Actor Prachi Tehlan talks about how her prior experience of acting in TV helped her get into her character as the strongest woman in Kerala in Mamangam. By Team Viva
If given a chance, whose biopic would you like to act in as? Well, most common answers would be people’s role models and different ideals. But sportsperson-turned-actor Prachi Tehlan, who has made her debut in the South with period film Mamangam, opposite Mammootty, wants to make her own biopic since she looks at her life story as challenging if not inspiring.
“I have made films on boxing. If given an opportunity, I would love to showcase my own story because my journey in sports has been an adventurous one in various ways. If I get a good director and a writer, I would definitely share my experiences and a story can be made out of it, which doesn’t necessarily need to be about someone. It can simply be about sportspersons or the journey of a women’s basketball team. For instance, Chak de India!” says Prachi, also a netball and basketball player who has represented India at the Commonwealth Games 2010.
She tells us how joining the film industry was like a destiny’s call. “I had just randomly got a call for a role in a TV soap and I quite liked the character. It was basically an opportunity that came knocking on my door. I was nowhere near to films or TV. I took it as an opportunity and became an actor. But yes, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds because both the fields are very different,” says the actor, who made her TV debut with Diya Aur Baati Hum.
The process of reaching films has been very organic for Prachi as a prior experience with TV helped her. “When I started acting, my first step to understanding it came from TV as I was working on a daily soap. I was undergoing an intense training. I had to face the cameras everyday. That helped me a lot and I ended up bagging this role in Mamangam.”
Based in Valluvanad, a conservative town in Kerala, the film, which releases in four languages including Hindi, is a period drama that revolves around Chaver Thalavan (played by Mammootty) and Unnimaaya (played by Prachi). She says, “It’s a story that’s set around the time of the Mamangam festival, which was celebrated around 400 years ago in Kerala. It narrates a story of some unsung heroes during the time. My character is that of a devadasi, who is also an entertainer and a warrior.” Well, Unnimaya, who represents the strong old women of Kerala, quite resonates with Prachi’s real life journey and transition from being a basketball player to an actress.
Since the war drama features the martial art of Kalaripayattu, Prachi says that there was an intense training and research involved. “I watched films like Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, Urumi, which are also period dramas and come from similar eras, for reference. It did look challenging but I just went with the flow,” says she.
So how did she contemporarise the sensibilities? She replied, “I asked a lot of questions from the director. And he told me how it’s entirely different than what I have done before. But I didn’t find it that difficult because I have done TV. When you keep on playing the same character and bring out its different nuances on TV, you kind of learn how to adapt. I just had to adapt into a serious character and tend to understand it better.”
After working in two Punjabi films and now a Malayalam one, the actor has plans to work in Bollywood. But she believes that Malayalam cinema has a lot of scope as it caters to the sensible audience who is sensitive towards societal issues. “Malayalam films are the most sensible cinema made in India. They are very intelligent, sensitive to things and don’t like unnecessary commercial masala. Its audience likes to watch films that make sense at the end of the day,” says Prachi.
Only a few films from South India have had a mass appeal across India and globally, the most recent example being that of Baahubali. However, Prachi calls it a “wrong comparison.” “Baahubali is fiction but this is based on true events. There is a lot of difference. Baahubali was more commercial and very loud. It was exaggerated to appeal as a mass entertainer. But Mamangam is infused with very realistic elements. Here, the sets are original, and even the acting is subtle. The story is beautiful. It connects with the audience very emotionally,” she adds.
Saturday, 23 November 2019 | Team Viva
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