Shanthi Priya interview: ‘We never had the chance to method act like Ranveer Singh’ - Hindustan Times

Shanthi Priya interview: ‘We never had the chance to method act like Ranveer Singh’

ByNeeshita Nyayapati
May 11, 2024 06:13 AM IST

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, actor Shanthi Priya opens up on love, her career, making a comeback with Vetrimaaran’s next production and more.

Ask Shanthi Priya about her life, and what she tells you plays out nothing less than a dramatic film. Entering the film industry in her late teens and tasting success, falling in love and getting married in her early 20s, being widowed by her 30s with two young sons to look after…and yet, keeping her passion for cinema alive, she perseveres. (Also Read: Shanthi Priya: Sarojini Naidu biopic is the best project to come back)

Shanthi Priya is gearing up for a grand comeback.(Instagram)
Shanthi Priya is gearing up for a grand comeback.(Instagram)

“Life is good now, and I look forward to doing memorable work. But the way movies are made has changed so much now; there’s both good and bad to it,” says Shanthi in a candid chat with Hindustan Times about her comeback.

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‘I was in love and in a haze when I left the film industry’

Shanthi was so famous in the 80s and 90s that there was a point where she juggled Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films. Despite starring in successful films like Meherbaan, Maharshi and Sirayil Pootha Chinna Malar, she gave it all up because she fell in love with actor Siddharth Ray, grandson of filmmaker V Shantaram. “I was in love and in a haze, all I wanted was to get married. But back then, female actors didn’t find enough work after marriage. Today, it’s different, and I’m glad it has changed. Content is king now,” she says.

Shanthi Priya with Akshay Kumar and Siddharth Ray.
Shanthi Priya with Akshay Kumar and Siddharth Ray.

The actor was initially credited on-screen as Nishanti when she started working in Tamil films in the late 80s. But she clarifies that she hasn’t changed her name, which has always been Shanthi. “My sister’s name is Bhanu; when she began acting, she was credited as Bhanupriya. They changed my name to Nishanthi, but it sounded so negative we changed it back to Shanthi. The Priya was added due to my sister’s screen name,” she explains, adding, “Gradually, the name Nishanthi faded into oblivion, and I became just Shanthi Priya. (laughs)”

Shanthi Priya with her sister, actor Bhanupriya.
Shanthi Priya with her sister, actor Bhanupriya.

Shanthi’s sister was also quite a hit with the masses, and she was known for her roles in films such as Dosti Dushman and Swarnakamalam. While Shanthi was often compared to her sister, she was never ‘put down,’ she says. “I admire her so much and people always compare how we dance. I feel proud when they tell me her eyes speak. But because I’m human, I would still feel a tinge of envy; I would feel like I could also do what she does and just as well. (laughs) But my driving force was always to make sure she’s proud of me too,” adds the actor.

‘Ranveer can method act now; we weren’t allowed to do that’

These days, Shanthi is all about trying new things that take her out of her comfort zone - be it with her roles or otherwise. “I am learning ballroom dancing, I recently walked as a showstopper at a fashion show, and I love replying to fan comments on my Instagram because we no longer get letters like we used to from fans,” she rattles off when I ask what she has been up to.

She makes no bones about loving the direction the film industry is taking now, even if she has some reservations. “A casting director selects what’s best for the film now. Women are allowed to go makeup-free on-screen, which was mostly unheard of in mainstream cinema. You get the time and chance to build your character in every aspect before going on set. It’s a great time to be an actor but I do miss the spontaneity that was needed of us actors. Everything is too manufactured now,” says Shanthi.

Shanthi gives further examples, citing how Ranveer Singh was allowed to do method acting for Bajirao Mastani. “One of the good things about this change is that someone like Ranveer can method act for Bajirao; we never had that chance. We would get scripts on set at the last minute and work together to get our looks right. Now, you have perfect teams flying in from all over the world who make you look your best,” she says.

‘Can’t wait for people to see what I have in store’

Shanthi’s name is so well-known down south that when the Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone-starrer Om Shanti Om, was released in 2007, people called her up, asking her if it was her story. “I was so confused because no one asked or informed me. I think people were confused because Deepika’s character was also an actor named Shanthi Priya, who was famous for starring in commercial cinema. I got so many calls that I would start joking that I was alive and well. (laughs) It is sad, however, that no one from the film’s team even acknowledged that an actor called Shanthi Priya exists,” she trails off.

But Shanthi has moved on from that and is busy rebuilding her empire. She is now working on the Sarojini Naidu biopic and has wrapped up shooting for a Tamil project produced by Vetrimaaran and directed by Varsha Bharath. Season 2 of the MX Player web series Dharavi Bank is also in the works. “I look forward to pulling off challenging roles that are anything but run-of-the-mill. I can't wait for people to see what I have in store I have been the main lead, it’s not what I look for now. I will say yes to content on TV, films, OTT, even a play, as long as it’s good,” she rounds off.

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