Completing my education when I came down to India from the US, I hoped to get into film production. I wanted to assist director Shankar because I love his kind of films, portraying larger-than-life characters but a message hidden in them nevertheless. I had no idea how things work here and people I met suggested I should try acting. But I chose modelling as I thought I could still work side by side with some directors, but eventually ended up as an actress as I kept getting offers.
What is funny is I got to meet Shankar sir for the first time only recently after all these years. But the journey has not been easy. It’s been a lot of work; it took time and patience. I didn’t take every film that came my way because I wanted to shore up a good body of work. It’s easy to do every film and be in the spotlight all the time, but I purposely did only those films I wanted to do.
Fortunately, without any godfather and industry connection, I was in a position to choose. For me, language was not a problem and after Telugu and Tamil, I got to work in Hindi as well.
English Vinglish was not a conscious Bollywood move, but I accepted it only because I could work and meet my idol Sridevi. Many of my fond memories from childhood involve her. I used to write so many letters and I remember watching two Sridevi films in theatres on the same day. In school, my best friend and I would pretend to be Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi. I used to ask my mother to change my name to Pooja because that was Sridevi’s name in Lamhe. I let go of a big offer in Tamil this year for English Vinglish, but it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice. How many people get to meet their idol, let alone work with them? And English Vinglish was not another Sridevi film; it was special for her as it was her comeback film. She was so encouraging while shooting and a lot of learning happened at the sub-conscious level.
Now I have just completed shooting for my next Hindi flick with Priyadarshan and Santhosh Sivan. I have almost completed shooting for Telugu film Ko Anti Kote, which is also the first line of my favourite Sridevi’s song in Telugu. I’m really excited about the project because the character I have played is the best I have ever done. In Tamil, I’m working in Ethir Neechal, produced by actor Dhanush. You can’t plan much in this industry and that’s the best lesson I have learnt working here.
With the little fame I’ve got, I’m supporting a few organisations that work for the welfare of children. I was able to raise funds for the education of 100 children with the help of my industry friends. But I don’t want to take on bigger responsibilities now as I have a long way to go and still much to fulfil.
(Priya Anand is an upcoming actress in Tamil and Telugu film industry)
(As told to Venkadesan S)