Her favourite childhood memory is watching Sridevi's films back to back — films such as “Kshana Kshanam” (Telugu) and “Lamhe” (Hindi), and writing letters to her favourite star. “I sincerely prayed that all my letters would reach her,” laughs Priya Anand. She is besotted with Sridevi and it becomes obvious as the better part of our conversation is devoted to the former star.
“Sridevi is the epitome of glamour. She is sensuous without being vulgar, womanly but with child-like innocence. She is the quintessential heroine. Cinema has had such an impact on me because of her. One of the reasons why I am an actor today is Sridevi,” she gushes.
It's not surprising that Priya is excited she is part of “English Vinglish”, Sridevi's comeback film. The director of the film is Gauri Shinde whose husband Balki (who made “Paa” and “Cheeni Kum”) has produced it. “It's a dream come true for me. I enjoyed every moment of it. I play an NRI girl, a hep, young, New York University student. I am with Sridevi in every single frame of the movie,” she smiles. The Hindi film is shot in sync sound, and will be dubbed later into Tamil and Telugu.
The film deals with ordinary women, the circumstances that change their lives and how they handle them. Every character, big or small, is cast beautifully, says Priya. She also played an NRI in her last bilingual film “180”, a modern urban romance directed by ad filmmaker Jayendra. “‘180' was a tough emotional journey. ‘English…' is more playfuland bindaas.”
All her films, including “English Vinglish”, have been with another female co-star. “For a movie to work, every character you play has to be lovable. It also depends on how people connect with the role. Audiences recognise me. I have been lucky to have worked with wonderful directors, who come up with sound scripts. When you read a script, you get a feel of the character. Everything else becomes natural after that.”
Priya loves the sea in Chennai. Her day begins with yoga on the beach at 4.30 a.m. “I watch the sunrise. Then I go hahaha at the laughter club with thathas. I will never move out of Chennai because of the sea.” The Chennai girl says the Tamil film industry rocks. “It is open to alternative cinema. It welcomes and nurtures newcomers. The success of films such as “Mynaa”, “Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu”, “Kalavani” and “Vaagai Sooda Vaa” proves that the audience is discerning. They do not mind sad endings any more.”
Among her contemporaries, Nithya Menon, her co-star in “180”, is her favourite. “She is a natural and charming.” About the other newcomers, Priya says, “Oviya in ‘Kalavani' and Iniya in ‘Vaagai Sooda Vaa' are good. But, they are happy doing a particular genre, happy in their comfort zone. I am curious to see them perform outside it.”
Priya is at home with the Telugu audience too. Sekhar Kammula, known for his strong portrayal of women characters, cast her in the political drama “Leader” as Ratna Prabha, a feisty reporter. Her performance earned her recognition. In “Rama Rama Krishna Krishna”, she played Priya, a village girl. “I can never get over Ratna, my favourite character. She is crazy and thinks she can marry the CM because she wants Rs. 60 crore from him. I loved playing Priya too, the girl from Rajahmundry in paavadai, thavani and malligai poo…”
Priya is looking forward to meeting Sridevi again during the promotion tours of “English Vinglish”. “It's a fun, light-hearted film for everyone. The music is by Amit Trivedi. There is a Marathi folk song too. Dancing in front of Sridevi was insane. Every time I made eye contact with her, I would falter. Watching her perform is awesome,” she says.