COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY
Actor Priyamani talks about her experiences in the films, 'Otta Nanayam', 'Grandmaster', 'Raavan', 'Chennai Express' and 'Thirakkatha'
By Shevlin Sebastian
In the film 'Otta Nanayam' (2005), actor Priyamani played a beggar girl called Chippy. A shoot was scheduled at the Ernakulam Junction station. Priyamani had to beg from real-life passengers accompanied by a group of beggar kids. She was dressed appropriately: a black paavada, a cream blouse and a face without make-up. The camera was placed in a hidden position.
“Not many people recognised me,” says Priyamani. “Maybe one or two did but they were not sure whether I was indeed Priyamani.”
Anyway, Priyamani began asking for money from passengers sitting at the window seats. “Two men gave us one or two rupees coins,” she says. “But one man yelled at us and said, 'Why can't you get some job instead of begging. Every afternoon, we see people like you. Why do you beg?'”
Priyamani ignored him and went to the next passenger. “It was a strange and weird experience,” she says. “The way people stare at you. And to lead a life where you don't have any money can be so difficult.”
Priyamani had a completely different experience on the sets of 'Grandmaster' where she acted opposite Mohanlal for the first time. It was also the first time that her father [Vasudeva Mani Iyer], along with her mother and brother came to watch her act on the sets. “The main reason was because my father is a big fan of Mohanlal,” she says. “But on the set, my dad was star-struck.”
When Vasudeva came face-to-face with the superstar, he felt flustered and said, “I have been a fan since my childhood.” Later, he told Priyamani, “I should not have said that.”
Meanwhile, there were some problems with Mohanlal's mobile phone. “My brother Vishakh is very good with electronic stuff,” says Priyamani. “He tinkered with it and solved the problem. Mohanlal was very happy and grateful.”
Chicken Soup For The Soul
In the Hindi film 'Raavan' (2010), Priyamani was playing the role of Abhishek Bachchan's sister. The shoot was taking place in Jhansi. The stars were staying at a palace which had been converted into a heritage hotel. Priyamani was suddenly laid low by flu. She felt very weak. Nevertheless, she decided to go to the dining hall with her mother and have some food. Soon, Abhishek heard that she was unwell.
He came over to their table holding a white bowl in his hands. “This is a ginger chicken curry which I just made in the kitchen,” he says. “It has got a lot of medicinal value.” Priyamani was not sure whether he was pulling her leg or not.
Nevertheless, she smiled and accepted the dish. “It was quite tasty,” she says. “Abhishek is a good cook.”
In 'Chennai Express', Priyamani had the chance to interact with another Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan. The shoot, at Wai, in Pune district, was for the song, '1,2,3,4 Get on the dance floor'. “Shah Rukh Khan is a very cool person,” says Priyamani. During breaks in the shoot, they would play 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. He had downloaded the app on his Ipad and acted as the quiz master. “Nikitin Dheer [who usually plays villain roles], and I betted small amounts and tried to answer the questions,” says Priyamani. “Time passed so quickly, thanks to KBC.”
When the tears rolled down
The shoot for the film, 'Thirakkatha' (2008) was taking place in a tea estate at Wayanad. Priyamani played Malavika, an actress who had faded from public view. In the morning, the shoot was of a romantic song, 'Palappoovithalil', in which she wore several bright costumes.
For the second half of the shoot, make-up man Renjith Ambadi had to change her look entirely since her character was suffering from cancer in the film. So, he had to make her head bald and give her a pale look. It took three hours. After he finished his task, when Renjith looked at her, tears began to roll down his face.
“I did not ask him the reason why,” says Priyamani. “But I suspected that I was a reminder of some person who had passed away.” Priyamani realised the effectiveness of the make-up when she walked into the set. “There was a pin-drop silence,” she says. “People just stared at me silently.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthpuiram)