EXCLUSIVE – Indian 2 actor Priya Bhavani Shankar Interview: I would love to play a grey-shaded character

EXCLUSIVE – Indian 2 actor Priya Bhavani Shankar Interview: I would love to play a grey-shaded character

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It was in 2020, sometime before the Covid-19 pandemic hit us, and on the first day of shooting her third film Mafia: Chapter 1, did actor Priya Bhavani Shankar get a call from director Shankar’s team for Indian 2. Now, after having acted in twenty odd films, Priya is simply joyous that audience will get to see the much-awaited sequel finally hitting the theatres. Joining us in an exclusive chat with OTTplay, Priya recalls how she did not take a split second to hop onboard.

“I immediately went to his office, and heard the narration. Yes, there was no reason to say no to Indian 2,” Priya chuckles.

Priya Bhavani Shankar Interview for Indian 2

Priya has been someone who has rightly so picked up projects that add strength to her characters. At the same time, she also understands how films are team efforts, and the joint forces of many artists and technicians is something that cannot be gone unconsidered.

“Of course, Indian 2 is a Kamal Haasan sir film. When you look at big films like the ones headlined by, say someone like Rajinikanth sir or even Indian 2, I just want to ensure that the characters I play have some importance and are pivotal for the story. In certain films like Indian 2, the character is intricate and part of story. I think Tamil cinema is in a place where we are any longer sticking to the hero names alone, but what the character has to offer. Of course it is a Kamal Haasan sir film, in which we all play characters helping the story move forward,” Priya explains.

On playing a cameo but impactful role in Thiruchitrambalam

Priya has been one actor, who has been able to choose characters that never shy away from telling what they feel, much to likeness of who she is in real life too. Her role in Dhanush-starrer Thiruchitrambalam might be small on screentime, but wins big when her character was never villainised for rejecting the hero. Instead, with a touch of innocence and healthy amount of self-assertiveness, Priya’s character Ranjani walked with away in the film.

“The credit for that role has to go to the writer, Dhanush. It is a cameo and that film belongs to Nithya Menen and Dhanush. But when he narrated it to me, he wanted Ranjani to be exactly what it was, and be a cameo. I just could not say no to it,” Priya recalls the exact moment when her character conjured up.

But at the same time, Priya feels that even amid mainstream cinema and hero-headlined films, audiences are still able to recognise such characters and films are finding its place. “I remember when Thiruchitrambalam released, seeing memes on how I could reject Dhanush. I think my other film, Yaanai had also released around the same time, and when my character’s proposal got rejected, it got compared (laughs). I think we are receiving both experiences,” she adds.

The face value of her roles

Priya, who has been a journalist once, had earlier stated how she would be carrying the face value of the brand/publication she is representing. Now, given her career has changed into an actor, asked if her roles would become her face value, Priya says, “Now after doing about close to 20 films, I think about someone like Fahadh Faasil. I don’t think the roles he does represent him. He is just an actor doing it. I don’t think I should give much thought of how my roles would reflect on me. But before, I remember turning down roles that did not work for me, which does have many layers to it. But when I say a certain image does not work on me, is something I think is not a good reason for an actor is what Priya in 2024 thinks.”

So, would that mean she likes to play grey-shaded character? Within the blink of an eye, Priya says, “I would love to. I was supposed to play such role in a big film. But unfortunately, due to date issues, I couldn’t do it. I think when the film comes out and I might name that one as my regret of missing out.”

Strong characters in commercial films

Priya is a strong advocate for having multiple strongly-written and fleshed out characters within a commercial film. Noting that only when the supporting characters are written strong, the film works on the wholesome level and does the narrative intrigues audience.

Believing that to be the strength of commercial directors, Priya says how Shankar is one of the best in the lot. “All his films do not have a character just for a sake. Take Nanban, there are three leads, a cameo, and varying supporting roles as well. Shankar sir is a proven commercial director and writes memorable roles. It is no-brainer when it comes to characters written by Shankar sir. There have been times when I would have shot for many days, but the outcome might differ. Certain things are out of control and I can only be careful next time. So, I only see if the character is intricate enough and if this character is taken out, would the story work. That way, Shankar’s characters are very strong.”

So, how’s it on the sets of Indian 2, I ask? “Super fun,” Priya is quick to tell and goes on to add, “Shankar sir is such a fun person to hang out with. I think it’s the longest project I have worked on too. Before the pandemic, we had shot small sequences and what was left is the crowded shoots. We had shot across 3-4 years, but it doesn’t show that in the film. We really miss Vivekh sir, Nedumudi Venu sir, and we missed taking a photo with them on the sets.” She also affirms being part of Indian 3 as well. 

Coming from television background

Having a background of doing television serials, Priya says that she consciously stepped out of the zone, because of the strenuous and lengthy periods she has to stay in a character. “I stepped out because I did not like it, and playing the same role again and again, was traumatising and too dramatic. I did not enjoy the process,” she says.

But has it been the same when she plays a web series? “Coming to series like Dhootha, or even Indian 3, it felt like coming back to a place you are comfortable in. It is also not extreme build up of emotions. They are close to real-life characters and more relatable. It is like getting back home.”

Up next, Priya is expecting the release of her first horror film Demonte Colony 2 and Telugu film Zebra. “After crossing the zone that you have to be part of certain big films, to position oneself, I thoroughly enjoyed working on these projects. There are also some films which will be announced soon,” Priya concludes.

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