THE DREAM CATCHER
Text: Priya S
Photographs: Gokul Ramachandran, Navaf Sharafudheen & Rijo Jose
Venue Courtesy: Crowne Plaza, Kochi
Happy girls are the prettiest and going by that Prayaga Martin is downright ravishing. She walks in, a vision in blue, with a lovely smile lighting up her face. No wonder there, Prayaga has a lot to be happy about this year. She took baby steps in Mollywood as a child actor through Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded, that featured none other than the legend Mohanlal in the lead, and then graduated to playing the female lead in a film Pisasu directed by well known Tamil director Mysskin.
The success of that film had Mollywood rolling out the welcome mat for her. Nearing the tenth film mark, Prayaga has had the luck to work alongside some big names in Malayalam, actors and directors included. Her latest project Ramleela opposite Dileep set the cash registers ringing at the box office. In an industry known for its fickleness, Prayaga is someone who believes in carving her own path through hard work and dedication to her craft. Her fairytale journey can be termed as a mixture of luck as well as a keen astuteness, to separate the grain from the chaff. Prayaga opens up about her life, career and travel in a chat with Kerala Travel Explorer conducted at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kochi.
Can you tell us how you entered the world of cinema?
It was never a planned entry. I have always been fascinated by the glitz and glamour of the film industry, loved cinema and the stars that shone bright. Eventually, that fascination made a few of my dad’s friends spot me and ask if I could act in their project. So that is how Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded became my stepping stone in Malayalam at age thirteen. I followed that up with a small role in Ustad Hotel.
“I love Palakkad because my mom is from there. We make a trip to Palakkad every year and for me the fascination of Palakkad is that it is a mix of Tamil Nadu and Kerala cultures and I like the confusion that amalgamation brings.”
While acting in Ustad Hotel, I was in the tenth grade and that is certainly not the age to think of taking up films as a career. I did it purely for the excitement and fascination I had with the medium and yes, I am really happy that I did those two films because I got a ringside view of what tinsel town entailed. That experience helped me when I actually debuted because I already had an idea about films and did not suffer from the proverbial butterflies in my stomach syndrome, nor did I experience any camera fright. I was very comfortable in front of the camera.
You made a mark in Tamil through Pisasu and then came to Malayalam. How did Pisasu come to you?
I did Pisasu when I finished my twelfth grade. Before Pisasu came my way, I had done a modeling assignment for jewellery and was spotted by Mysskin sir on a hoarding in Kerala. I think he had a picture of his heroine in mind and I suited that image. Imagine, he actually wanted to cast an unknown girl as his lead. I was lucky to have been spotted by him and being a part of his film. It was all luck and destiny and again there was no planned entry in Tamil. Language is not a barrier for any actor.
“Kerala has to focus on its identity, which is its natural beauty. Kerala is an amalgamation of different topographies and there is a lot that we can promote to the outside world. We must know how to promote Kerala - the marketing strategies must ensure that Kerala be presented as a wholesome package.”
You have worked with names like Dileep, Jayasurya, Unni Mukundan and Sunny Wayne. What have been you biggest takeaways from these projects?
It has been a great learning experience because each and every one of them have got their own identity and style of working. They have a way of doing things that is different from the others. So it is great to work alongside them and observe them without their knowing and that makes it a learning experience. With Dileep, Jayettan, Unni and Sunny, what they have in common is that have put in copious amount of hard work to reach where they are today.
How much importance is given to actresses in the Malayalam film industry, both on-screen and off-screen?
To be honest, be it on-screen or off-screen, I think it is all about the vibe you project. The vibe you give out is what you get back. Be it respect, how you perceive others or how presentable you are – all that matters when you are a public figure. Sometimes actors are not treated the way they should be. There are times when they are misinterpreted; they are trolled and many a times misjudged too. Given such situations, it is also about the extra responsibility vested in a public figure to make your point clear. To err is human and the heart to apologise and say sorry is what is important. Whatever profession you are in- be it a businesswoman, a dancer or an actor, you are a human being at the end of the day. It is important to be genuine in front of people. When a public figure is misjudged or trolled for having said or done XYZ, I think it is okay and a part of the game and I enjoy it. I also think people have a big heart and that you cannot actually blame them for being critical of your work. That’s how the public should be and that is where you should put your bar. People in Kerala are literate and intelligent and it is imperative to remember that you are in front of an audience who knows their stuff.
