Actor Priyadarshi Pulikonda on how he played the computer know-it-all Hybath in the new Telugu film
Mail, chapter one of ‘Kambalapally Kathalu’ (stories from Kambalapally), was the first feature film Priyadarshi shot for after an eight-month break induced by the pandemic. “I felt as though I had forgotten acting,” he remembers.
The actor had loved the realism in first time director Uday Gurrala’s pitch video and stated that he would be on board if the director chose to have the indie vibe for the entire film: “Uday said that was his intention, to narrate a story that’s true to its region and appears realistic,” says Priyadarshi.
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Shooting in Kambalapally and nearby villages in Telangana for an indie-style film meant being stripped of luxuries such as the caravan for actors. The team stayed put in a gurukul, ate common meals, interacted with the locals and stayed committed to making a film with no frills. “We had simple breakfasts made from corn plucked from the fields nearby. Since we were shooting in sync sound, there was discipline on set. It was a grounding and challenging experience,” adds Priyadarshi.
Priyadarshi became a household name with Pelli Choopulu (2016) and since then has been part of all kinds of films — the big star-led ones where he played comic or sober supporting parts, the lead actor in the real-life inspired Mallesham, and an air rifle shooter in the web series Loser.
Prior to the pandemic, he was filming for the Prabhas-starrer Radhe Shyam. Getting back to work after restrictions were lifted for shooting after lockdown, he went through what he calls an ego-busting exercise of unlearning and learning while working on Mail.
On day one, when he tried to enact a scene portraying the smug and confident demeanour of his character Hybath, who knows how to operate the computer and opens a small gaming centre in the village, the director wasn’t pleased. “Uday was happy with my work only on day three. My portions were filmed at a stretch for 17 days. Towards the end, he re-shot the first-day portions,” says the actor.
While most of the cast, including Harshith Malgireddy and Gouri Priya, are relatively new, Priyadarshi was the established actor on set. He and Uday discussed how they wanted Hybath to be. What came in handy was Priyadarshi’s recollection of a DVD store owner in Chandanagar, Hyderabad, who in the early 2000s had the air of authority about lending DVDs only to those who knew the tech dos and don’ts — “film DVDs wouldn’t play on regular personal computers, you needed a specialised DVD player. I tried to imbibe some of his traits for Hybath; that worked,” he says.
The Hybath character was then built with those imbibed mannerisms — how he talked, walked or drank — Priyadarshi equates it to cracking a puzzle.
Mail was also a reminder of his humble beginnings in cinema, since he had known Uday, editor Hari Shankar, production designer Ramcharantej Labani, costume designer Ashwanth Byri, cinematographer Shyam and a few others since 2012-13, when they were all seeking to build their careers in cinema. Priyadarshi also has words of praise for Harshith, Gouri Priya and the other new actors in the film.
Next up is Jathi Ratnalu co-starring Naveen Polishetty and Rahul Ramakrishna, Gurtunda Seethakalam with Sharwanand, Radhe Shyam, among other films. A web series is also on the cards.
(Mail streams on Aha)