The young actor, making her debut in Malayalam, speaks about the pressure of working with her dad, the awkwardness of acting with childhood friend Pranav, on nepotism and Me Too.

Pranav and I have a siblingish bond in real life Actor Kalyani Priyadarshan to TNMFacebook/Kalyani Priyadarshan
Flix Mollywood Monday, January 21, 2019 - 17:59

Somehow, her clarity in thoughts, the very mature but spontaneous replies surprise you. For, Kalyani Priyadarshan can, at other moments, sound typically like the young person she is. She drops ‘you know' and ‘like’ in between her words, there's her uninhibited laughter, and when chatting on a messenger, the many emoticons.

She must be getting many calls these days, she’s just made her acting debut in Malayalam – wrapped up her part in the movie Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, directed by her dad. It is a small part, she says, in a film where Mohanlal plays the main lead. Her part is opposite Pranav, Mohanlal’s son. 

“We all grew up together – Pranav, (late director) IV Sasi’s son Ani, who works as co-director in the film, and I. We have that ‘siblingish’ bond. Pranav and I play a couple in the film. And after the first day’s shooting, I spoke to his mom on the phone. She asked, was it awkward, did you guys burst out laughing in the middle of a scene or something. Obviously it was a little awkward. But we were quite surprised that it went off really well. No one who knew us as children would have thought it possible,” Kalyani says.

Kalyani (left), Pranav and his cousin as kids

She’s already made her debut in Telugu, with Hello. But that wasn’t this hard, she had worked away from the gaze of her famous family – director dad Priyadarshan and actor mom Lissy. When she came to her dad’s sets, the pressure came in from nowhere. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was a lot more tense than I normally am. In Telugu and all, they are a lot more forgiving if I mess up a line, if I take time to get something right. Whereas, Acha is not somebody who will tolerate all that. I wanted to make him proud, so I was like extra scared.”

It wasn’t just her either. Her dad was just as scared, Ani would tell her. “It is funny (laughs). The first day I was looking quite nervous. And after the first shot, Ani came and told me, I am not the only one scared. He saw my father before my first shot take a long breath and do a little prayer!”

That first day didn’t start off too well. Kalyani is used to getting her lines beforehand and preparing it in advance, to make sure she remembers it. But Priyadarshan would give her the lines only on the set. “My memory is not so great and I couldn’t remember the lines right away. I was also very tense. And I don’t take prompts. He was shouting at me for not remembering the lines!”

But in the end, the dad was proud. It happened when they wrapped shooting her part with a song and a dance. Kalyani wants to thank Brinda Master for it, the choreographer who had worked with her in Hello too. She has seen Kalyani’s growth and the song went well. “My dad loved it. I have never seen him so happy at the end of the shooting. At some point, he came to shake my hands and said he is really proud of me. And he is a very critical person, a miser in compliments. Even after Hello, he said good, he is happy. This is the first time he said that he is proud of me.” 

Priydarshan was so excited he sent a picture of Pranav and Kalyani to Mohanlal and his wife, asking if they ever thought their kids would come together like this. Mohanlal and Priyadarshan has been associating together ever since both of them began their film carees. In fact, one of Priydarshan's much loved characters from the Mohanlal film Chithram is called Kalyani - played by Ranjini. But his daughter was not named after that Kalyani, she says. It is a favourite aunt of her dad's. 

Pranav and Kalyani 

Only Kalyani is done with her part. The filming of Marakar is still going on, and she is going to dub for her part. Kalyani has grown up away from Kerala all her life, so she is a little shy about speaking Malayalam, but it is still her mother tongue. It is just the lack of confidence to speak to people outside her immediate circles. But she is sure that she will dub for herself. She can’t reveal much about her role, her dad would not like that. It is a period film and she is just playing a small role in a big movie. So even if there is criticism that there is nepotism, Kalyani says, it really cannot be the case when the role is small, for the movie still belongs to "Lal uncle". 

“We are not the stars of the film. I can understand if we are the two leads in one of the biggest films in Malayalam. But we are playing a small role in a big film," she says.

Not that she does not acknowledge the privileges she comes with. A reason she does not really want to make comments on the Me Too movement. “I am a bit too privileged to be able to make a comment on it. There are people who go through a lot. If I say something it would bring down the impact and the truth that everyone else is coming out with. Which is why I haven’t said anything.” 

That’s the mature part we referred to earlier. She maybe young but she is mature enough to realise she has to careful with what she says, for people will watch, listen to what a star says. However, Kalyani is yet to be convinced of her stardom. “I am nowhere at a place where people are going to take me seriously now. It will be great if I do have that influence and I hope I use it responsibly," she says.

Also read: Kadhalikka Neramillai': Why the 1964 comedy still makes us laugh

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