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Exclusive! Kalyani Priyadarshan: I have learnt the most as an actor while working with Mohanlal in Bro Daddy

The actress, who is part of Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Bro Daddy, shares her experience working in the much-anticipated movies with Pranav Mohanlal and Mohanlal, the production quality of these films and more

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 08.06 PM, Jan 17, 2022

Exclusive! Kalyani Priyadarshan: I have learnt the most as an actor while working with Mohanlal in Bro Daddy
Kalyani Priyadarshan

You could sense the nervous energy in Kalyani Priyadarshan as she talks to us over a phone conversation. “I have never been this nervous,” she says. “I think it’s the general pressure that I don’t want to let people down in Malayalam. Also, when you are really excited about something is when you get anxious.”

The actress is completely justified with what she is going through right now, after all she is part of two of the most-anticipated Mollywood films – Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam that is set to release in theatres on January 21 and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Bro Daddy that will drop on Disney+ Hotstar on January 26.

In a candid chat with OTTplay, the Maanaadu actress shares her experience working in the two movies that she is “ridiculously excited about”, sharing screen space with Pranav Mohanlal and Mohanlal and more.

It’s not often that an actor gets to be part of two massive films featuring big names and that too releasing just days apart.

In a way, I wish that they weren’t releasing within five days of each other because the kind of anxiety I am going through is off the roof. But they are two big films and I am proud to be part of both. I am nervous and excited at the same time. It’s hard to describe because I have not been through this before.

Hridayam releases first. It has you working with Pranav Mohanlal. You have known each other since childhood. So, was there a particular ease with which both of you functioned in the movie?

Absolutely. We started the shoot with a song. I remember the first day we were on the set and I was extremely nervous. It didn’t have anything to do with Appu, that’s how it is for me on any set and I have to just get through that. At that point, they had finished shooting with Darshana (Rajendran). I had seen some footage and I obviously knew how good she is, and so I was nervous because I was hoping that my portions too would turn out well or otherwise the film was going to be one-sided. So, I was really praying it went well.

On the first day, we took a mini scene that comes in the song itself and I remember Vineeth chettan being so happy. He messaged me after we reached our rooms and said that everything he had envisioned, the kind of magic between our characters, was there and that too on the first day itself. He said we didn’t need any warm-up. I said all that came naturally because I have known this guy all my life, and I am comfortable around him and vice versa. So, it just flew from that day.

How much of Pranav was there in his character Arun?

In the way that his expressions are – his smiles and his spontaneous gestures – it’s 100% Appu, who I have known all my life. I thought that’s really nice because I believe the mark of a good actor is how they put themselves into a character. But at the same time, as laid back as the character is, there is a difference between Arun and Pranav. They are not the same people.

When you have two heroines in a film, do you tend to compare yourself with the other artiste as well because you want your scenes to be equally good, if not better?

I don’t need it for myself, but we needed it for the film. If the strength is not there in both stories and it doesn’t come off on the screen, then the film will fall flat. I don’t think she needed to be better than me or vice versa; it’s just both of us had to give it our very best or else the movie won’t work. I think it has come off exactly as Vineeth chettan imagined it while he wrote it.

Moving on to Bro Daddy, you must have grown up hearing about the acting skills of Mohanlal, who has collaborated with so many of your parents’ movies. So, how was it sharing screen space with him?

Forget hearing about it, I have witnessed his acting because I have been on the sets. But watching him perform and having to share screen space with him are two different things. I genuinely think he would fare really well as a director when it comes to bringing out the best performances from his actors. Because he is so good at what he does, he is helpful to you. It not only puts you at ease, it allows you to bring out your true potential. It’s really interesting to work with him that way because I have never felt that way with any other co-actor. I have learnt the most while doing Bro Daddy with him. When it’s not your shot, you could watch him to know the kind of detailing he puts in and it’s so effortless. You think that it comes natural to him but you know for a fact that he has thought about it. So, to watch that happen and be in that space was a learning experience.

Was there any feedback that he had shared with you, after your first scene together?

Actually, he was chill. He doesn’t give you feedback unless you ask him. He’s not the kind of person who is like ‘I need to tell you’. It just naturally happens without you even realising that he’s teaching you. The most important thing was that he was consciously trying to make sure it came across like that.

For instance, I was incredibly nervous for my first scene with him. I remember speaking to amma the day before and telling her, ‘I am incredibly nervous. I don’t know why. I have obviously seen him a hundred times and watched him perform. I know him. I have been around him a million times before, but this feels different. It feels very scary to me.’ And amma was like, ‘No, trust me. He is the coolest co-actor. You will be laughing on the set.’ I said okay and went to the sets the next day, which went really well. It was just like how she said, and I was laughing a lot basically from everything that he was doing and saying.

While we were setting up a shot, we were sitting and talking. At that point, I mentioned to him, ‘Lal mama, I was actually quite nervous when I came to the sets today, and I am really glad it’s going well.’ And he was like, ‘What? Are you nervous? I had no idea.’ He was in that zone where he was like why do you have to be all of this?

That evening, I went and told my mom what happened, and then she said, ‘I actually spoke to him in the morning and told him that you were nervous’. So, he was basically pretending that he had no clue what was happening, and that too with a straight face. It was funny for me to replay that conversation. This is why he is such a great actor because I had no idea he knew.

You said Mohanlal would make a great director because he’s also a great actor. Hridayam and Bro Daddy are helmed by Vineeth and Prithviraj, who are good actors themselves. How actor-friendly are their filmmaking styles?

I honestly think that actors who become directors know how to work well with artistes. I have come to realise that even the biggest actors tend to get insecure, and actor-directors know exactly what is going on in your mind before that take. I think because of that it was easier for both of them to put me at ease and deal with someone like me, who can count on one hand the number of Malayalam films I have done. I think I got very lucky that way.

From what little we have seen of the visuals of both movies, we can surmise that the production value of both Hridayam and Bro Daddy are high. How would you compare it with films from Telugu and Tamil, especially because you have been part of films from those industries as well?

I think big or small, the standards are huge at this point in Malayalam cinema. Even the films with the smallest of budgets that I have watched of late have all been stunning to me visually. So, I don’t think it has to do with the budget anymore. The kind of talent we have is so immense. In Malayalam cinema, great visuals have become a norm.

You have now done almost 10 movies across industries. At this point in your career, do you find the characters that are coming to you have a common trait, because most of them have been urban roles?

I think even though they are urban roles, the kind of films are different and so, there is something varied to explore. For instance, Hridayam is all about the moments. If the moments work, the movie works. Whereas, Bro Daddy is script-driven and is a lot more commercial. It’s a full-on comedy entertainer and you don’t stay in the moment as much as you stay in the story.

But do you have a genre of films that you want to be part of? For instance, your next movie Thallumala is again an entertainer.

I think at this point, I am not entirely sure what works for me and what doesn’t. For me, it’s about making sure that I enjoy going to work every day. I have genuinely been excited about whatever films that I have done so far.