of a technician and not a performer; the latter career was something which happened by accident, she adds.

“I entered the film industry to somehow become an assistant director to Shankar sir,” says Priya, referring to the Enthiran director. But acting happened, and she made her debut with Vaamanan (2009). Yet, having spent 10 years in films, her dream of meeting Shankar remains unfulfilled. “I’m happy and comfortable where I am. My dreams from when I made my debut to what it is now are completely different,” she says, adding, “But I always imagine myself doing everything apart from acting.”

The English Vinglish actor doesn’t have new projects to talk about other than Sumo; she makes a cameo appearance in Adithya Varma, the Tamil remake of Arjun Reddy. But she isn’t worried. “I’m not insecure... or think that ayyo, if I don’t make films in Tamil, the audience will forget me,” she remarks.

Trade differences

The actor has a pan Indian presence. She has appeared in all south Indian language films besides Hindi, yet the only time she feels she was ever tested as a performer was in the film Fukrey (2013). Having grown up in the USA, and spent her vacation in rural Tamil Nadu with her grandmother, the actor finds it easy to adapt to the body language of an urban elite or a rural girl. “But to do a Punjabi character (in Fukrey)... that too in sync sound. It was the only challenge I’ve faced in my career so far. I had a dialogue coach,” she says.

Mirchi Shiva and Yoshinori Tashiro in a still from ‘Sumo’

Mirchi Shiva and Yoshinori Tashiro in a still from ‘Sumo’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Get in the ring!
  • On her film, Sumo, Priya Anand says, “The film is set in the backdrop of Kovalam. It is a very cute, concept film about this sumo wrestler from Japan who enters the lead characters’ lives. It is the kind of movie everyone wants to watch... and has the patience to watch. Tashi san (Yoshinori Tashiro), who plays the sumo wrestler, is so expressive and is the perfect, natural cast. He has even worked with Salman Khan before.”

She proceeds to draw a parallel between her time working with the makers of Fukrey and how things work in the Tamil film industry. “What I loved about Fukrey was that they had a script reading session. They were so careful with their writing. There were three women characters, and all of them had different personalities... in the way they spoke, their thought processes etc. But here (Tamil films) there are no writers. Dialogues are always written on the spot. The characters are vaguely developed. There is no characterisation for the heroine,” the actor says, adding with a laugh, “So... if any heroine here says that they had a lot of homework to do for their role... they’re lying because there really is nothing to research.”

Content over form

Another thing that sticks out is that in all the time she has spent in the Tamil industry, Priya has never been cast in a film alongside a leading male actor. The industry norm is quite the opposite — a female actor appearing in a handful of decently successful films is always considered to be a shoo-in to be cast in a ‘big hero’ film.

“There’s not much I can do about it because these decisions (casting) are not taken by me. It is not my hard work that will get me there and it is not my lack of talent that has not gotten me there. It is the decision that some men make for xyz reasons, and I’m not willing to be a part of all those things,” she says.

Priya Anand

Priya Anand   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When it comes to choosing roles, she is hopeful that she receives an opportunity to be in a film where “the content is amazing.”

“I don’t mind doing such movies for free. It needs to be well written and well thought out. I want to be a part of experimental films and not be doing the same cookie cutter role, where I stand behind the hero, give him motivation, love and sacrifice so that he wins in life...” she sighs.

So, do the digital streaming platforms seem an attractive proposition? “I love digital mediums but I feel like... in the South... they’re misusing it. Look, I think that digital platform is to give alternative cinema an opportunity. There are so many youngsters with good stories, who would go to producers and are turned down because... ‘hero othukka maataaru illati audience paaka maatanga. Ithu risk’ (hero won’t accept or audience won’t watch. It is a risk),” says Priya.

“For such filmmakers, the digital platform is a godsend. But what we are seeing now is that aracha maave arakkaraanga (same old content)... in this medium, just to make money in between two films. It is like.. ‘Oh, I have this hero’s date in six months time, so why don’t I make some quick money meanwhile’. The kind of content coming from Mumbai on Amazon and Netflix are light years ahead of what we’re producing. Maybe, visual wise we’re giving good quality but content wise it is spoiling the market. What happens then? When the viewership goes down, the digital mediums too will stop encouraging alternative content being made,” she says, adding in conclusion, “These platforms do pay a lot but unless I get to do something drastically different... something that I cannot do in movies... what’s the point? I don’t want this to be about the money I stand to make.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:39:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/priya-anand-digital-streaming-platforms-are-being-misused/article28745041.ece

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