Southern spunk: Actor Priya Mani Raj on juggling cinema, web series, photoshoots
The actor, who is looking forward to the release of Narappa and Virata Parvam, talks about working during the pandemic, her career, and more
Priya Mani Raj is as pan -Indian as one can get. A Tamil girl with roots in Kerala, born and brought up in Bengaluru, who speaks Telugu and lives in Mumbai. Fun fact: She can speak six languages. “I’m on a roll with some awesome roles,” the actor is thrilled. Having gained one million followers on Instagram, she is flying high with plenty of projects in hand and acclaim all around—she has just signed two pan-Indian projects.
Priya has bagged two Telugu films, one each opposite Tollywood’s uncle-nephew duo Venkatesh and Rana Daggubati. Narappa opposite the uncle is a remake of the 2019 Tamil film Asuran. In Virata Parvam, she is Rana’s female lead. In Bollywood, she is awaiting the release of Maidaan, a Hindi football film where she stars with Ajay Devgn. Priya also has a firm foot in the OTT space. This summer, watch her in The Family Man Season 2 on Amazon Prime. Also trending is her role as Sakshi, a confident, independent high-flying chef (His Storyyy on Zee5) who discovers her husband’s true sexual orientation after 20 years of marriage. Meanwhile, Priya is also delighted to be on the jury of the Dhee Ultimate Dance Show on ETV. “God is being kind,” says Priya who is grateful for her numerous successful projects.
Is she having the best time of her life in the entertainment industry? “Surprisingly I am. I am in my mid-30s, married and keep shuttling between Mumbai and Dubai while the second wave of Covid-19 is messing with lives. But I’m still able to do shows, movies and photoshoots, yet have the time for my favourite evening stroll in the park outside my house. It’s as if every piece of the puzzle has fallen in place,” she says. Priya believes her success rate is 90 per cent and her career is steady and growing. Although magic happens for an actor the moment the camera is turned on, Priya reveals that the shoot is faster for OTT. “It’s sync-sound-shooting, which means less noise and nonsense. We shoot with two cameras and wrap up five to six scenes in a day and go home.”
She hates that the pandemic and her treadmill work schedule have stymied the annual one-month vacation with husband Raj this year. “We are busy with work throughout the year. We made a pact after our wedding four years ago that nothing shall come between our two vacations—one in summer and one during New Year.” Raj has an event management businesses in Mumbai and Dubai.
Three times she stood for a cause
● Asking for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to cancel board exams in view of the health and safety of students
● Promoting #IAmYellow to fight the ‘pink is for girls’ and ‘blue is for boys’ colour bias
● Calling out trolls who posted hate messages of #LoveJihad when she announced her engagement with Mustafa, a Muslim
However, not one to waste time, Pillu, as she is called at home, has used this time to connect with her fans through Insta-photoshoots. “During the lockdown nothing much happened except work. No award nights or red carpet events. Photoshoots seemed like a great way to stay motivated, look pretty and showcase the fantastic, creative work of designers, and, of course, keep my fans happy,” Priya confesses. Her Insta feed is replete with photos of her playing clotheshorse for Mehek Shetty, her favourite stylist. “They give my fans a heads-up on what to expect next. It could be the look of my upcoming movie or for an awards night.
Giving them a behind-the-scenes peek is a great way to connect.” No wonder she has gathered one million followers on Instagram alone. As her fans urge her to share her ‘fitness and beauty secret’, The Family Man actor says she is neither a ‘mani-pedi’ person nor a gym rat. “I’ve been doing a lot of household work to avoid outside contact. Plus my walk in the park and listening to music are enough to keep me fit and fab,” she states. Her Insta bio reads ‘God’s favourite’. Perhaps she is!