SRK has broken South-Bollywood barrier, says fangirl Priyamani
Priyamani talks about finally getting to share a bigger screen space with Shah Rukh and why 'Jawan' is such a huge hit
Priyamani, who seems to be making a mark as a pan-Indian actor in the Indian film industry, is an unabashed Shah Rukh fangirl.
After shooting to fame in the super-hit series 'The Family Man', as secret agent Srikant Tiwari’s wife, who may or may not have cheated on her husband, her rocking dance number with Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Chennai Express’ made her more popular nation-wide.
This southern beauty is now basking in the limelight for her role as Lakshmi, one of Shah Rukh’s girl army in 'Jawan' (all set to cross the ₹1,000 crore mark at the box office). She is part of the team of women who joins the vigilante character, played by Shah Rukh, to fight against the corrupt system.
In an interview to The Federal, Priyamani says that sharing screen space with King Khan was like a 'dream'. “This time, it was not just a dance number with Shah Rukh or I was just somewhere in the background. I had dialogues with him and we were fighting together to right the wrongs that had been done to their characters in the film,” she asserts.
On whether she shares a special relationship with the superstar, Priyamani points out, "For me, my connection with him is extra special. What he feels for me, you have to ask him."
There were enough women actors in 'Jawan' but no one was competing to vie for Shah Rukh's attention on the set, she shares.
“Shah Rukh made each one of the girls on the set feel special. None of us was jealous that he was giving the other any special attention. He ensured that all of us got equal importance to match our role in the script. He has huge respect for the women actors working with him," she recounts.
Priyamani recalls that she was placed behind Shah Rukh while rehearsing for the dance number 'Zinda Banda' but after some time, he turned around and spotted her.
What are you doing behind me? he asked. And firmly brought her forward to dance beside him. "So, post that, in every scene in the dance I am on his left and Sanya Malhotra is on the right," she says happily. "I guess, he did that because I had been the only female opposite him in the 'Chennai Express' dance number and 'Zinda Banda' too has a south beat and a south choreographer Shobu master," she adds.
Not a blink-and-miss role
There was no question of refusing the role in 'Jawan' when it came to her through casting director Mukesh Chhabra and after she had a Zoom interview with director Atlee. It was not a 'blink and miss role' either.
Priyamani plays Lakshmi in a predominantly action role who is a victim of a gas leak tragedy in her hometown. Like the rest of the other female actors in the Robin Hood army led by Shah Rukh, Priyamani was clear about her contribution in this Shah Rukh vehicle.
“Though, there were multi-narratives in the film, each one of us knew exactly the extent of our roles and how much a part of the film we were going to be. We were secure and happy with that,” says Priyamani, who does not want to appear to be quibbling about the size of her role in the film.
This actor is after all a National Award-winning star often playing the ‘leading lady’ in many South films. In fact, she will be seen next opposite Ajay Devgn in 'Maidan', Sangeeth Sivan's Hindi film and has started shooting for Malayalam director Jeethu Joseph’s 'Neru' with none other than another superstar Mohanlal.
So, what was different working in a superstar driven film like 'Jawan'?
Mass and class film
Nothing different for me really, except that I got to work with Shah Rukh, replies Priyamani. To her, 'Jawan' has the right mix of being a 'mass and class' film. Besides the commercial elements like a strong villain, fights, songs, and romance, it also had a strong message and spoke out about issues happening in our country like farmers' suicides, gas tragedy, lack of medical infrastructure etc., she says.
There's also the Shah Rukh monologue in the end which deals with a particular issue going on in the country and that I believe, resonated with people, points out Priyamani on why 'Jawan' is such a huge success. If you tell her it seems like a typical South film potboiler, she replies, "It had a South flavour since the director was from the South."
However, she believes, with 'Jawan', Shah Rukh has broken the barriers further between South and Bollywood helping the two to come together more closer.
"There's a difference between the two industries no doubt but Shah Rukh has made it more possible now for them to work together," she says.
Shooting for 'Jawan' for 90 to 100 days in Mumbai and Chennai was an experience for Priyamani. But, the actor remembers most how well she bonded with her female co-actors in 'Jawan'. They even started a WhatsApp group called 'Good to go, Chief', the words the girl army often chorus to their rebel group leader Shah Rukh in 'Jawan'. The 'Jawan' experience is something this SRK girl gang, including Priyamani, are not going to forget in a hurry.