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U-Turn Exclusive! Priyanshu Painyuli: One Instagram user called me Irrfan Khan after seeing my performance

Priyanshu Painyuli played the role of Arjun Sinha in U-Turn

U-Turn Exclusive! Priyanshu Painyuli: One Instagram user called me Irrfan Khan after seeing my performance
Priyanshu Painyuli, actor

Last Updated: 06.43 PM, May 26, 2023


Priyanshu Painyuli is undoubtedly among the most underrated actors in the Hindi film industry. He can nail a shy Robin and make ‘yeh bhi theekh hai’ a sensation and at the same time, Priyanshu can play the role of a strict cop who has a heart of gold, Arjun Sinha, in U-Turn. We at OTTplay caught up with the actor to understand his preparation for Arjun better and what Priyanshu has been feeling since U-Turn’s OTT release. The actor spilled some interesting details about how he is being compared to some legends from the industry, including Irrfan Khan. He also spoke about Mirzapur 3 and gave some more updates on his upcoming projects.

Excerpts from the interview…

What kind of response did you receive for U-Turn? Any that stuck with you?

There was one comment on my Instagram. One guy said, “Aap agle Irrfan Khan ho.” I’m of course a huge fan of his but I don’t think I can take that compliment right now. I’ll take some more time to reach to the level of Irrfan sir(’s acting). When I get a comment like that, I know I’m on the right path. It’s such kind of comments that make you want to come back on screen. I don’t know when will I reach the level of Irrfan sir but that is the idea. People loved him and still love him so that is huge. He’s still alive with us through his performances.

Another user said I’m the best in uniform roles. I had one in Rashmi Rocket too, where I played an army guy. I explored that and now want to do other things too. I love the overall response. My intention was to not just play a cop but a different side of him. It is the side of my character that connected to a lot of people.

When you realized that the film was going to be a direct-to-OTT release, what was your reaction to that? Did you somewhere wish that the film should have released in theatres?

Business-wise, we’re still trying to get back the hold of theatres. People are getting busy with work. Post-pandemic, people have gotten back to movie theatres but they’re also working and trying to earn their living back. I don’t know how many people are going to cinemas for something except Shah Rukh sir. The theatres are difficult to pull, even now. It’s still picking up. Me, Alaya, we’re younger actors. We just wanted to showcase our work and put a good story out there. OTT platforms are the best way to do that. People do sit and watch content while travelling or when at home. They are still glued to the OTTs. I’m hoping that I have some theatrical releases this year and I really hope that by the time those release, people want to go to theatres. Of course, watching a film in cinema is the biggest experience. OTT, however, reaches the masses sooner and is easier for them to consume and relate to. A story like ours going to OTT really helped. It’s a nice, crisp, fast-paced thriller and the platform is also quite massy and global. Definitely, to put the story out there through OTT is the best way.

There are many remakes of U-Turn. There are International version of it too. Any that you caught up with before signing on this project?

I did watch the Samantha (Telugu) one. It came out in 2016. Post-pandemic, they called me up to narrate the story. I realized that I heard the story somewhere but it’s very different. When they finished the narration, then they told me that it’s adapted from U-Turn. I said exactly but during the narration, I was glued to it. It felt very new and fresh. It’s a very new plot from the other U-Turns made. That is why me and Alaya kept saying before the release that it is an adaptation. It is another version of the same plot. The fact that people die is similar but the second half is different. I give the example of how Superman, Batman have different versions and approach. The story is the same but you still watch it. My character also changed. We realized that it is how the chemistry should be.

What did you enjoy the most while playing Arjun Sinha? He’s someone who’s constantly surrounded by crime but retains this good heart. What would you say you enjoyed the most in the role?

I hadn’t played such an aggressive character as a cop. There’s the one side and the other side where he’s off-uniform. As you rightly said, it’s his heart because of which he connects to Radhika and wants to help her out. He believes she’s not a suspect but is doing things for a good cause. That is when he connects with her. He entered the force because he has a good heart and wants to do something for the society. That’s what connects him to Radhika. The two shades is what I loved.

Especially during the interrogation, he shouts at her. He’s very strict as a cop but has another side too. That is always nice for me to find. It’s always the human side of the character that I love to find. It was interesting too.

Like you rightly mentioned, he has two shades. So, did you try to understand his thought process because of which he is the way he is? As a cop, he is constantly surrounded by crime and there’s the constant pressure to be right but not being able to do right completely. That is probably the reason for his strict nature. Was that the thought process behind the character?

I took references from and learned from people in uniform. My father was one of them. I learned that they have a pokerface and hide emotions. You wouldn’t know about the things going on inside their head, especially when they are investigating something. It might come out later but not in front of the people they are talking to. Those were the nuances I was trying to find. Looking at blood and everything, he might feel bad but as a cop, the investigation comes to all that. The emotions only come out in the curiousity of trying to find the culprit.

The scene is really like is when he enters the lawyer’s house. He just pushes himself and uses his power. I really like the scene because you see his shades in that one scene. He’s being gentle, he’s there outside, while the lawyer keeps on shouting. Then he takes power, pushes him, walks inside, checks his doors and even apologizes when he sees a baby crying after opening one door. That was very sweet. There is that side to him too. He then walks out and with just one snap, he tells him to close his doors and windows. So, everything is there in that one scene.

We of course know how your Mirzapur 2 character Robin brought a breath of fresh air and became popular. Any update about the upcoming season?

We’ve shot for it last year. It is on and everyone’s waiting for season 3. There’s going to be a lot of shock and surprises. People will be shaken by what’s going to happen in this one. I’m really waiting for everyone to see the action.

Till date, people keep saying ‘Yeh bhi theekh hai.’ Somebody told me that back in the 80s, there used to be catchphrases which are used till date. My dialogue, they feel, has become as iconic.

Apart from Randeep Hooda, you and Pankaj Tripathi were a part of Extraction. Any plans to surprise us with such a project again?

It was the first one where Bollywood and Hollywood collaborated, in India. It was how I entered the Hollywood market too. I’m really glad about it. We’re not going to be a part of season 2.

I’m hoping to do something. I have an agent who was pitching me for projects abroad and hopefully, something works out soon. Last year, things were about to work out but I had Indian commitments. Post-pandemic, everything was piling up and some projects got pushed. So I missed out on some projects which were very interesting and good International projects. Since I had committed here, I’m not complaining. I had some great projects even here. All the projects I’ve been shooting for the past two years will release now.

Will they release back-to-back then?

Yeah, I think most of them. I have a show which I just started shooting, Pippa which we announced, that will be out. There’s Mirzapur season 3 and there’s a show which I’m heading. So, everything has come out together. All of them are stories which are extremely different and all very different characters.

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