From a girl next door to a Star!!!


An Interview with Bhanu Priya Kaushal


While reading through one of those "Ask the Expert, Ramji" sections in Cinema Express magazine, I came across an interesting question submitted by a reader: Who are the most mild-mannered and polite heroines in real life, who also act incredibly well in tamil cinema?  Ramji's answer was not surprising, yet it made me feel so proud for having had a chance to interview her.   He mentioned Bhanupriya as one of the heroines who was true to herself and to her profession. 

As you read through the concluding part of the interview with Bhanupriya, I am sure you will feel the same way about her too.  I apologize for being tardy in publishing the conclusion to this interview, but nevertheless, I hope that you will enjoy reading it.  


Part II of the Interview

Who was your inspiration to become a dancer and an actress?  Who or what has contributed to your urge to learn and become successful?

Things are different in the outside world.  But for inspiration to come about, your family should support and encourage it (dance).   The first person in my family is my mom.  She belongs to a very orthodox family.  My mom went to a friend's house and developed an urge to learn dance after seeing her friend learn from the teacher.  She returned home only to find her father tell her that she couldn't learn dance and shouldn't go roaming around to other people's homes.  From then on, she has had a strong feeling that if she had a daughter, she would help her in learning dance.  Yet, she didn't really force me to learn dance.   It was only incidental.  When I was 5 or 6 years old, if I heard music, I used to jump and go around dancing.  My movements were very rhythmic and with good timing.   It was at that time that my mother realized that her dream of learning dance could come true through me.  She felt I had the potential and interest in learning dance and achieving things that she couldn't in her life.  She fixed a very excellent guru for me: S. P. Anand, who belonged to the Late Vempati Satyam school - Sri Ambikeshwara Moorthy Niketan.  In between, he was not keeping well.  After I entered films, he couldn't establish that strong feeling and ethic for dance.  But he is happy with what I have achieved in films. 

Yet, there is something that makes me feel happy when I dance.  With more concentration, I developed a lot as a dancer.  Yes, studies were there, but I concentrated a lot more on dance than studies.  As I grew older, I used to watch movies with heroines who danced, like Vyjayanthi Mala and Padmini.  They create a certain level of inspiration.  I am actually seeing someone on the screen and learning a lot from them.  Just to gain a lot of maturity in dance, it would be twelve or thirteen years. 

At the beginning, I didn't know how to approach or go to people or we didn't even know anyone in the film industry.  Some of my dance master's students belonged to the film industry.  Many of the students' fathers were present at the Annual Day function.  They had a lot of connections in the film industry.  One of them approached me after he saw the program.  I was thrilled and happy, while my mother was a bit scared.  She was unsure about how my career would turn out.   Moreover, I was in my teens at that time.  After a lot of discussions, she finally agreed.  But she made it clear that if I become successful, I could continue.  Otherwise, I had to get back to my studies.  There were a lot of rules (laughs).  After that, I didn't look back and have faced the success.  After a certain stage, my mom felt confident and happy for me.  It is all a learning process where you enter the film world and get a feel for acting; this process itself takes many years.  After figuring out the good and the bad aspects and after reaching a certain level of maturity, is when you begin to really start choosing the roles.

By far, if you look at some heroines, those who got married like Radhika and Revathi and continued in the cinema industry; it became very stereotyped where they were doing extremely serious or highly emotional roles where they wept all the time.  Do you think the cinema industry will try to stereotype you into emotional roles at all, now that you are married?

No, actually, I cannot say anything right now.  See, the trends keep on changing.  Who knows how the industry would have changed, say, one year from now?   After a certain age, they can do certain type of roles.  When they were young, they have done songs, running around the trees - they have done those kind of roles too.   At that time, they did not have the maturity to do these kind of restrained roles.   When they got the maturity to carry those kind of roles, they are accepting the serious ones.  People are offering them more of the same routine.  It really depends.  They wanted to do those kind of roles, they are doing it.

