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IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

A software engineer; a fashion designer; a painter and now a top-notch actor. Makes you wonder- is there anything that Priyanka Jawalkar can’t do? Well, in the crowd of rank newcomers who made their acting debut in 2018, this prodigious find stood out and impressed all and sundry. Her confidence and talent swept audiences and critics off their feet in her debut film, Taxiwala. With a non-starry vibe, she has been ensconced as the leading star of her gen. In a tête-à-tête, she bares it all – how she found her feet in tinsel world and, of course, how Taxiwala happened.

LATEST BUZZ
On debut film garnering rave reviews…
I feel elated to hear and read that my performance was appreciated and acknowledged even though my role was limited. That I could create a positive impact and make everyone laugh feels amazing.

Overwhelmed by praise?
Not at all. I don’t let failure or success affect me personally. I learn from them but I don’t let them take over my life.

How did Taxiwala happen?
I had sent my pictures to Geetha Arts, and they asked me to go for an audition for a couple of movies. I auditioned for Taxiwala & bagged the role, though it took them two months to take the final call.

Did you style yourself?
Yes. During the two-month waiting phase, I would meet the director and other unit members. Surprisingly, they liked what I wore and how I carried myself. They felt my outfits & looks complemented the character Anusha & insisted that I do it myself. Since I didn’t have any commitments per se and had a lot of free time, I went for it.
I even did the CG coordination for the VFX shots and designed an outfit from scratch for the doll that had a vital role in the film. So, I was associated in almost every aspect.

Could you relate with Anusha?
No! She is an extrovert, dates a cab driver, spontaneous and can easily talk to anyone & anywhere. That’s not me! I admit I am an introvert but now after many promotions and interviews, I have opened up a bit. I don’t hang out with my friends - they either come home or give me a ring.



Tipsy intro
Yes, that was for my introduction scene; only because I wasn’t able to get it right. So my director urged me to have alcohol to help me loosen up a bit. Finally, I could get the scene right.

Any unforgettable incident?
Every day was fun, and I had a blast. It was more like a college environ where you have that healthy senior-junior camaraderie. You will be surprised to know that a few people were experienced on the sets, rest were debutants or one-film old. A nice experience!

On working with Vijay…
He is pretty cool. I neither got that ‘star’ vibe from him nor did I feel the need to behave in a certain way or check my words while conversing with him. He was helpful, knowing that it was my first time. I told him that I hadn’t told my parents that I had started shooting for Taxiwala. I was skeptical that I might get thrown out if I couldn’t prove myself. He laughed and responded that he faced the same situation too during his first film.

…director Rahul Sankrityan
He is a perfectionist. Rahul urged me to be on sets from day one so I could get accustomed to the routine. So the next day when I reached the sets, I heard that the 23rd take was happening for a particular shot. Everyone was praising his professionalism. That made me wonder whether I could deliver my best or not. But he always had my back and ensured I got the shot right. I was quite nervous when I faced the camera for the first time. To help me gain confidence, he insisted I shoot only one scene a day.

Upcoming projects
I have heard nine narrations so far, but haven’t come across anything exciting or challenging. It also goes without saying that the second film is the career-decider for an actor. Hence, I prefer to wait & opt for meaningful cinema.



REWIND
Formative years
I was born and brought up in Anantapur. My mother, like any other typical Indian parent, wanted me to score good marks since most of my cousins were rank holders. Though I was an average student, I was quite creative, and used to indulge in acrylic painting. I studied B.Tech Computers at Anantapur, worked at an MNC in Hyderabad and then pursued a diploma in Fashion Clothing & Technology at NIFT Hyderabad.

Why fashion designing?
It is in my DNA. My mother is a designer and runs a large-scale business in Anantapur. I have grown up watching her taking it to great heights, and was hence inspired. My mother was insistent that I complete B.Tech first and then pursue fashion designing.

Why acting then?
While pursing the fashion course, I got a message from Subash Chandra of MR Productions on FB, if I was interested in acting in a short film. I checked their profile which was quite impressive and decided to give it a shot to see how I look onscreen. Both my Telugu short films Possessiveness and It Is A Girl Issue garnered more than a million views on Internet and were a big hit. I got many film offers after that but I rejected them as I was not too keen on films at that time. Later, I went to the US to figure out what to do next. Luckily, I found interest in pursuing Statistics. But thanks to the success of the short films, people started recognizing me.

It came as a surprise to me that both my short films could make me so popular, that too in a foreign land and in such a short span. I decided to give films a try. I returned from the US after 2 years & underwent a 4-month acting course & dialect training at Bhikshu Acting School.

Initial struggles
Nothing prominent. But because Taxiwala took two years to get released, I was badgered with questions- “What are you doing? and “When will your film release?” Generally, a film gets released in maximum 4 months. It took 2 years for me. Vijay had become a star after Arjun Reddy, so expectations were at its peak.

UP AND CLOSE
The real Priyanka… Is straight forward, has no filter on her mouth & speaks her mind.

Imagine life away from films?
Yes, I am not dependent on it, and know it won’t last forever. It’s a temporary and uncertain field. Luck, dedication, scripts and box office decide your fate. Besides, we have debutants every year. So yes, I can see myself away from this industry, maybe trekking, hiking.

Change about yourself…
Eat as much as I want and not put on weight.
Fitness regimen
I used to kick-box and hit the gym before Taxiwala but after its release I stopped, and put on some weight. I am back to kickboxing now.
Beauty regimen
I have made peace with pimples, acne, etc.
I know it will happen and hence, don’t give it much thought. But yes at times, I do apply homemade masks.
Message to your fans
Stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Chiranjeevi should give such messages, not first timers like us. I am just happy that I received so much love for my first film and that they have accepted me as a Telugu girl.

RAPID FIRE
Favourite street food: Pani puri
…word: Yeah, yeah
…emoji: Upside down smiley
Last book you read
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Last person WhatsApped you
My stylist
Any weird habits?
I used to bath first and then brush.
Twitter or Instagram?
Twitter feels professional and all biggies are there. Instagram for life.
On your wish list
To go on another trek. I recently trekked on the Himalayan range.
Inspired by?
Every woman inspires me in some way. For instance, I am aware that you interview so many people in a day. So you have inspired me!
Most embarrassing thing
I was having breakfast with my friends in Goa, and I suddenly froze as I felt I saw my ex-bf.
I panicked and spilled coffee all over. The worst part- it was not even my ex.
Strangest thing ever eaten
A duck’s tongue in New York

 
 
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