You started your career as a leading man in 2002 with Nandanam. How do you see your journey so far? Which among your films do you consider the game changers in your career.
Prithviraj: I am thankful and the journey has been gratifying. I can’t be complaining about all ups and downs for where I am today. It’s good to be in a place or industry where I know that if I like a script I have enough clout to get it made into a film, as an actor that’s all you can hope for. I hope I am always in a position where if I say yes to a script means that it will get made. I am happy a lot of learning on the way has happened a lot of lessons learnt. There is a constant drive to learn more of your craft to keep updating yourself and I know it’s a never ending process and I don’t want it to ever end.
Which among your films do you consider milestones?
Prithviraj: Very tough to pick one film. Different films are important for different reasons. Obviously my first film is important for introducing me. It was a path breaker for me : Nandnam. At one point in my career, Classmates was a milestone film because it was a huge success and pathbreaker in a lot of ways in Malayalam cinema. Then another film called Puthiya Mukham. And obviously then there are 8 films I did back to back which were important. Among them Celluloid, Mumbai Police and Memories were very important phase in my career. There were really successful films that shook the existent concepts… very important films for various reasons. Lucifer is also a special film because it was also my directorial debut.
Bhramam is your third release within a year on Amazon prime video. How do you manage to be so prolific?
Prithviraj: Credit should go to the way the Malayalam film industry works. We are just very efficient with our turn-around times. All these films that happened in the past year were shot in under 40 days. Brahmam was shot in 34 days and a similar timeline was there for my previous release Cold Case. The post-production of these films took a couple of months and after that we were ready with the film. So credit should go to the way this industry works. As an actor infact I was relaxed. From gigantic films that require our 100 or 120 days we have moved to these shorter films and suddenly it feels we are doing easy work. So as an actor it’s been relaxing.The releases are happening quickly because of the way the Malayalam industry works and how great the system is so full credit to them.
Why have we not seen you in any Hindi film after Aiyya and Aurangzeb? Are you happy where being where you are?
Prithviraj: I am very happy being were I am now. The kind of work that I am doing and the kind of cinema I am able to facilitate I am very happy. I have read many Hindi scripts and a lot of Hindi projects have come my way;some I wanted to really do but could not because I could not manage time due to my other commitments and some didn’t impress me enough to take time away from Malayalam films. I have also read some interesting stuff from OTT space. Some were series which I really wanted to do but again could not. Some of them I hope I will be able to do.
Malayalam cinema is going through a prolonged process of renaissance.How closely do you view the films of other game changers in Malayalam cinema like Fahadh Fasil, Jayasurya, Tovino Thomas …is there a healthy competition among you all?
Prithviraj: We don’t compete against each other. We are all trying to make great cinema and trying to put Malayalam cinema on the map. It gives us a profound sense of pride that Malayalam cinema is being spoken about at the national and international level through our films. I feel we are all doing fantastic work be it Jayasurya or Fahad. It’s great that your contemporaries are also putting out great work so there are a group of actors who are all putting out great work. Now you are going through a phase where the whole industry is on a high point. That is a fantastic place to be in as an actor so no, there is no competition going on amongst us.
How do you a create fine balance between Quality and Quantity?
Prithviraj: The whole idea of being prolific or the perception of it is for some who looks for the outsight. I never do more than one film at a time. I am never doing two films at the same time. It’s not like I am shooting for a film today and shooting for another tomorrow. If I am doing a film I finish the whole film, I finish the entire work, I take a small break in between then I join my next film. My shoots are out together so well that they get done so quickly in less time and good quality. You might think I am working day and night but I do not but yes I am a workaholic. The moment I finish a film I start thinking what I can do next. So yes ,it might be a combination of both.
You apparently have a staggering 11 project in various stages of production. That must be some kind of a world record. Do you get any sleep at all?
Prithviraj: Thanks to Malayalam cinema. It is not about me but about this great industry that I am a part of that keeps coming up with great content. Also we have great conviction to pick up good content like Andhadhun and invest our time, effort and money into making it a film.
Correct me if I am wrong. But Bhramam is your first remake of Hindi film. What attracted you to this subject?
Prithviraj: I am a huge Shriram Raghavan fan (Andhadun director). I don’t think he remembers ,but I got in touch with him to remake one of his films into Malayalam. I met him to make Johnny Gaddar in Malayalam actually and eventually Andhadhun happened. I also love his Badlapur.
How different can we expect Bhramam to be from Andha Dhun? Did you make a conscious decision to interpret your character in your own way?
Prithviraj:As an actor you know someone else has done their interpretation of that character and now I as an actor should not try to interpret their interpretation of the character. When I watch a performance you can assume what their interpretation was, what their thought process was you can only assume what they were thinking while filming a particular scene. I did not have a chat with Ayushmann Khurrana or a one-on-one with him. We didn’t have that session nor did I want one.
So as much as I love the original version, I never base your work on the assumption of what the interpretation was in the original one. I believe in doing work by myself, read the adapted screenplay. Did my own interpretation of text on paper.For me it was very important to base my interpretation on the Malayalam text and that is what I have done. I hope people find it good and think it is entertaining. I remember watching Andhadun long back and thinking how it will work in Malayalam because the core was a straight plant in Malayali. I was shooting for Lucifer when Andhadun had released.
Finally do you think the OTT platform has taken over from the big screen?
Prithviraj: I think theatres will be back up and running to their previous glory. What will change is the kind of cinema that is being made for theatres. I think now cinema will go under bifurcation where there will be content made for the streaming services and content made for theatres. You are not making content for the viewing platforms but for the viewing experience.
There will be certain movies that render themselves for community viewing where you will watch it with 5 to 6 other people and then there will be those movies that will render themselves as something of a personal watch where it’s just you and the screen no third element. So I think even filmmakers will now need to learn and take the call after reading the material, as to how this will best be made. They will have to ask themselves where it will come out best… do I talk one-on-one to the audience or talk to a bunch of them at same time. It is going to be a very interesting scenario not just for theatres or OTT platforms but for filmmakers, actors, producers. So I don’t think it’s the end for theatres but rather the beginning of a new co-ed system which I think is great.