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'People in same-sex relationships also just want to be loved and accepted': Priyamani

The National Award-winning actresses on her role in 'His Story', lead roles for women in cinema and OTT shows, working in Bollywood versus the south, and season 2 of 'The Family Man'.

May 09, 2021 / 07:39 AM IST
Actor Priyamani in 'His Story'.

Actor Priyamani in 'His Story'.


Her latest Hindi language Web series, about a couple that confronts the reality of the husband’s sexuality after 20 years of marriage, is titled His Story, but it is equally her story. Her being Sakshi, the wife coming to terms with her husband Kunal’s closeted life as a gay man, and Priyamani delivers an earnest performance in the Alt Balaji series.

The National Award-winning actress (for Tamil film Paruthiveeran) familiar to a pan-Indian audience for her role as Suchitra in The Family Man has also won awards for her performances in Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada films. She speaks six languages and calls Bangalore, Mumbai and Dubai home.

On the phone from her parents’ home in Bangalore, Priyamani shared details of her latest show, upcoming work and what she is binge watching.

While playing Sakshi, how did you find the balance between the hurt and betrayal of a wife who learned her husband’s truth, and compassion and understanding towards a friend and father to her children?

I didn’t do much homework but the script readings helped me understand where she stands in this series, in the story, the way it progresses. Generally in such stories you reveal the shock later, but in His Story you know Kunal’s preference in the very first episode itself. However, Sakshi gets to know only by the second or third episode. I feel in the first half of the series she represents the mindset of society, just as her elder son expresses his prejudice against LGBTQ persons. Her reaction got to me because people react violently and angrily but she also still loves Kunal. At first she wants to save the marriage, partly because of society. But then she lets him go because they did have a wonderful life for 20 years with wonderful kids and he respects her.

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What attracted you to the story?

I believe in the idea of live and let live and people in same-sex relationships also just want to be loved and accepted.  I thought this was a beautiful love story between Kunal (Satyadeep Mishra) and Preet (Mrinal Dutt) but I also liked how Sakshi handles the whole thing – how she handles the truth and goes through the phases of blame, guilt, managing things and keeping it together. I loved Suparn Varma’s story and I am a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ and trans community. My husband also read it and said it is very strong content. And for Alt Balaji to come up with such meaningful content, it had to do well. Before the show came out, many people said, aiyyo, because when we think of Alt we think of bold content. But this show is not like that. Even some of my father’s friends have seen it and loved it. People should not cringe but open their minds and fall in love with the story and the characters we portray.

In the show, Sakshi is a celebrated chef. Is it true that you, Priyamani, are not much of a cook?

I don’t cook, but I eat. I can probably boil an egg to save myself. That’s why I came home to Bangalore, to be with my parents and to get fed well.

How does working in Hindi entertainment differ from working in any of the other film industries you have worked in?

The only difference is the language and in the crew. But even in the unit you will always find at least one South Indian. Besides that the only other difference is that in the south we start our day earlier, at about 7.30 or 8 a.m. whereas Bollywood is more relaxed and may start only by 9 a.m.

Hindi cinema and series seem to be offering meatier parts to actresses. Do you feel that there are better characters being written for women in other industries too, especially the South?

Yes, I think girls are being given a little more importance and author-backed roles, or at least very important roles that stay in the audience’s mind. For a long time, Bollywood has not cared much about the marital status of the actress but focused more on talent; for example Kareena Kapoor Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. In the South, till 10 years back, I noticed that once the heroine/artist gets married, the fan following declines and the industry feels she will give importance to her family and may have children. Someone who once played heroine to an actor would then be cast as his sister-in-law or sister. But now they are more open even in the South. Take Samantha Akkineni, Nayanthara and Kajal Aggarwal, for instance – they are all married but doing so well for themselves. Lead roles are being written for them opposite big stars. I too am reading scripts every day though OTT does give a little more importance to girls. As my husband says, digital is the future.

What kind of shows or films do you like to watch?

I am a big fan of Korean dramas and am binge-watching them. I feel you can identify with these stories and characters. I am speeding through Vincenzo. I also watched Sisyphus, Alice, Guardian, Descendants of the Sun, My Love from the Star, Rugal, The King: Eternal Monarch, Doctors and Tale of the Nine Tailed. They are such good actors with such nice skin. They are always eating ramen, but gain no weight. I follow so many of the Korean actors on Instagram now.

What else have you got coming up?

We are eagerly waiting for season two of The Family Man, which has got so much love and appreciation. Plus there is the Hindi film Maidaan and two Telugu films which are waiting to release. I have signed on three more films (Telugu, Kannada and Tamil). As for a second season of His Story, we have not thought of it yet. Let’s see.

His Story is streaming on Altbalaji.com
Udita Jhunjhunwala is a Mumbai-based writer, film critic and festival programmer.

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