The past plays catch-up in the new ZEE5 original film, Ateet. Out last week, the suspense thriller is directed by Tanuj Bhramar and stars Priyamani, Sanjay Suri, and Rajeev Khandelwal. Priyamani plays Janvi, a mother whose life is disrupted when her former husband, presumed dead for years, returns to reclaim his family. Set against the backdrop of a military cantonment in the hills, the film offers heavy atmospherics with a supernatural spin. As Janvi cautions in the trailer, “Our stories become memories… and memories return.”
With the lockdown underway, we caught up with Priyamani to chat about the film, shooting in Ooty and Coonoor, her return to Hindi cinema and the rise of OTT-platforms in a post-Covid world.
Excerpts from the conversation:
What drew you to the premise of Ateet?
I’ve done this genre quite a bit in the South. But for Hindi audiences, I can definitely say it is my first. It’s a suspense-thriller. Yes, it has horror elements, but it’s not your regular horror film. It doesn’t have eerie music or people screaming or ghosts popping out. The horror portions are dealt with more subtly, with an English touch. It gradually pulls you in instead of being in-your-face. The setting is intriguing too. This is my first film with an army backdrop. We shot it predominantly in Coonoor and Ooty. Although I’ve shot in Ooty before, I’ve never visited these locations. The house you see is actually the manager’s bungalow of the plantation we were shooting at. We also filmed at The Lawrence School in Lovedale, with real school kids.
What excited you most about your character?
Ateet was offered to me even before The Family Man. I’ve played bold, in-your-face characters before but none like Janvi. She’s a feisty, protective mother. She dotes on her daughter and will go to any extent to safeguard her, even if it is from her own husband. There’s a line in the film where she says she can leave anyone for the sake of her daughter. Her safety and happiness is her only priority.
Both Sanjay and Rajeev are distinguished actors. How was it working with them?
I’ve followed Sanjay’s work since Jhankaar Beats (2003) and My Brother…Nikhil (2005). Suddenly, this man was in front of me and we were doing scenes together. What I discovered is that Sanjay is really funny on set. We had long night shoots and it was his sense of humour that kept us going.
Rajeev, when he came in, was more focused about his character.
He wanted to make his performance as perfect and convincing as possible. After takes, he would not be satisfied and want to do it again. He brought his own vision to the role of an army man. In all, it was great fun working with both of them.Six years after Chennai Express, you made your Hindi digital debut in The Family Man. You’re starring opposite Ajay Devgn in Maidaan. Tell us about your upcoming Bollywood projects.
I finished my portions for Maidaan in February, much before the lockdown was implemented. But the team has a lot of work left. It’s one film people will definitely sit up and take notice of. Apart from that, I have The Family Man season 2 coming up. It should be out by October-November. I can certainly say the new season will be bigger and better, as well as more gripping. At present, I’m listening to a lot of scripts — both films and OTT shows. I’m taking it slow with my work in Hindi. I don’t want to rush into projects.
What are you watching at the moment?
I’m watching a Turkish series called The Gift, on Netflix. I also finished the Norwegian show Ragnarok. It’s about a family who are actually Norse Gods living in secret in present times. I also saw Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Hasmukh. My husband (Mustafa Raj) and I are watching Four More Shots Please! on Amazon Prime.
I feel digital media is the next big thing in India. Not that we should completely avoid theatres later on — it’s our daily sustenance and we work for people to watch us on the big screen. But given the current scenario, I’d urge people to stay home, stay safe, and watch a lot of content on OTT platforms.