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Young and mature at once

His "Jeans" was a landmark film, "Chocklet" was a hit and "Majnu" is doing well. Prashanth's career that spans a decade and more is a carefully planned one where slumps are few, as he tells MALATHI RANGARAJAN

A PRIVATE surgical clinic is not exactly what one would have in mind as the venue for a tete-a-tete, leave alone a formal interview. But that is where Prashanth asks you to come over — he is just recovering from a minor surgery.

Prashanth ... his measured steps spell success.

Throughout the conversation, Prashanth reveals a calmness and composure that far belies his age. ``The experiences of an actor in the field for one year is equal to what one would gain in 10 years time.And I have been in the field since 1990 — I cannot but be mature,'' he says.

``Then add to it the fact that my father's friends are my only friends. So naturally I have to behave like a grown-up,'' Prashanth laughs aloud and adds, ``The unit of every film has given me a lot of friends — we spend nearly 60 to 70 days together. When we part I do vow to keep in touch — but soon it's another film and a fresh group again."

But Prashanth amply compensates by having a perfect database about his fans, chatting with them on the net and writing to them whenever time permits. ``The adoration they have is amazing. The care with which they write each letter is touching. Right now I am flooded with messages wishing me well and speedy recovery.''

What he doesn't tell you is that the bulk of the mail is from girls. ``No, there are male fans too'', he says but his blush and cheeky smile convey enough.

The injury that led to the surgery had actually occurred when Prashanth was shooting for ``Majnu''. He had ignored it then, but during the shooting of the stunt scene for ``Winner'', it manifested itself again. ``This time the pain was unbearable... and hence this temporary rest.''

But the period has been one of introspection for Prashanth. He spends it on analysing his positive and negative moves, his hits and flops and his future course of action.``The rest my parents are there to take care of... and that includes my marriage too,'' he smiles.

His father, actor Thyagarajan, seems to be a great influence on Prashanth — almost to a fault.

``Why should anyone feel so? There are so many areas in my career where I need guidance. When there is already a person in the family to help me why should I not take it?'' Prashanth turns defensive at once. In fact, the hero is in awe of his father. ``He is a legend in his own right,'' Prashanth says with complete conviction. It is 12 years since Prashanth made his debut as hero in ``Vaikasi Porandachchu'' and he has not looked back since.

``Vaikasi Porandhachchu" ... the debut that was a runaway hit.

The director, Radha Bharati, is not seen much these days, its heroine Kaveri has sought refuge in television serials. ``I can't speak for others but my success and failure, I believe, are happening according to destiny. I accept life with complete faith in God'', says this diehard theist.

Ever since people heard of his accident, good wishes in the form of holy thread and other such things have been pouring in.When in Chennai, Prashanth does not miss going to the TTD temple and the Kalikambal temple once a week. ``I have a lot to thank God for,'' he says with emotionGetting back to ``Vaikasi Porandachchu' — Prashanth (a student of Don Bosco school) had just taken his Class XII exam and he gave the nod for the film during the holidays.

Prashanth had already been trained in many skills from horse riding to martial arts. ``But my father had always wanted me to do medicine. `You must also know how to relax and unwind — training in these arts would help you do that' my dad would say." Yet destiny decided otherwise and ``Vaikasi....'' was a great hit. On the first day of the film's release I went to the theatre (Kamala) with my mom. And God! Wasn't I embarrassed when I watched all those romantic scenes of mine with my mother beside me...'' he recollects the scene and smiles nostalgically.

Prashanth's second film was M.T.Vasudevan Nair's story, "Perunthachan',' in Malayalam. ``I worked with greats such as Santhosh Sivan without even realising what an opportunity it was,'' he says. His third and fourth films again were Hindi and Telugu, before his actual foray into the Tamil film scene again. Over the years, Prashanth has done many Telugu films too.

Balu Mahendra has not only directed Thyagarajan(``Neengal Kaettavai") but his son too. The film is ``Vanna Vanna Pookal''. With all the typical Balu Mahendra touches, the film was a hit. Again it did not do much for its heroine Vinodhini, but that's another story. ``Jeans'' is a milestone in Prashanth's career. The actor devoted about a couple of years for the film, which had the best of everything about it. It was a big film and he had to give his entire time to it. But people said that he was desperate and had no other offers. Prashanth is not bitter, when he placidly states, ``Let them write about us... but please let them verify facts, check things out before they do...''

Many in the fourth estate are his friends. Yet unwarranted barbs hurt him.

All the same, prior to ``Jeans'' and after it, Prashanth has not tried out entirely new roles — it's mostly the romantic, dancing-in-foreign-lands kind, with a few exceptions like Maniratnam's ``Thiruda..Thiruda''. ``But that's because of my age ... I can't act as a middle aged man now.'' True but he could definitely try out other dimensions of youth, with a strong story base — like ``Majnu'' or ``Parthaen Rasithaen'' ``Yes... henceforth I plan to concentrate more on my roles, my dance and fights. I will try to give something different in each film. You won't be bored, I promise,'' he says. Again why did the idealistic young man have to do a film like ``Chocklet'' made with commercial success as the only criterion? ``See... that was planned to be an entertainer. I had the hunch it would be a great success and it was... After all a decade of experience does mean something...''

But ``Star'' was a dampener even at the outset. It had names like Jothika, Prashanth and A.R. Rahman, yet the magic failed. ``In the case of ``Star'', after a point I knew things were not shaping up the way they ought to have. I had the gut feeling about it and it proved right..."

Prashanth is too diplomatic to mention the favourites among his heroines. ``Most of the time, my co-stars and I sit and discuss the scene to be shot and how we could improve it. Rinki Khanna was a great help that way.... and she being a theatre person herself, helped a lot. It is the same with an actress like Simran.''

Prashanth's stage shows, here and abroad, are quite popular. ``People may cast aspersions on my efforts, but that's my way of pleasing my fans. How else can I show my gratitude to them? As I have all their names and addresses wherever I go, I invite my fans in that place for the show. And the joy I derive from it is tremendous.'' he says with emphasis.

After ``Aanazhagan'' Prashanth has not produced any film to date. ``It did average business. Those who watch it on television today rave about it. I can only say on retrospect that it was probably released before it's time.''

About rivalry, jealousy and cut-throat competition, Prashanth takes a very rational stand.``Around 80 Tamil films are made in year — I cannot possibly act in all of them. Each of us gets his share and I am happy with mine. For that matter, I am happy with everything from the porridge I am fed with now, to my lot in life.,'' he laughs aloud.

He is working in four films — ``Winner'', ``Thamizh'', ``Enna Vilai Azhagae'' (with ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' fame Amisha Patel) and ``Virumbugiraen''. ``Good Luck'' could be a bad dream of the past, ``Virumbugiraen's delay may be a small problem of the present, but these are minor setbacks.

Now, the energetic young man seems to have a major project for the future. ``My father has big plans....'', he says with a mysterious and charismatic grin.

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