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Prithviraj unplugged

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On the fast track: Prithviraj and Sandhya in ‘Kannamoochi Yenada.’
On the fast track: Prithviraj and Sandhya in ‘Kannamoochi Yenada.’

SANGEETA

Prithviraj has silenced the critics with his performances in Malayalam and Tamil. The actor says he plans to diversify into filmmaking.

I think, every actor has to be a narcissist.

Arrogant, haughty and egotistic? However, none of the labels quite describe the 24-year-old actor.

His low-key manner may come across as a ploy to make one think he is the very definition of cool. But Prithviraj is not one of those who works at being cool.

He does not have to. He has silenced the critics who doubted his acting prowess with his performances in Malayalam and Tamil films. Whether his latest films ‘Chocolates,’ ‘Satham Podathey’ and ‘Kannamoochi Yenada’ flop or succeed, Prithiviraj is one of the young stars who will still be in the reckoning. Excerpts from an interview:

What is it that attracts you to a film?

The film itself. And the gut feeling that you get on the very first story session. I have not been right all along, but then there is no foolproof method to see how a film would shape up. In the case of ‘Chocolate,’ it is the fun element that attracted me. I play the only male student in a women’s college. I did it because I liked the way the film is being pitched. It is the content that attracts me to a film.

Do you feel that you are under utilised in Malayalam?

As an actor, I am yet to realise my potential. Once I know that, I can complain about not being ‘utilised.’ But as of now, I have no complaints. I have been lucky with my films, especially in Malayalam. I have got the best of offers as compared to my peers. Not many actors can claim to have done the kind of stuff I have done so early in my career and life. So ‘under utilised’ is a harsh word. But then, when you talk about the creative aesthetics in general, yes, Malayalam cinema is far behind the rest of the Indian film industry.

What is your process of internalising a character?

It varies. In ‘Chakram’ I relied on the director because the milieu was not familiar. For my first Tamil film, ‘Kanaa Kanden,’ I worked by instinct. The very first scene that was filmed on me was the defining moment in the film. The director K.V. Anand knew what he wanted, but could not articulate it the way I was used to with directors such as Ranjith and Lohithadas. I went ahead on my own and he liked it. Then the whole exercise was to build up the character towards that scene. But it is not applicable to every film.

It was a different experience to prepare myself for ‘Vellithirai,’ the Tamil version of ‘Udayananu Tharam.’ Initially, actor Prakash Raj was supposed to direct it. During a discussion, it dawned on me that my character in the film had remarkable similarities with the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s ‘Fountain Head.’ Having read the book helped my performance a lot, at a sub-conscious level. And eventually when the film is done, I think people who are familiar with the book will not need much of an effort to see my attempts at pitching myself towards Howard Roark.

But I do take my own time to get into the skin of the character. And once I am through, it is difficult to detach myself from that. You are being someone else for 18-20 hours a day, so at the end of the day it is natural that you absorb his mannerisms. The chemical components of the character get into your system. And some refuse to go away.

Has this process of constantly being somebody else affected your personality?

Not much. Because I have firmly adhered to my policy of narcissism. I think every actor has to be a narcissist. Or else you will lose track of who you are. Most of the characters I have played are far better than me in many ways – they are more intelligent, humane, talented and vibrant. Then where is Prithviraj? So unless you love and fiercely protect the shell called ‘you,’ you are bound to be lost.

Where do you envisage yourself 10 years from now?

Though I have not planned anything, I do have dreams of propagating my medium and perhaps be an ambassador for Malayalam cinema. I would also diversify into filmmaking. My first ever thoughts on cinema was about direction. I wanted to go to NYU for a course in film making but destiny brought me in front of the camera.

Forthcoming films?

‘Kangaroo’ and ‘Thalappavu’ in Malayalam. ‘Kannamoochi Yenada’ and ‘Vellithirai’ in Tamil and an untitled film in Telugu.


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