With her new Telugu film ‘Bhamakalapam’ coming up, Priyamani opens up on her career choices
“I try not to accept projects in which I might end up playing characters similar to what I have done in the recent past,” says actor Priyamani, while discussing her new Telugu film Bhamakalapam, which will stream on Aha from February 11. The statement does not come across as mere lip service if one were to look at her recent projects. The Family Man web series, her Telugu films Narappa and Virata Parvam, and her new Tamil film Quotation Gang, all place her in different milieus.
In Bhamakalapam, she plays Anupama, a YouTuber who has over a million subscribers and uploads a new recipe each week. Anupama is also nosy about the happenings in her apartment complex, and then things take a dark turn, she finds herself “getting pulled into a tricky situation.” . “I had not done anything on the lines of an innocent housewife with a happy family getting embroiled in a situation. I found the plot to be interesting.” The film is written and directed by Abhimanyu and was pitched to Priyamani by director Bharat Kamma, who is the showrunner of Bhamakalapam for Aha.
Dark comedy thriller
She worked on the project when film shootings resumed after the second wave of COVID-19. In Kuchipudi ballets, the title Bhamakalapam often refers to the story of Satyabhama. Ask Priyamani about the significance of the title and she does not divulge much, “For now, let me just say it is an interesting dark comedy thriller. The film rides on the shoulders of my character and explores how she uses her wit and charm to step out of a situation she finds herself in.”
Looking back on the last two years, when she received appreciation for both The Family Man season two and Narappa, she says the digital reach was the best thing to happen during the pandemic: “Narappa was made for the theatres but when it released digitally, it was received very well. Some of the viewers who had watched Asuran also liked the Telugu version; we received good feedback for Venky sir’s work and mine. Bhamakalapam is specifically made for digital viewing and it is interesting how different stories can now be told. Ultimately, be it a theatrical or digital release, projects are reaching their target audiences.”
In the yet-to-release Virata Parvam, a period drama set in Telangana, Priyamani will be seen as comrade Bharatakka. In the meantime, she is gearing for the Tamil film Quotation Gang, in which she plays a contract killer. Asked about reports that the story is inspired by the book Mafia Queens of Mumbai, she says, “Not really,” and maintains, “It’s a dark film with twists and turns.”
Working in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam industries, Priyamani avers, gives her better scope to pick and choose projects: “I go through script-reading sessions and it has been a conscious effort to not take up similar characters. If I play an innocent homemaker in Bhamakalapam, I will politely decline anything that seems similar for the next three or four films.”
She takes stock of her nearly two-decade career and says, “I had no big dreams or career plans. I looked at acting as a hobby and intended to do about 10 films and see if things work out,” she reflects.
The turning point was Paruthiveeran (2006), which fetched Priyamani a National Award for Best Female Actor: “I took myself a lot more seriously after Paruthiveeran and so did writers and directors from different film industries.”
She recalls how the offers kept coming and she worked on projects without a break. “There were times I would have just a day off on January 1 and resumed work the following day. Thanks to my husband, I learnt the importance of taking some time now and then. Work will always be there, but we have one life to live.”