From the time I was 18, I was determined to move out of my hometown Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and make it big in the film world. I moved first to Mumbai, but was given my first break by director Priyadarshan. Since then, there has been no looking back.
My role of journalist Saraswathi in ‘Ko’ received a lot of critical acclaim. It’s not that I did anything particularly different in it. I was careful to underplay the role a little—to allow the subtleties of emotion speak more rather than dramatise every move.
I think she really caught the viewer’s attention in the death scene. It was the first time I was doing such a scene and I knew that for it to work, the viewer must feel something—pain, sorrow, grief. And it was in that moment that the character’s real grit and courage is on display.
I have been waiting for a film like ‘Ko’ for about two years now, because even though I have done four other Tamil films, none have worked very well, either because the film wasn’t too great, or my role wasn’t.
Having made my way from north India, I have worked in two south Indian film industries—Tamil and Telugu — and now am experiencing a third as I shoot for a Malayali film ‘Masters’. I have always wanted to work in Malayalam as I’ve heard it is one experience that every actor in south India must go through. The work culture in the south is extremely professional, and despite a language barrier, I have coped. In fact, I have managed to straddle three industries without many difficulties!
I always make it a point to memorise my lines with the exact pronunciation. In that sense, Telugu was the best, as I think it was the easiest for me to pronounce.
Life away from work
In my personal life, I am not a party person. I have a few good friends, and that’s it. For emotional and moral support I depend on my family. The thing about the film world is, when you meet people at a party or social gathering, they are invariably very nice and sweet. But when it comes to work, professional rivalries crop up and that niceness no longer exists.
Back to Bollywood?
I’m not in any hurry for Bollywood right now. Yes, I would like to experiment there at some point, but if you look at the industry at present, there are so many Tamil and other south Indian films being re-made in Bollywood. Even south Indian music is being taken up there! So this is the industry that’s booming.
The breaks I’ve been given, combined with luck and circumstances, have allowed me to do all these films in south India. But for me, this is just the beginning. After the success of ‘Ko’, I am all the more determined to work harder and make a name for myself in the south. It feels good to be appreciated for one’s work and I want a lot more of that coming my way.
Piaa Bajpai is an actor and model, who has appeared in Tamil and Telugu films.