“Kanchivaram” was special, says Prakash Raj after bagging the National Award for Best Actor

Prakash Raj and being versatile go together. He can play the bad guy and get beaten up mercilessly (who can forget his ‘Chellam’ act in “Ghilli”?), make you laugh (like he did in “Mozhi”) and also be a concerned father (think “Santhosh Subramaniam” and “Abhiyum Naanum”).

Yet, the actor concedes he had to go through an “unlearning” process to prepare himself for his role in Kanchivaram. “In fact, even as Priyadarshan narrated the story, I knew it was special. I felt the film was bound to fetch a few awards. I am elated to win the National Award for Best Actor. What makes me happier is the film bagging the Swarna Kamal,” says the actor, who was moved by the story that he worked without remuneration.

The film that focusses on weavers in Kancheepuram fetched the Swarna Kamal for a Tamil film after 18 years, and Prakash Raj recalls how it posed challenges for him as an actor.

“At the heart of it was a human story, and to do justice to it, I had to unlearn certain traits and mannerisms that I had acquired while acting. The film changed a lot of things for me as an actor,” he explains.

Team work

For Priyadarshan, “Kanchivaram” was a departure from the comic capers he directs for Bollywood. The film also had on board art director Sabu Cyril, who has, incidentally, bagged the National Award for Best Art Direction for “Om Shanti Om”.

“The film’s success is a result of the great team we had,” says Prakash Raj. “I thanked Priyan when he offered me the role. In fact, I need to thank all the directors who have chiselled me well enough to be able to perform such a role. I don’t think I could have done ‘Kanchivaram’ a decade ago.”

Prakash Raj debuted as the bad guy in K. Balachander’s “Duet”, and considers it one of his best films. And then, there are “Balachander’s ‘Kalki’, Mani Ratnam’s ‘Iruvar’, the Kannada ‘Nagamandala’, Krishna Vamsi’s ‘Anthapuram’ and ‘Bommarillu’”.

Unmatched joy

The award, he says, is a reminder of the journey he chose to take as an actor and producer. “When I established my production company, I was clear I wanted to make money and, at the same time, deliver good films. I’ve done that with movies such as ‘Mozhi’ and ‘Abhiyum Naanum’. I want to do films that I believe in, for, the joy of being part of good cinema is unmatched,” he elaborates.