'I am not Nayanthara to be able to bring the audience to the theatre on my own'
...says actor Sai Priyanka Ruth, whose lead role in last week's Gangs of Madras has won widespread acclaim
What strikes you first about Sai Priyanka Ruth is her unwavering confidence and sense of achievement. It almost seems to be an extension of her character, Raziya Sultana from last Friday's Gangs of Madras in which she plays a wife avenging the death of her husband. "I'm tomboyish in nature, so it was actually easier to do the action sequences than the romance portions. People say I've done well in the love sequences, but only I know how much effort I put into them," she smiles.
About the feedback she's been receiving, the young actor says, "Everyone's appreciating my performance in the film. Some said they were under the impression that such a film can only be done by A-list actors, and were surprised I could pull it off." Priyanka, who has previously done smaller roles in several films, adds, "I've auditioned for many films and that's how Gangs of Madras happened too. There were about 120 people who auditioned alongside me and I wasn't selected instantly. I got the call for a screen test after a month."
Did she later ask the makers how they zeroed in on her? "No, I didn't. I was just glad to get the break; I'd been looking for recognition for so long. And to be honest, I'm not Nayanthara to bring the audience to the theatre on my own. So I'm glad CV Kumar sir (the film's producer and director), who had not seen me before the auditions, trusted in me. It was a huge opportunity and the only thing on my mind was to make the best of it."
The actor is glad that she knew it was a female-centric film and about the revenge knot during the audition phase itself. "Once I got to know about the script, I knew that I was fated to play Raziya. My attitude and the way I carry myself felt perfect for the role." About her preparation for the role, she adds, "Right after the audition, the full script was narrated to me. Everyone in the film knew only their portions; I was the only one who knew the entire story. I read just the script over and over again for a week. It had details about how the character walks and talks too, and that really made my job easier and helped me get into the skin of the character."
On how she feels about her character being written by a man, she says, "I don't think a woman could've written such a massy role, but that's what you want in a character that swings bottles at others. None of the scenes written for me had anything feminine in them. Be it the fighting scenes or the ones where I get hit, you can imagine a man in the same role."
Priyanka also didn't mind about the grittiness of the film or the resulting 'A' certification. "Irrespective of the content, I've given my best. It's up to the audience to decide whether they want to see it or not. Pudicha paarunge, pudikalena paakadheenge. If a character demands something, as an actor, I'm supposed to do it." Given the film's gruesomeness, it's rather surprising that she didn't get any training for the action sequences. "We were keen on making the scenes look natural and did not want to resort to artificial sounds or unrealistic shots. We didn't use any beds or ropes for the action shots. Though I didn't get special training, I followed the action choreographer's instructions to the T."
Despite turning a lead actor with this film, Priyanka says she's open to experimenting with different roles. "I know that I don't want to do the generic heroine roles and be someone who appears in unnecessary songs. I prefer performance-oriented roles and now that I've proved what I can do, I hope I get more such challenging projects. I feel that playing a menacing villain would be a good idea."