Not every newcomer would get a powerful role in her debut film (Gangs of Madras) like Sai Priyanka Ruth, who effortlessly pulled off Razia Sultana, a character that swung bottles at men, showing care-a-damn attitude. “Not only that but also I had a ‘mass’ interval-block involving heroic slo-mo walks and a terrific background score,” smiles Priyanka.
The actor, who made heads turn with CV Kumar’s second directorial venture, says she would continue to seek roles that are different and off the beaten path. “There is zero thrill when you do a spate of usual roles. In fact, why I am content doing Gangs of Madras is that my role was a lot like me: bold and free-spirited. I didn’t ‘act’ at all. Razia talks like me and behaves like me. She is someone who uses her brain as much as she uses her physical strength. With so many strong female-oriented subjects around, it is a great time for women in Tamil cinema. If a role is honest, the audience will like it, for sure,” adds Priyanka.
The first-time actress cites this as a reflection of society. “It shows that women are taking charge of their lives. Of course, cinema is someone else’s imagination that gets translated on to the screen. But films do reflect the society that we live in,” observes Priyanka, who has earlier done smaller roles in several films.
Sai Priyanka Ruth believes only hard work and the right choices will keep her moving ahead in this cut-throat competitive world. “The film industry is a difficult place to be in. Especially, you are starting off and if you come across as choosy, it doesn’t go well with many. Moreover, I don’t have any backing. I am a self-made woman,” she shares.
Priyanka had auditioned for her role in Gangs of Madras. “I never knew CV Kumar sir would zero in on me. There were about 150 people and I made it to the final round. It is not that I had everything on the platter. I have been struggling to get good roles in cinema for a long time. After being an observer in the industry, I have learned that the audience wants to be surprised. Even if you do a scene in a film that works, they will Google you,” she smiles.
Is she a method actor? Priyanka notes, “I believe in the director’s vision and then add my bit to the role. CV Kumar sir had shown immense faith in me and I worked extra hard on my character: be it the action scenes or emotional ones. As an actor, I am open to risks and doing more roles that would bring me critical acclaim. When I was offered Gangs of Madras, I just grabbed it. I experienced a sense of fulfillment starting the first day of the shoot.”
The actor, candidly, admits she needed ‘end number of takes’ to get a few scenes right. “Nothing was easy!”
Sai Priyanka Ruth feels Gangs of Madras worked because of its strong female character. “The audience like opinionated girls. They are so used to seeing female characters who are confused and have problems crossing the road. With this film, I did things which a typical heroine will not do in Tamil cinema. Performing stunt sequences myself made me feel at par with men. I wish people accept female actors do stunts on screen,” she grins.
So, who is her inspiration? “Vijaya Shanti?” I ask Priyanka. She laughs, “I don’t follow anybody because if I start copying someone, I may lose spontaneity, which is my forte. That will kill the originality of my work!”
Priyanka isn’t a planner in life but wants to do more films in Tamil. “I simply want to be a part of good cinema that nurtures talent. Also, I request that filmmakers give more opportunities for Tamil-speaking heroines. I didn’t know how to act, but I sensed this is where I belong. Now, I am acting in films. Only when you plan for something, you care about the results. When you don’t, you leave it to destiny,” she concludes.