Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Chance Meeting With A National Award Winning Actress and Danseuse

It is not everyday that you meet a national award winning actress. One who has acted in over 30 films and won several awards and accolades for her performances in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi movies. One who has worked with stars such as Mammooty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi Jayaram and Siddharth. One who is a dancer with over 200 public performances to her credit. And one who is an MBA with a penchant for quantitative analysis. So, when the former Ms. Andhra Pradesh (2001), Padmapriya came home to visit her Marketing Professor Dr. Rajendra Nargundkar from her MBA days at Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies, the other day, it was indeed a pleasure meeting her.
Padmapriya with her Professor, Dr. Rajendra Nargundkar

As a former beauty pageant winner, a model and an accomplished actress there is no need to say again that Padmapriya Janakiraman is very pleasant to look at, but what strikes one is the humility and girl-next-door normalcy she carries. Padmapriya’s father was a brigadier in the army (thanks Wikipedia) and she pretty much toured all over India after being born in Delhi - before the family settled down in Hyderabad. She did her schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Trimulgherry college at Loyola Academy, Alwal and then MBA at KIAMS. Then she worked with GE in Bangalore and Gurgaon, Symphony in Bangalore, before modeling, acting and so on. The page on her in Wikipedia is exhaustive in all these details. 

I looked at the page in surprise. For someone who had made her debut in 2003 with a Telugu film ‘Seenu Vasanthi Lakshmi’, Padmapriya has essayed some difficult roles. A sexually exploited sister of a blind man, a mother of three children and a victim of the Gujarat earthquake (opposite Mammootty), a college girl, a salesgirl, a street beggar, a helpless wife kidnapped by an alcoholic former husband, a street prostitute and a tomboyish wife – to mention some is a huge variety of roles. She starred in some of the biggest grossing Tamil and Malayalam movies (her comedy with Mammootty, ‘Rajamanikyam’ is considered one of the highest grossers in Malayalam cinema) as well, is commercially and critically acclaimed. She has been directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, has made her Hinid film debut in ‘Striker’ opposite Siddharth and has won awards ranging from the National Award for Pazhassi Raja to Filmfare awards, State Film Awards in Tamil and Malayalam films, Asianet awards. In short, this young woman has seen it all.

Fortunately I have seen her work in the movie ‘Andari Bandhuvaiah’ which was directed by my friend Chandra Siddharth and also had another friend RK acting in it. It took me a minute to figure out that she was the same and then it all fell in place. Padmapriya looked good, was fresh, acted spontaneously and highl competently and had a definite presence in the movie (which Shobha and I saw together and discussed her role specially). To me she was the best part of the movie and I wondered what happened to her later. In the Telugu screen, apart from Swati, whom I rate highly for her skills as a versatile actor, I felt Padmapriya was certainly one to watch out for. Unfortunately she has done only two movies in Telugu and she said she was doing another one now. ‘I don’t know if the industry wants female actors who can act,’ she says.  I hope they do. No in fact I know they do, what with a new breed of directors like Mohana Krishna coming up with great stories that treat women actors well. 

At ease and with her feet up, Padmapriya revealed that she has definite plans for her future where she foresees a career in Public Administration sometime (which she emphasizes as something she is good at) apart from furthering her acting forays. ‘Hollywood, who knows,’ she smiles. ‘Acting with Johnny Depp.’ I don’t see why not. I could not resist the opportunity to gift this young achiever copies of my two books. She does not understand cricket one bit and tried her best to get out of accepting a gift of ‘The Men Within’ (I will definitely not read this) but since I gave I along with a copy of ‘If You Love Someone…’ she accepted them both. ‘I read a lot,’ said she as she took the books. Since there were two Professors from USA at home that day, Raja and Satish, she discussed at length the possibility of further studies, a Ph.D. in the US in areas of her interest such as Public Administration. She also discussed ‘Brand leadership’ a topic on which she is due to deliver a lecture at the IMT, Nagpur next month. She spoke of her movies, of the industry. ‘They are bankable projects,’ she says confidently.  ‘Better than the stock market.’ 

What I saw of her as an actress was really impressive as she was in ‘Andari Bandhuviaiah’ and I told her so. What I saw of her as a person was equally impressive – she is intelligent, articulate and sharp. If anything might go against her it is the multitude of options that she has at her command owing to her experiences and interests in various areas and fields. And that is also her biggest strength of course. She retains a very normal side to her despite having achieved much in such a short time. I told her that as a viewer I could connect to her and felt that she had greater things in store in this area. In Tollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood, wherever. To which she smiled brilliantly and said ‘Thank you.’  I forgot to add, she has greater things in store for her anyplace she chooses to. If she does not get in the way of course. Here’s wishing you good luck Padmapriya and hoping to see to you growing higher, achieving more and getting all the fame and its attendant privileges that you deserve. I shall certainly go back now and view your other films, Striker, being the first. Your future films, Shobha and I will certainly watch them all. And I am sure Anjali, Raja and Satish will as well.


Hmmm said...


Havent been logging in too often these days... but good to see you write about someone as good as Padmapriya... there are certain expressions great actresses have and when i saw 'Andari Bandhuvayya' i thought hello wait this actress is doing great. I saw her recent Mallu film 'Kutty Srank'...she was amazing - her character has a certain silencing and calming feel to it at different times (i mean we are sometimes 'silenced by questions' as we are 'calmed by answers'). She did stunning job to get these to expressions right! Comparison is a wrong thing to do but she towers over Meena Kumari and Kamalinee Mukherjee in the movie...

On a different note, I think you should start doing more recognizable work with these 'interviews' of yours... more than a blog (which is good) probably... something with a wider(popular) reach! i donno whatelse hehehe... but you deserve to be read MORE!

Harimohan said...

Thanks Hmmm,
Good to see you back. Agree with you totally on Padmapriya and I do hope she does a lot more work in Telugu films. Have not thought of the blog interviews that way, yet, but point well taken. Hopefully will do something with wider reach soon.