Bhanu receiving an award from Chandrababu Naidu for her role in "Pedda Rayudu"If you ask me, I have to see what the industry trend is like.  I have had a belief right from the beginning that any of type of character which I do, should not become stereotyped.   If you see all the movies I have starred in, you will see a large mixture of roles that I have taken.  I have done very art-oriented films, good roles with commercial elements, 'pakka' masala films, very traditional, sober roles like in Aahaa, 'pakka' rowdy roles.. (laughs).  I have done so many different types of roles.   In my profession, I always wanted to do something different... different each time.   Moreover, in my profession, I have never earned the name, Indha maadhiri roles dhaan panna mudiyum.  Bhanupriya-naa idhukku dhaan

Now, I am going to India to work in a movie.  The K.T. Kunjumon movie, Endrendrum Kaadhal.  They have told me a story which I found satisfactory.  Not that these things will happen during this particular movie, but in general, when shooting starts, certain changes will come about.  Not everybody, but a few of them have done that and I have had bad experiences too.   First, the story is related a certain way and once you arrive at the sets, small changes are made.  When you question the changes, small arguments occur.  I don't want to make the issues blow out of proportion, so I compromise and do the role.   That makes me uncomfortable.  So, what is the end result?  Bad name.  What is she doing these type of roles for and why should she?  I can't keep explaining to everybody.  It happened and that's it.  Don't think about it.  But when you do the next movie, don't do the same mistake.  I have that kind of an attitude.  That's my practice for the last four years.  I want to continue that practice.  If it is a good role and I feel that I can carry it well and if it suits me, then it's fine.  Otherwise, I will stay away.  I am happy with what I have.

You did a role in Annamacharya.  Could you tell me more about that experience?  I haven't seen the movie yet and I am sure many others haven't either.  There were four heroines in the movie and I was not sure what your role was?

Bhanupriya with colleagues in AnnamacharyaYou cannot say that there are four heroines, because the subject was a mythological one. (Laughs, a little annoyed) This is the matter with this generation.  They don't know how to "put it."  It is not a question of how many heroines, but the actual roles and characters portrayed that matter.   If you take English movies as an example, sometimes the subject is the hero or heroine of the movie, story is important; sometimes cinematography is important; sometimes there is absolutely nothing in the story but the hero or heroine, their characters and how they carry it may be crucial.  It all depends on how the story is conceived and picturized.  It is not a matter of four heroes or four heroines.  For example, take ThiruviLaiyaadaL, a long time back.  Savitri and almost all of the senior artists of that time were in it, including Sujatha maa, Savitri and Jayalalitha.  If you like most of the older movies, just about everyone would be in it - but you can't claim all the heroines in the industry were in the movie.

Sivaji and Muthuraman would also be there.  It 's not the heroes or heroines but the roles they played.  In Annamacharya, I played Padmavathi, Ramya Krishnan and Kasthuri played Annamacharya's wives and Roja played a Raja's daughter.  Each of us were offered roles and we chose the ones that suit us.  They feel that I suit the Amman role.  I feel very happy, more so that not everyone is privileged to get that opportunity.  That way, I am very thankful to God in being suitable for that role.  I have done that role in so many films, not just in Annamacharya.  In my career, if ever a traditional religious film came about, they would at least have a song for me.  It is a gift that I could be suitable for that role.

Bhanupriya receiving Tamilnadu state award from JayalalithaThe first time I did the role in Annamacharya, I had to come in disguise.  I wore a white wig, looking like I was in my fifties or sixties.  It was just a small scene but I wanted to do it.  It justified the role.  It was not that I have become old and can no longer do any other type of role and therefore I accepted the role.  I want to make that clear.  I have heard a lot of people take it as, Avalavu dhaan, andha amma-vukku glamour mudinchchu pOchu. Adhanaala ippo, amma roles pannaraanga.  It is not that feeling at all.  It was there in that role.  I wanted to prove that I could handle that kind of role very easily.  When they related my role and the story to me, they told me that there would be one scene where I would have to act as an old woman.  What is it? - it isn't a role where I play a grandmother to anybody.  It is Amman coming in disguise.   Definitely nobody can blame or say anything about it.  Everybody appreciated it after they saw the movie.  Especially in the case of the Amman, it really felt as if an old lady came into our house with the same kind of looks and pottu, it feel as though the real Lakshmi or Padmavathi came into our home - this is what people told me after they saw me in the movie.

More recently, videotapes of the tele-serial Sakthi, have been circulating in the U.S.  I know a lot of people who are so engrossed with watching the show.  Most of them were in praise of the acting of two stars in the show: One was Ajay Ratnam and the other was definitely you.  I wanted to know what exactly it is you find pleasing about T.V. serials?  How do you get mana niraivu from them?

