Priyanka Jawalkar has just had back-to-back releases with Satyadev-starrer Thimmarusu and SR Kalyanamandapam. In this interview with Hriday Ranjan, she talks about why she chose to be a part of these films (her last role was in Vijay Deverakonda-starrer Taxiwala), how she navigated the pandemic, and her take on why there aren't as many female actors in Telugu cinema who can speak the language. Edited Excerpts…
Thimmarusu has gotten decent reviews and SR Kalyanamandapam is doing well in theatres. How do you feel having back-to-back releases?
Thimmarusu was a unanimous hit and everyone felt it was good. SR Kalyanamandapam had mixed reactions. Some liked it and some didn't. There's no middle ground in the response to that film. Because I'm coming back after a gap, it feels nice. I wish the releases were at least a month apart. Now, everything is happening at the same time.
How was the pandemic for actors?
I didn't have the bank balance to survive all through the pandemic. I had money from the first schedule of SR Kalyanamandapam. That helped me survive. And like every other person, I chilled out at home. I cooked a lot. I used to play a lot of PUBG.
Timmarusu was a legal drama cum police procedural. While SR Kalyanamandapam was a nostalgic kind of a film. What did you see in the two scripts when you heard them?
After Taxiwala, 'Maate Vinadhuga' was a superhit and I started getting offers from Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. I heard a lot of narrations. When I told Vijay [Deverakonda] that I wanted to work with a specific actor, he told me that I should focus on the story. Even though I got offers to work with bigger heroes after Taxiwala, there was nothing for me to do in the films. Just ten to fifteen minutes of screentime and a song or two.
At the same time, I wanted to work with comparatively new heroes. If these heroes can deliver a hit, people are ready to accept them. Every hero I'm working with has the potential to be a successful hero. That's what I look for. There's a lot of calculation.
If it weren't an industry that completely revolved around heroes, what would be your ideal script? What's the kind of film you want to make?
I really like what Taapsee did recently with Haseen Dillruba and Manmarziyaan. I love my feminine side. So, my character doesn't always have to be equally powerful or stronger. I believe in the idea of Shiva and Parvati. I believe there's a reason for me to be so fragile. If that's shown in the film along with the hero, I'm good with it.
You're an actor who can speak Telugu…
I learnt to read and write Telugu in school. I am Marathi and we speak Marathi at home. My school was a Christian missionary one where you were supposed to only speak English. So, I had to work a lot on my Telugu speaking skills. I took a few months of dialect classes before Taxiwala.
You're considered a 'Telugu ammayi' now in the industry. Why do you think we don't have enough actors like you who dub their own lines?
The one positive thing is that the industry doesn't care about language and gives everyone an equal chance. The other perspective is: how many Telugu-speaking heroines do we have? For more girls who speak Telugu to come in, they need at least one actor who is established and doing well. If one or two of the handful of heroines who can speak Telugu now make it, then the next generation might give it a shot.