Relative Value Upendra (45) and Priyanka Upendra (36)
On a relaxed Saturday morning at the Upendra household in Banashankari, the busy actor is lounging on his sofa, keenly watching Terminator 3. Around him, there's a buzz of activity — his manager trying to figure out dates and his wife performing her daily puja.
Cutting short her usual hour-long prayer session, a chatty Priyanka tells us that a long day lies ahead, because they have to head out to finalise locations for Uppi 2, a home production. Besides, Priyanka is also getting ready to sign her first horror film. "I've never signed a film with a debutant director in Sandalwood."
As we wait for Uppi to join us, Priyanka gets candid about her "off-screen" husband. "He's not what you see in films. He's simple and uncomplicated. And surely not outgoing and larger-than-life, the way he comes across in his films. He's more of an introvert in his personal life," Priyanka says. But Upendra, who has just joined in, is quick to interrupt, "But I'm a complicated husband. She misjudged me completely." And then the room — with his crew moving in and out — echoes with laughter.
The two first met in 2000 on the sest of Raa and H2O. "We never spoke to each other until the end of both the films. In fact, I knew her mother and aunt better," Uppi says. That's because they used to accompany Priyanka on shoots. Soon, after one of his birthday celebrations, Priyanka and Uppi began talking on the phone for "hours together". "Looking back I wonder what we spoke about for so many hours," Priyanka muses.
In 2003, they tied the knot. For Priyanka, a Bengali-born who grew up in the United States of America and lived in Singapore, adapting to new cultures has been part of the journey. Even so, getting used to the South Indian way of life meant several adjustments. "My life changed completely," the actress says. But not one to "plan" anything, Priyanka has taken things as they've come. "In fact, I never thought I would be acting in films after getting married," she says.
Again Uppi is quick to interject, "Actually, I'm the one who has had to change a lot in the last 10 years." That's because as a carefree student and bachelor who was involved in films as a youngster, Uppi hardly spent time at home. But today, he's a family man who ensures that he spends all his free time with nine-year-old Ayush and eight-year-old Aishwarya, and attends every PTA meet at the Valley School, where his kids study.
His busy schedule means most family vacations are centred around shoot locations. But he does make it a point to take up fewer projects in April and May, when his kids are on vacation. This year however, because he was unable to wiggle out of work, Priyanka and the kids headed to Singapore, where her younger sister lives. But home is where you'll usually find the duo. "We have everything here and rarely feel the need to go out."
As a kid who studied in Chamrajpet, Uppi was always the class topper, whether it was in studies or the cultural activities. "I wanted to be the best in everything I did," Uppi says. Much before he became a superstar, he acted in his first play — Compounder Gunda — which he performed at Makkala Koota, garnering much adulation."People were praising me, and I was quite surprised." Then again at APS College, he got involved in cultural activities and before long, at the age of 18, he found himself turning dialogue writer.
The legacy continues with his kids; they who will be making their appearance in Uppi 2 along with Priyanka's brother Vinaayak. "Until now we weren't too keen that they join the film industry, but if they're interested we will encourage them," Uppi says. In fact, he says that the kids used to get "affected" when they saw him smeared with blood in emotional scenes in films. That's the reason he started coming home with make-up on, just so that his kids would get used to it.
It is time to wrap up, and Uppi checks with Priyanka if the kids are all ready to go location-hunting. After all, once the war paint comes off, the on-screen action hero is a family man