Sai Pallavi talks about Dhanush’s ability to transform like a chameleon, Dulquer Salmaan’s acting tip, and how Nani tries to be natural even in a commercial film, in this interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Excerpts…
Tell us one thing you picked up from your co-stars. Let’s begin with Prakash Raj.
I know nothing about him. You can never see through that person. You don’t know if he’s happy or sad this minute. He is so guarded. If the other person is a little more vulnerable you’d be okay, but I was so uncomfortable around him because he was so tight. He was in character.
Sometimes when a person has so many layers on, you wonder whether the person is actually like that or because of the character they’re playing. I think Prakash sir has layers on him when he acts, and it looks way too real, and it’s so difficult for you to crack what he’s thinking. I want to learn that; it’s difficult to achieve.
He’s a great actor. It’s very easy for him to watch a person and imitate them exactly, believably. He’ll look at a scene Rajini sir has done and do it the same way. You’d be surprised that he did it. He’s like a chameleon. You show him something, and he transforms into that.
He’s such a sweet and innocent person. He has no feeling that he’s an actor. I’m not able to think of him as an actor anymore because we became more like friends on location. He’s a great, natural actor. In Action Hero Biju, he told me that he was playing a cop and sent me a picture. I asked, “shouldn’t a cop look fit and perfect?” He said, “No, just see.”
He had made sure the character was even more real. He’s very clever, confident, and somehow gets under the skin of the character; he owns it. In the end, even the director or the writer might feel that it was better than what they had expected.
We shot for so many days without him (in Fidaa). When he came, he was very quiet. Everyone in the set was pampering me. I wondered if he might feel uncomfortable. But actually, he was okay. In fact, when I used to take some time after a shot to correct myself, he was very patient. He told me “that’s what you have to do.” His understanding took a lot of pressure off me, because it was my first Telugu film and he was a huge star.
Dulquer is more like family. My sister and him are way closer. Half the time I’d be crying, sweating, going through pain, and my sister would be at his place eating.
There’s a scene in Kali where I had to feel jealous. I didn’t know if my acting was convincing. He told me, “Pallavi if you’re able to feel it within you, the audience will see it even if the camera can’t.” That was something that stuck to my head.
Even now, if my facial expressions don’t change much, I remember what he said, and it works. Sometimes, you feel an emotion within, and a tiny muscle would have moved, but I’m sure people would feel that emotion.
I like being part of a film’s plot. When Middle Class Abbayi happened, I told myself that I would try it out. When I was doing Fidaa, people around me told me that I might not like it. They were right. I didn’t like standing as a prop. It’s my personal opinion and it’s not that it’s wrong, because everyone can’t always ask for everything.
Even when the hero is fighting, I don’t like to be standing, because in that moment you’ll want to protect your guy and push the villain away. So, I’ve always felt uncomfortable when I don’t have to do anything in front of the camera. When I felt uncomfortable in some parts of the film, Nani said “I know how you feel, please don’t feel bad. This is just a phase.” He didn’t need to say that because he didn’t make me sign the film.
Nani is very dedicated. I think he was an assistant director before, and he still makes sure he’s grounded. He knows what everyone is doing and tries to make the environment as real as possible even if it’s a commercial film. He tries to make everything as natural as possible.
I was intimidated by him because of his work. There’s something about his eyes. You don’t know whether it’s love or hatred when he’s looking at you. His expressions are subtle but speak so loudly on screen. I’m not talking about just Athiran.
He told me that he wasn’t sure of doing films and took time off in the US. He said he decided to give it another try one day. He told me that he didn’t take a lot of pressure. That’s when I realized that pressure can bring you down. He said “every film that I do is either my first or last film. I don’t have a before or after.”
I am a huge fan. On the first day, I didn’t realize he was standing behind me. I gasped when I turned. You know, in films where you’re swept off your feet in a dramatic way, you lose your breath and are carried away? I felt that way. It was like my breath just stopped. And he saw that. He looked away, smiling.
Suriya sir has been in the industry for so long. He’s so disciplined. Sometimes, after doing a few films, you want to chill, and not do dialogues before you go to set. I’ve never seen him that way. He’s a perfectionist.