Interview
The actor talks about her love for raw characters, the gnawing pay disparity between male and female actors, and why she chose to do Amazon series ‘Family Man’.

National award-winning actor Priyamani joins the digital bandwagon with Family Man – an Amazon Prime spy drama, nuanced with the complexity of adult relationships. In a candid chat with TNM, the actor talks about a range of topics including her love for raw characters, the gnawing pay disparity between male and female actors, the MeToo movement, and everything in between.

“We’d never want to put a name to the nature of the show, or about what is being shown. That is left for the audience to decide. We aren’t emphasising on anything,” begins the actor, commenting about the portrayal of infidelity in Family Man. “Suchi is a woman who has given her everything to her family. Fifteen years later, it strikes her and her gradual coping mechanism takes an interesting turn,” Priyamani says.

Quite like most of her contemporaries, Priyamani’s decision to be a part of a web series was a calculated move. And she’s glad to have made that choice and used the opportunity that came her way.

Speaking about what prompted her to sign on the dotted line for the project, the actor says, “There are several thoughts streaming in my mind right now. But, if I were to pick two crucial aspects that motivated me, it’s got to be Manoj Bajpayee and the complexity of my character. Suchi deals with too much – the juggling act to keep up with the demands of her family and children, and the internal struggle to break free from the shackles of the past 15 years of her life. She steps in and plays the role of the father when need be. I like the rawness in her. There’s a great deal of beauty in being real like Suchi.”

56 films later, Priyamani has no qualms about calling a spade a spade. And this time around, she talks about the appalling pay disparity between male and female actors in the film industry. “In a way it is frustrating, because though a movie does well and gets the numbers at the BO, it really doesn’t help (monetarily) the heroine as much as it does for the hero.”

Yet she’s quick to note that a section of female actors is getting their due, saying, “Actors like Anushka Shetty, Nayanthara, Samantha Akkineni are great examples to look up to. It’s a wonderful thing that women are finally speaking up and asking for what they’re worth.”

The actor, who has created a niche for herself down south, seems torn when asked to pick three favourite films from her impressive portfolio. “I’d like to believe that every movie that I chose was zeroed in because it resonated with me at some level. Every film for that matter has been a favourite for a special reason. But if I were to choose three difficult films that really challenged my limits, they have got to be Chaarulatha, Thirakkatha and Paruthiveeran. I thoroughly enjoyed working on these as I had to up my game and they also gave me the opportunity to expand my horizon and repertoire as an actor.

Talking about the MeToo Movement which has created quite a stir in recent times, Priyamani says it opened up a can of unsavoury industry truths. She has not been very vocal on the subject so far, but believes it’s a double-edged sword.

“It’s beautiful and stunning to sit back and take note of how our girls are bold and unabashedly honest about their journeys. On the one hand I think it’s commendable because in all honesty, MeToo is not restricted to the film industry or showbiz. While I am not vouching for it, all I’m trying to say is that the occurrence could literally be around us – at homes, in universities, software offices, MNCs, call centres and everywhere else. People need to be sensitised to the issue, but I would also urge everyone not to be gullible while listening to stories. The impact has been so powerful that men don’t really flirt anymore,” she quips.

She also adds that those who speak up must do so only if there’s substantial truth to their account. “I’m also not sure why it simmered down,” she says.