Working with Mani Ratnam is a dream come true for any actor.
Priyamani is one of the lucky few to work with the ace director in the upcoming bilingual Raavan (Raavanan in Tamil) starring Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan and Vikram. There is also a Telugu dubbed version, Villain.
Priyamani also has Ram Gopal Varma’s Raktha Charitra in her kitty.
In this exclusive interview, the young actress tells us more about the experience of acting in Raavan. Excerpts:
What was your initial reaction when you were offered Raavan, a Mani Ratnam film?
I was jumping over the moon when I got the call from Madras Talkies. I was on the next flight to Chennai to meet Mani Sir. I had met him while travelling from Mumbai to Goa for the International Film Festival of India in 2008. He had seen Paruthiveeran and said I need to show more of my acting and go a step further. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect a call from Madras Talkies.
Did you agree to do it immediately or did you listen to the script narration?
Mani Sir told me about the role but not the whole story. I said yes right away.
What was the factor which made you sign the film?
The sheer experience of working with Mani Sir. The fact that he considered me for the role in the film. Anyone in the industry would have said yes. Even if the role isn’t big, there is substance to each of his characters.
Are you happy you are doing a Mani Ratnam film so early in your career?
Of course. Why not? I am lucky that I am part of a prestigious project like Raavan.
Did you have to relocate your dates to accommodate Raavan?
Not really. As per the contract, they specified the dates I had to be there. So I made sure that at that point I would be available whenever they called.
Are you playing the same role in Hindi and Tamil? How challenging was it to do the shots twice?
Yes. It was pretty challenging. I had to switch from one language to the another. I also had to change the looks and appearance while shooting for each language.
How was the experience of working with Aishwarya Rai?
I have no scenes with her. I didn’t even meet her.
What about Abhishek?
He was great fun. We shot for 25 days together. He talks to everyone and lights up the set. There was never a dull moment when he was around. During action and cut, he became Beera. He sat and spoke to everyone. He’s a down-to-earth co-star and a nice guy.
Vikram and you have won National Awards. This is your first venture with him. What was the experience like?
Vikram is a fabulous actor. We would rehearse lines at times. You have to be careful with Vikram around otherwise he would eat you alive with his acting! It was great fun. We would sit together and share light moments. This is my first film with him. I’ve seen his films. He was fabulous in Anniyan.
Could you bond with him better because of the language?
Yes, I knew him better than Abhishek.
How was the experience of working with Mani Ratnam?
I am speechless. He’s a fantastic technician. He would tell me don’t follow the words, let the words follow you. He used to say I don’t want acting. He would ask me if it was real life, how would you act? So the acting had to be real with no dramatics.
Was there any bonding on the sets?
Yes, it was great. Sometimes Vikram joined in badminton. We used to have dinner together. The assistant directors would also join in.
Where did shooting take place? It is said the film was shot in jungles infested with snakes and scorpions…
I didn’t shoot in the jungles. Vikram, Prithviraj and Aishwarya shot at Chalakudi. My portions were shot at Orchha, a nice historical place with forts close to Jhansi.
Any interesting incidents you would like to talk about?
There was just one emotional scene which we started at around 8.15 am and shot till 4 pm. I began with the shoot in Hindi. I started crying when I read the scene. The pain was too much and the dialogues were powerful. I felt the same while dubbing in each language also.
Another was a song which was fun to shoot. It was shot over a week.
So you have dubbed in Hindi?
I have dubbed in all the three languages — Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
If you were to re-live the Raavan experience, would you?
Yes, of course. For the sheer experience of working with Mani Ratnam and a fantastic team.
What have you carried home from the shoot?
The experience of working with Mani Ratnam and other co-stars like Prabhu. I am a huge fan of Prabhu and Karthik and have seen their films. Unfortunately I didn’t get to act with Karthik Sir.
Are you nervous about the release? More so, because it’s your Hindi debut too?
Yes, I am. I am praying and hoping the film does well, and the characters are appreciated. The countdown has started for Raavan. The Hindi debut is also an important factor. Everyone is looking at Mani’s film. I am hoping it meets the expectations.
How do you work in all the languages?
I have no problem with the language. It’s how you adapt yourself to the director and co-actors and the scene, switch on and switch off from the character.