A journey spanning three decades is not mere reaching from one point to another but a compilation of diverse and enriching experiences. It’s a wide canvas filled of challenges and hardships, victories, defeats, joys and tears. More so for a peregrination that is undertaken in the world of entertainment and in the bright lights of showbiz.
For popular Telugu television actor Preeti Nigam, the last 30 years have taken her to where she didn’t even imagine or plan when she embarked on the journey in front of the camera. For the trained classical dancer, tryst with Telugu television, which was in a very nascent stage then, happened quite accidentally.
Actor by accident
Now, extremely popular with audiences as ‘woman villain’ for her effective portrayal of negative characters in recent times, Preeti walks down the memory lane. “I never even considered the possibilities of becoming an actor or getting into the entertainment field. Options I considered then were either to join the Army or Air Force,” she says.
But then, destiny, as is said, comes up with its own design and goes on scripting it, irrespective of one’s wishes. Trained in Kuchipudi, Kathak and Indian folk dances, Preeti was, in fact, presenting a dance performance in 1988 when a short filmmaker got impressed by her expressive face and offered her a role. “This way, I am always indebted to my gurus Muvva Sridhar and Anil Kumar,” she says.
“At that time, I was not very conversant with Telugu but they insisted and I went ahead and did the short film Aradhana and then television started happening for me,” says the student of Vanitha Mahavidyalaya. Was she not serious about academics? “I was not into the race for marks. Education stayed there itself and I ended up doing my PhD in acting,” she laughs aloud.
And… the big break
However, the first big break into the television world came with Manjula Naidu’s serial Kasturi. In a way, her character in the serial came with shades of grey which Preeti ended up becoming synonymous with in the later part of her career.
The character of Sunila in Kasturi had varied hues. She is cheery and excited, she is cheated and exploited and ends up on a revenge path. “It was a challenge to portray such a wide range of emotions and the role turned out to be my most loved one,” she says.
There was no turning back since then. Preeti acted in a wide and varied range of characters for episodes and serials in almost all the channels. She had last count, could have crossed the century mark, and perhaps much more!
Well-loved ‘woman villain’
Chandramukhi on the 8 pm prime slot of ETV hit the popularity charts big. “The response was huge and my villainy was so well-loved by the audience. I was sort of hailed as the first ‘woman villain’ of Telugu television and I have done more than 1,850 episodes for it,” she says. “There were at least a dozen murders that I committed in it,” she laughs again. Then, there was Swathi
Chinukulu which also raised the bar of villainy on Telugu television.
In between, the beckoning of big screen was irresistible for her and some quality movies happened, one such being celebrated moviemaker Shyam Benegal’s Well Done Abba. Then there was Welcome to Sajjanpur.
Brush with Big B
But the most cherishing experience for Preeti was the Amitabh Bachchan movie Shoebite. “I grew up with his big posters in my room and here I was with him on the sets,” she recalls with excitement. She sought a picture with Amitabh but, she recounts, he said “not now. I am busy”.
However, after the shoot, before leaving the sets, Amitabh called out, “where is that Nigam girl?”. “He is such a wonderful person and I could not contain my joy,” says Preeti.
Reel vs real life
How does she feel portraying the cruel villainy in her roles? It drains the energy completely, she says, “I basically am a very soft and gentle person, diametrically opposed to the kind of characterisation my roles demand these days. It takes energy for me to slip into villainous characterisation and make them happen,” she adds.
She has a huge fan base for the negative shades that bring into her roles but some do take objections to such roles. “Why should they feel offended if a woman’s role is villainous? After all, this is also part of the ‘Navarasas’ and when given an opportunity, I have to prove my mettle in this characterisation too,” she argues.
Preeti describes her family, particularly her husband Nagesh Karra who is an actor himself, as a pillar of strength for her career. “We are a very close family and Nagesh has been all along very supportive, guiding and giving direction to my career,” she says. Two children, Aditi Sree and Aryan Karra, are busy with their studies. Aryan has also started to excel in roller hockey team and finding a place in Indian team.