I definitely got mana niraivu from tele-serials.   That's for sure.  I never expected this kind of result from T.V. serials.  I was really divided about whether or not to do Sakthi when they first approached me.  Till now, I had never done a mega serial or any type of serial before.  A long time back, a well-wisher requested me to do one episode of Vishwamitra.  Then, there was a friendly gathering of stars who did roles in Suhasini's tele-serial, Penn.  Besides these, I never really got into T.V. serials much. 

What happened was that the press declared that I was finished in the industry especially after the big gap.  I actually wanted to tell everyone about the kind of roles I wanted.  Filmmakers are not daring to give stars those kind of roles and produce/direct those kind of films today.  For example, Aahaa is a very daring venture, if you ask me.  I mean, who shows a newcomer in a very traditional light these days?  Recently nobody has bothered.  That new girl from Bombay (in reference to Sulekha), they showed her as a traditional girl.  Her character was really good.  My role is okay as a mature young woman, that's different.  Where is a newcomer ever going to get that kind of welcome from the industry today?  It is only after exposure (kavarchi) that they would get the chance.  The present trend is that.  For me, I have to choose.  Heart of hearts, I just can't.  When I started receiving a bad name, I just stopped doing certain type of roles.  If I am not happy, I don't do the role.  When the Sakthi offer came about, I thought that maybe I should try it.  Then again, people would say, She doesn't have any movies, so she is doing serials.  

Well, they would say it anyway, right?!  It doesn't matter!

Exactly!  So I thought why not try T.V. serials and prove its worth.  It definitely has a certain way about it where it manages to reach so many people, all at one time.  Instead of spending their money and going to theaters, they watch T.V. serials in the comfort of their home everyday.

I won a Screen Videocon Award for Sakthi this year and it is a happy feeling.  I want to continue that.  They (Producers) keep calling me here and it is so nice.  I feel that they miss me there.  They watch the serial everyday and call me to find out when I am coming back to continue in it.

What are your immediate projects in India in Tamil or any other language, besides Endrendrum Kaadhal?

This trip to India is to finish up all my current commitments.  I was supposed to do Aahaa in Telegu and they wanted to wait for me.  I told them that the exact date of my trip to India was still uncertain and asked them to choose someone else.  They were happy with my answer and proceeded with someone else (Jayasudha).  That's fine with me.  But my commitments are till one year.  I will go take care of everything and return to the U.S.  Furthermore, I will be meeting with all the press members there.  I want to tell them that I want to continue, but I will be choosy as to the kind of roles I do.   When I get new commitments, if it is fine, I will have to check with my family also.  If they agree with my schedules, then I will go ahead.  Otherwise, I will continue my commitments according to the times that are suitable for me.

As it is, I got a new offer which I have to go to India to decide upon.   I asked my husband and he said, Do whatever you want to do, until it makes you happy and content with yourself.  I don't want you to establish a routine where you cook and clean the dishes and stay at home.  I am not that kind of a husband. He has given me that freedom and it is nice.  So, I have to do justice to my married life and to my profession as well.  He is also coming to India after sometime.  He has not decided how long he will be staying in India, even though he has a home and relatives there.  If I can continue, he will probably stay with me for sometime.  As it is, I am going for Sakthi, Endrendrum Kaadhal and two new offers - one movie and the other, a T.V. serial.  If it is a mega serial, I am not interested.  But if it is just a few episodes, I wouldn't mind doing it.  I already have a mega serial, Sakthi, right now.  I don't want too many mega serials in hand.

As I mentioned to you before this interview, Tamil Thirai Valai, is being seen by Indians, both Tamilians and non-Tamilians, all over the world.  Would you like to give them a message or greeting to end this interview?

I got married and I am happy.  I want all of my fans' blessings and good wishes for me always.  Their respect, admiration and love for me should continue now and forever.  I will be the same in choosing my roles and whatever else I do.   I will do justice to the work I do.  Most of all, I need their affection.  That is all I want.  Nothing more. :-)





Mrs. Bhanupriya Kaushal
4, 1st Cross Street,
Vijayaraghava Road,
Madras 600 017.