His upcoming film Un Samayal Araiyil is trilingual. And he thinks his next release could be in four languages. Nikhil Raghavan finds out just why Prakash Raj can be a hit in any language

Five National Awards. Best Actor (Kancheevaram). Best Supporting Actor (Iruvar). Best Film (Puttakkana Highway as producer). With credentials like these, any wonder that Prakash Raj strides the film realm with such supreme confidence? And when it comes to direction, this multi-faceted showman started in one language, graduated to a bi-lingual and is now ready to launch the trilingual Un Samayal Araiyil.

And sure enough, in this latest outing, Prakash Raj is saying, if music be the food of love, play on… The film is on food and love, two passions that are very important to the man.

What brings them together is food and their love for food through which their own love for one another blossoms subconsciously

Feel good food

Un Samayal Araiyil (Tamil), (Ulavacharu Biriyani in Telugu and Oggarane in Kannada) is the remake of the hit Malayalam film Salt N’ Pepper. But Prakash Raj has tweaked it just enough to address the sensibilities of each of the audiences in the three states. “Most importantly, it is the content and premise of the story, which address two things that I personally believe in — food and love. It is the story of four people, with the main focus on the lead pair, played by me and Sneha. They are two individuals with their own life and perceptions. What brings them together is food and their love for food through which their own love for one another blossoms subconsciously. It is only when another individual comes into their life do they realise their own loneliness. The script is a little complex in that while the audience will know what is happening and will root for the couple, the characters themselves will be oblivious to the fact that they should be together. Overall, the film is a feel-good entertainer, a light romantic comedy that could happen to anyone in real life,” says Prakash Raj.

55 days flat

Making a trilingual has not been an easy job. But Prakash Raj being the thorough professional that he is, and with the support of an efficient production team that included his wife Pony Verma, has managed to pull it off in just 55 days. “It has been exhilarating and, at times, a little exhausting. But, in the final analysis, I think I enjoy directing more than acting. That’s also because I am not in the frame for almost half the film; hence I found time to concentrate on the direction. Moreover, when you do your homework and make sure that all your actors are well-rehearsed with their parts and lines, on the sets, the work becomes easier. Generally, as a director, I find I have more time to devote to my personal life than as an actor for films where your time is completely at the mercy of all the people in the unit,” says Prakash.

Missing the greasepaint?

As a creative producer, Prakash Raj clearly calls the shots. Donning the director’s hat, he is in full command of his ship. But as an actor he has to follow the dictates of the script. How does he handle it? When Prakash Raj faces the camera, whether it is for his own film or for another director, he sheds the rest of his caps. “Acting is my profession and I think as long as I live that will be the foremost. But it is the actor in me that feeds my passion for making films — both producing and directing. I don’t make films beyond my means and that is probably why you may not see a big-budget extravaganza from Prakash Raj Productions. I am happy that I am making a variety of films in different genres and the satisfaction comes from the fact that most of them are critically acclaimed; never mind if they have not been box office hits. As an actor, I may not have always done roles to my liking. But if other directors feel that I can do justice to a role that they have conceived, I give them my best just as I would expect any actor to deliver for my own film. It also proves that, as an actor, I have it in me to portray different characters,” he says.

So, what’s next?

The making of this trilingual has given me the confidence to handle more challenging projects. Since I am comfortable in all four South Indian languages, my next film may be a quadrilingual one. Many of our actors are well known across all four languages, so it becomes easy to cast. Having done roles in Hindi films, I am quite familiar with the Bollywood scenario as well. So, adding Hindi to the mix may not be too difficult. (Incidentally, Prakash Raj holds the Hindi remake rights to Salt N’ Pepper). It is not just regarding being ambitious, but also being adventurous; as a filmmaker, I do have to take on some challenges to satisfy my creative urge. At present, I’m waiting for the release of the trilingual and the audience verdict. I hope it will give me the impetus to take up bigger and even more ambitious projects,” he says. Knowing his versatility, surely it will.