Exclusive: Rashmi Rocket's Priyanshu Painyuli talks about films, fitness, future projects and lots more
We catch up with actor Priyanshu Painyuli to talk about his work, his choice of roles and why he’s always up for work in South Indian films
Priyanshu Painyuli’s role as the handsome Captain Gagan Thakur in the recently released OTT superhit Rashmi Rocket is still garnering praise from all corners more than a month after its release. Undoubtedly, it has bolstered Priyanshu’s career in Bollywood.
The 33-year-old actor is however no newbie to rave reviews and was well-received by critics way back in 2018 when he played the role of Bhavesh Joshi in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. He was then praised for his role as Robin in Mirzapur 2 on Amazon Prime Video, and is ready to reprise the role in Mirzapur 3.
What began as an interest in theatre and stage, took Priyanshu into films to fulfill his dream of being an actor, something he worked to throughout his childhood and into early adulthood in Bengaluru. We caught up with the actor to talk about his next release, Pippa, which is set to be released soon, his previous release, Rashmi Rocket, and everything else he’s currently working on.
“Rashmi Rocket has taken my career to the next level. You use each of your projects as a stepping stone and after a breakthrough film like Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, this is the kind of film that you need to catapult you into proper mainstream cinema. I got good reviews thanks to Bhavesh Joshi, and the popularity came with Mirzapur 2. It is Rashmi Rocket, however, that has made people take me seriously as a lead,” he begins.
Rashmi Rocket has been considered a critically-acclaimed film and Priyanshu has been getting a lot of attention for his role as an army athlete trainer. “When Rashmi Rocket happened, I really wanted people to stand up and take notice of me and so I put a lot of effort into building a palpable chemistry with Taapsee on screen. We were both sure that people shouldn’t categorise the film as just a sports-drama and people have got back to us commending the chemistry we share on screen. Lots of women tell me that my character, Captain Gagan Thakur (in Rashmi Rocket), is perfect husband/boyfriend material. I love the accolades but I also hope they realise I have been happily married for a year now,” he says and breaks into a laugh.
Working with an actress like Taapsee Pannu must have been an amazing experience, especially since Rashmi Rocket has been lauded as one of Taapsee’s best performances. How was it co-starring with her, we ask. “Taapsee comes across as a strong-headed and serious person, thanks to the kind of roles she’s done. When you meet her, however, you realise that she is a typical talkative Delhi girl who is just full of life. We got along really well and really fast. What struck me about her was her insane discipline. I was playing the army character in the film, but she’d be up and about at
4 am, jogging and working out while I’d find it difficult to even get out of bed at 10 am. She’s really a rocket and like the song in the film, she’s a real Ghani Cool Chori. It’s quite a task to keep up with her,” Priyanshu enthuses.
Priyanshu was quite a popular face on the Bengaluru theatre scene when he was in college. What people first noticed about him were his good looks but he quickly turned the tide by garnering great reviews for his performances too. “I always knew I wanted to be an actor and so my interest in film and theatre began at a very young age. While in college, it was more about an obsession with the stage, but as I grew older, I realised filmmaking was also something that intrigued me. I began to study film in Bengaluru and then also was a part of a startup production company that made corporate films and advertisements, before I decided to move to Mumbai and pursue cinema seriously in 2010,” explains the actor who studied in Army School in Bengaluru.
So, did he ever give Sandalwood or the Kannada film industry a chance? “Of course! I began my career there. I was signed to play the role of the best friend of Golden Star Ganesh in a movie, but that sadly fell through. I still remember how excited I was about my hand appearing in an advertisement with Kannada star Diganth Manchale way back when I just started. I know Kannada swalpa swalpa (a little bit), but it was just easier with Hindi and I guess that’s why I debuted with Bang Baaja Baaraat in 2015,” Priyanshu enthuses.
His role in Rashmi Rocket, Captain Gagan Thakur, has been critically acclaimed for its authentic representation of an army officer. Priyanshu admits that being an army boy from an Army School did work to his advantage. “Yes, it was. I knew all the nuances required to play the role of Captain Gagan Thakur and when my dad (who was in the army) said that my role was very believable; I knew that I had done a good job. My dad told me that I had played the role of the army man believably in every situation — be it as an officer, a husband or even how an army officer dances. Incidentally, I play the role of an army person in my next release, Pippa, too. If I screw up playing an army role, however, I think I ought to just quit acting,” he adds with a laugh.
We’re curious to know if it’s going to be a slew of army roles now. “I hope not! I don’t mind playing them, but I do hope that I do not get stereotyped in that role. As an actor, I want to play every kind of role. I’ve already played the romantic, the funny guy and the antagonist and I don’t want my repertoire to end there. That said, I played an army athlete trainer in Rashmi Rocket and I play a war hero in Pippa, so there’s kind of a difference, I guess?” he clarifies.
Much like many young actors from the South with Bollywood dreams, Priyanshu too had to move to Mumbai to make things work. While his career began in 2015, it was only in 2018 that he got a big break with Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. From Bengaluru to Mumbai, the change must have been a huge one, but Priyanshu shares that he was dedicated to achieving what he set out to do, though he does hope to return to the South someday. “I always knew that my future lay in Bollywood, I was quite clear about that. I miss the South a lot, and I would jump at the possibility of working down South again. I love Malayalam movies and would love to be a part of any of the Southern industries if great roles come my way. I really miss the chilled out attitude one sees across the South and would love to relive that experience. Also, filter coffee, the banana leaf meals and the Sulaimani chai — just absolutely irreplaceable!” reminisces the actor.
With most of our questions answered, we decide to bring the interview to a close as Priyanshu has shoot schedules lined up for the rest of the day. A huge release that is all set to hit screens soon and quite a few other projects in hand, we ask Priyanshu finally about what we can see him in next. “I can’t talk about most of the projects, but I can say that I play a very different and young character in a cute OTT series that will be released soon on a popular OTT platform. There’s also Mirzapur 3 and the Hindi remake of Kannada hit U-Turn. Also in the pipeline is Pippa and I am really excited about that too,” the actor concludes.
What makes Priyanshu tick?
Fitness: I like to run, I like yoga, but I’m not very disciplined about it. I hit the gym when I am required to look the part, but otherwise I just prefer to stay in shape by working out at home.
Skin and hair care: I am very particular about my hair. I like wearing my hair long and curly and I shamelessly use products to perfect my messy out of bed look. I drink a lot of water and that helps with my skin.
Your most passionate hobby: I love scuba diving. I want to travel the world to scuba dive.
First thing you do in the morning: Drink a mug of piping hot black coffee.
Last thing you do before you sleep: Listen to something by Thomas Newman or Hans Zimmer.
Five essentials in your travel bag: My sunglasses, my ear pods, my power bank, my sanitiser and a few extra face masks.
Guilty pleasure: Mutton momos from Kalsang in Mussoorie.
Rashmi Rocket is streaming on Zee5.