Cinema

‘I do films when I find something exciting in a script’

Prithviraj in a still from James and Alice.Photo: Sinat Savier   | Photo Credit: Sinat Savier

The location for Prithviraj’s new film, James & Alice, a house lodged in a narrow lane off the busy bypass in Kochi, is a beehive of activities. Away from all this, inside the quiet of his plush caravan, Prithviraj is busy browsing through spiral-bound papers; most of them scripts awaiting the star’s nod. Prithviraj keeps the papers aside and settles down in his heavily upholstered chair, ready to talk to FridayReview.

Loner may perhaps be too strong a word, but then Prithviraj enjoys being on his own. Not that being a loner is wrong but Prithviraj did face a lot of flak for this. “I have never had a huge circle of friends. Right from my primary school days I have never been….,” he pauses for a moment and continues, “not that I was an unpopular guy, I was school captain and all that, but I never had more than one or two friends. If you ask me how many houses of friends I have been to, may be just one or two. I have always been that way and I think a lot of people are like that.”

Prithviraj does do a bit of chatting on the sets of his films but spends most of this ‘free’ time inside his caravan. “Actually, I remember on the sets of my first film, Nandanam, director, Ranji ettan (Ranjith), my mentor, telling me that I must interact with people. I used to slip into a quiet corner with a book. Ranji ettan told me that reading was fine but to do it after the shoot. During the shoot, he said, I must talk to people. He had a point for it meant learning about how things work. I’m not sure if this attitude fuelled all the trolling but it certainly fuelled the assumption on the kind of person I’m. I’m still like that. In between shots, I do my work or read something. I think by now people have got used to me…,” he says with a laugh.

Like most celebrities Prithviraj rues the lack of anonymity. “That’s the only thing I wish I didn’t have to trade off. You don’t realise how priceless anonymity is till you lose it. A lot of things I love to do becomes difficult. I don’t mind losing my privacy but this feeling of being watched always is sad.”

Cinema has been a long and fruitful learning experience for Prithviraj. “It is one field where the more you learn you realise how little you know. The only way to go about is to be constantly aware, constantly ask questions. There are a lot of people to ask the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ but very few to ask ‘why’.”

Of late a lot of good films have hit the marquee and a lot of money is being invested in the industry like never before. Every aspect of filmmaking has evolved. Yet, if there is one feature that still needs attention, it is make-up. When asked about two of his recent films, Celluloid and Ennu Ninte Moideen, where his make-up could have been much better, Prithviraj says, “Absolutely. I have raised this on a couple of occasions. When the other aspects of filmmaking are evolving furiously, make-up and costumes have not advanced. Even today if a make-up man comes up and says that the complete requirement for the film would cost Rs. 85 lakh the immediate reaction is ‘are you mad?’ If an art director tells us that the properties will cost Rs. 2.5 crore, your attitude is ‘okay.’ Make-up has been sorely neglected.”

Prithviraj recalled his experience in a Tamil movie (that did not work) in which he was supposed to play a 70-year-old in certain scenes. “Gautam Menon, the producer, got me to fly to London to meet Mark Coulier, the Oscar-award winning make-up artiste. At his studio a whole body mould was taken that cost around 6,000 pounds. Ideally, Celluloid should have been made like that but when a make-up test costs around Rs. 6 lakh, the producers are sure to be aghast, when [at present] the entire cost of make-up would only be half of this. We need to get over this mental block. Make-up is as important as hiring a costly camera or lights.”

Prithviraj promises to see that make-up is given prime importance in his forthcoming films. “It is time the people concerned realise how much it can add to or negate from a film. Also, on location I have often found an art director is allowed 20 days for his work but when it comes to a complicated make-up, he is given hardly three hours.”

Prithviraj has recently delivered back-to-back hits and turned in some superb performances, which must have certainly upped expectations on him. “Under no circumstances can I tell you that all my films are going to work out successfully. Chances are that I’ll finish my career as an actor who has done an even number of films that have worked and not worked. But I do films for selfish reasons. I do films when I find something exciting in a script. A lot of people hated Double Barrel but when I heard the script I offered not just to act in it but also to produce it. I thought it was interesting; it was a genre never tried before. But I was aware that it was one big experiment. I took it up because I knew that there was a definite possibility of losing money. But I don’t regret it. I will continue to make films that excite me. There is no barometer to judge what the audience wants every time.”

There was a phase in Prithviraj’s career when, unintentionally, he began doing the same roles over and over. “There was this sub-conscious urge to design the film in a way that there is something in it that the audience wants from me. Once I got complete control of doing the kind of films I want to do, at least one thing I have consciously tried to do is make the film a priority and what I do a lesser concern.”

Favourites

Actor: One actor I would like to watch repeatedly and if I have the liberty of choosing only one it is Mohanlal.

Film: It is tough to pick one because there are so many I like for various reasons. But one that I would love to watch anytime, though it may be clichéd, is Cinema Paradiso.

Book: Again this is the ultimate cliché, The Fountainhead.

Food: I’m a huge foodie but, obviously, what I eat and don’t depends on the film I’m doing. My favourite is rice and fish curry. This might be genetic, the true Malayali taste.

Forthcoming films

Darvinte Parinamam: Jijo Antony

James & Alice: Sujith Vaassudev

Oozham: Jeethu Joseph

Ezra: Jayakrishnan

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 1:57:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/prithviraj-on-his-films-and-career/article8280083.ece

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