Do you think the audience of today is more receptive to female-centric films?
I think female centric roles are well accepted by the audience in Kerala or for that matter anywhere in the country.
Your dream role?
Whenever I am asked this question, I automatically go back in time and pick a few Malayalam films and think of the talented actors who played those roles. But that is not the point- imitating legendary actors all over again. My dream role would be the one I create for my audience.
How often do you travel for leisure?
What are your favourite destinations in Kerala? I love travelling and am a certified travel geek. Travelling gives me a lot of pleasure; it is one way to relax and turn into a free bird. During your travels, you get to meet a lot of people and see a lot of places. There is also an exposure to a new culture. Oh yes, food is something I enjoy relishing from all the places I travel because I am a huge foodie.
Can you name your favourite destinations in Kerala?
I love Palakkad because my mom is from there. We make a trip to Palakkad every year and for me the fascination of Palakkad is that it is a mix of Tamil Nadu and Kerala cultures and I like the confusion that amalgamation brings. Once there, you can hear people speaking Tamil and Malayalam. Though a Christian, there are a lot of temples there which I love visiting. Alleppey is also a favourite on account of its backwaters. I love beaches, especially Kovalam. But on a no-work day, my favourite haunt in Kerala would be Fort Kochi -it is my hang out and chill out place. Whenever I get some free time, I along with my friends make a beeline to Fort Kochi. There are some shacks there, that I love for the awesome food they serve.
What are your favourite travel memories?
Very recently, I got the opportunity to visit the Holy Land-Jerusalem and Palestine. That was the most memorable trip to date and will remain the closest to my heart. I still cannot believe that I got the chance to visit the place where Jesus was born. I went with my faith and that made it all the more special.
“My advice to everyone would be to stay positive and be happy. Every human being is capable of doing big in life. It is all about the hard work, determination and the perseverance to focus on what you want and then reach for that goal.”
What are the elements that you think should be promoted more to enhance the travel potential of Kerala?
As someone currently doing her Masters in Travel and Tourism management I would say- Kerala has to focus on its identity, which is its natural beauty. We have beaches, backwaters, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, hill stations and wildlife. Kerala is an amalgamation of different topographies and there is a lot that we can promote to the outside world. We must know how to promote Kerala - the marketing strategies must ensure that Kerala be presented as a wholesome package.”
What can’t you leave home without?
(Laughs) One would be my parents! I am independent but I love having my parents around because it makes me feel secure. I am an only child and they have been wonderful parents. Otherwise in my bag would be a bottle of water, my make up pouch and then of course my mobile phone which is like a multi -purpose tool. When I travel, I carry a charger, a power bank and a cap and jacket.
A favourite piece of advice you have received and that you love giving others?
I don’t have the habit of advising people because I am not someone who takes everybody’s advice and then does so accordingly. I take suggestions but I have my own opinions. I do listen to what people say because listening to others is important and I try to imbibe whatever good they say. My advice to everyone would be to stay positive and be happy. Every human being is capable of doing big in life. It is all about the hard work, determination and the perseverance to focus on what you want and then reach for that goal.
Your favourite designer and brand? Your favourite pick of actors who dress well?
That would be Tiya & Maria creations. The outfit I have currently donned is one of theirs. I am somebody who loves branded stuff but am not brand crazy! If there is something I like, even if I am street shopping, I will pick that up. I love shoes, sunglasses and watches; when I travel, that is what I pick up. My favourite brand is Nike and sometimes I feel I am half sportsperson and half glamour girl. I like the way Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya or Kangana dress up.
If not an actor, what would Prayaga have been? Any plan B?
I cannot think of a situation where I would not have been an actor. Nobody told me to become an actor. I became one because I wanted to become an actor and worked towards that dream. But that does not mean that I do not have a plan B. I love being independent and since I am doing my Masters In travel, I get to do my field and practical classes when I travel. So in a sense my work and my studies are complementary.
Which are your upcoming projects?
One with director Shafi titled Oru Pazhe Bombkatha where I get to share screen space with scriptwriter Bibin George who is turning a hero. I also have another project with director G Marthandan, opposite Kunchacko Boban for the first time.
Any offers from Tamil cinema?
Yes, I am getting offers from Tamil and Telugu but nothing that I like or that has me excited. Malayalam has been very soul filling that way.