"I live life to the fullest and I see myself constantly evolving," this vibrant statement more or less sums up Padmapriya Janakiraman as a person. “I don’t know why, but I am called Pappu by those whom I know in Kerala.” That was indeed a new one, and there is much more to come.
At 19, Padmapriya thought that a Miss India platform would be good enough to present her feminist points of view and worked hard to win it; but only after she fulfilled her father’s wish to obtain a degree in MBA before taking part in the beauty pageant. Call it an irony of life, but this army kid, after being crowned in the South Zone and being selected to the first 30 at the All India level, had the sheer guts to say a big ‘NO’ to a platform for which she sweated it out for almost 7 years. The ability to say no does not come easy to most. “If I had won a Miss India title, I could have become a big time Bollywood actress. But then I understood that this was not my cup of tea. I don’t regret my decision. Today with 45 movies behind me and having vibed with some of the most brilliant directors and co-stars, I see life as half full and not half empty.”
Being an army kid has no doubt moulded her as a very strong person. “Being an army kid is super cool. It is a great plus point. There is no sport I have not tried my hand at: horse riding, basketball… you name it. Then come the etiquette and the confidence level. It is like a part and parcel of your life.” But then she reminds you when asked whether it helps in coping with a career in movies that, “just like any job, banking or in a corporate office, this field also has its insecurities. Especially in the higher order of the job profile, nothing is definite. The pressure is much higher.”
Though the Wikipedia would tell you that Padmapriya’s debut is the Telugu Movie ‘Seenu Vasanthi Lakshmi,’ our protagonist chooses to differ “I did a music album while I was in the 12th standard, in Andhra. And I have done ads too. The Telugu movie was done for the sake of friendship when I found time apart from my corporate work. If you ask me I would say that ‘Vadakkum Nathan (2006) is my debut movie from my perspective as I started taking this career seriously with that movie.”
This actor is also a trained dancer but interestingly Padmapriya says, “Cinematic acting totally differs from the theatrical acting in dance. I actually had to undo all that theatrical element to get into movie acting.” As one listens keenly, the lady laughs, “But having started performing on stage from the age of 4 1/2, I know very wellwhat it is like to feel really embarrassed. So today as long as I get my things right, I care a damn about what others think about me. I am a shameless goon.”
As one settles down to this fearless side to her personality, comes another one. “I am definitely a drama queen. And I love to be at the center of attraction. I am flamboyant by nature and actually get a bit annoyed when I am not noticed. But only as long as it has to do with my films and not on a personal level.” There is no mincing of words here. The words are sharp and clear.
Padmapriya is very sure about the characters that she has portrayed too.
Malayalee viewers would not forget Lakshmi (Kazhcha), Poongudi (Karutha
Pakshikal) or Neeli (Pazhassi Raja) to name a few. The roles were all
poles apart from Padmapriya, the person. “But I love what I do. And it
is the same with each and every character that I have done, small or
big. There is an effort that goes into each one of them. You get,
perhaps, connected to the intensity and in some, the moral values the
character upholds, like Neeli. That is it. I see to it that I am not a
mere passerby in a movie. Even the smallest bit I play, I make sure that
I am there. Whether it is Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘NaaluPennungal’ or
However, being the thinking actor that she is, Padmapriya is well aware
of an industry where crores are generated through superstars based on
their market value, which in turn depends on the demand, to which she
adds, “You cannot blame the actors. That is how things are. But on
my part, a movie is not hero or heroine oriented but just director
oriented.” But you need to listen further to this intelligent actress.
“The career span of a lead actress is short in India unlike in Hollywood
where a Meryl Streep who is above 60 or a Angelina Jolie in her 40s
still has a flourishing career, when they would do a movie in a year or
two. Even taking their pregnancy breaks and not missing any action at
all. But here, there is a wide change in perspective where especially
after a point, marriage and kids make it demanding and difficult for a
lead actress, technically speaking. She is constantly juggling
priorities. So I think it is just a natural choice for the female actors
to leave when they are actually at the very helm of their career.”
And she cites the example of the very talented Simran. “I like her a
lot. But now it is too difficult for her to bounce back after marriage.
The scenario is not going to change during my generation. And I don’t
know about the future.” And when asked about her co-star in her new
movie during an intellectual conversation on female actors in US our
lady gave a fitting reply asking back whether anyone would ask a super
star who his co-star is. So why bother about her co-star and instead, to be
more concerned about who the director is.
Padmapriya had the guts to do a mother role in the very beginning but
now she wants to break that mould by avoiding such roles. But here comes
the surprise. “I am sure to become a producer than a director as I am
an MBA graduate and time management comes naturally to me. But still, it
takes real conviction before becoming one.”
No New Year resolutions for our lady. “It is a nice time to party and
jam.” Army makes a soldier out of a man. And Padmapriya definitely has
it in her. But then she says, “I believe in maintaining love and
equality towards each other above everything else.” And you realise that
she carries a spirit that paves its own unique path and move on