(L to R) Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari; Amol Parashar and Priyamani
Young male actors are at an interesting inflection point in cinematic history. The characters being written for them no longer follow the arc of the conventional hero. Amol Parashar, who rose to fame with TVF Tripling and was stunning as the younger man fascinated by Konkona Sen Sharma’s older woman in Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (2019), stars in the new Netflix anthology Feels Like Ishq. He plays the wedding planner (with a woman boss) to Radhika Madan’s bossy rich girl who is also the bride’s best friend in Save The Da(y)te. He calls the character a beta male and says he is more than comfortable in his masculinity to play men who are “flexible”, which he points out, is a role usually assigned to women. The IIT Delhi graduate says all the women he has dated have been very strong and he has realised “this is who I am.” “When young people see such men on screen, it gives them the confidence to live their truth,” he says. Indeed, Feels Like Ishq’s other short, Interview, starring Neeraj Madhav (so terrifying in The Family Man Season One) and Zayn Marie Khan (daughter of Mansoor Khan and niece of Aamir Khan, but so much more), underlines the same theme. Neeraj plays a Malayali who has just come to Mumbai to find a job so he can help his father build a house. He meets a forceful young Muslim woman, whom he is up against, for the job of a salesman in a store selling white goods. The young woman, with her organised diary charting her life plan, is all gung-ho and has good advice for Neeraj, who is all stutter and stammer until he decides to do as she tells him. This is West meets South, but no longer in the traditional Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981) way. The alpha woman gets to have a happy-ever-after with her beta man.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari has been working since she was 17 to finance her way through art school so it is no surprise that she has already directed four movies, including the beloved Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), and several ad films. Now, she’s written an exquisite novel Mapping Love into which she’s poured her own experience (a father who is a PhD in plant pathology to her love for forests and the home gardening and eco-cycling skills of her mother and aunt). Through her fictional heroine Oorja, she pays tribute to everything she grew up with. “How do we as a people become a stepping stone to transformation?” she asks. It’s a question she addresses in her movies, whether it is educating the girl in Nil Battey Sannata (2016) or the married mom returning to competitive sport after having children in Panga (2020). Or of forgiveness, the most important value she emphasises in Mapping Love. “If we don’t learn to let go,” she says, “our hearts will become like garbage dumps.” Ashwiny, true to form, is working on a film based on the lives of Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murty, as well as a web series. With her ear so close to the ground, her stories are not likely to get stale, whatever the media.
One Actor, Many Languages
Priyamani is a Palakkad Tamil, which means she is adept at both Tamil and Malayalam. She was born in Bengaluru so she can read and write Kannada and her first movie was in Telugu. Add to that her proficiency in English and Hindi and is it any wonder that the actor is much in demand across all film industries? Though pan-Indian audiences know her best as Suchi in The Family Man, the superwoman that everyone loves to hate, Priyamani has been the favourite of some of the greatest directors of our time, from Balu Mahendra to Mani Ratnam to Ram Gopal Varma. The Family Man has given her a whole new audience which she is determined to expand, one step at a time. You can watch her in Amazon Prime Video’s Narappa (Telugu) with Venkatesh, and soon you can see her opposite Ajay Devgn in Maidaan (Hindi) and with Rana Daggubati and Sai Pallavi in Virata Parvam (Telugu). All this—memes about her as Suchi and her in the item song with Shah Rukh Khan in Chennai Express (2013)—and another web series soon. The vision of the industry has changed, she says. “Important roles are being written for women, no matter whether they’re married or not, or which language they speak.”
Did You Know?
Two alumni from the 2011 cult hit Delhi Belly have flourishing international careers currently. Poorna Jagannathan, feisty journalist and Imran Khan’s sort of girlfriend, plays a single mom in Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever (2020) on Netflix, while Danish actor Kim Bodnia, who played the Russian gangster Vladimir, is a Russian hitman in Killing Eve (2018)