Excerpts from a conversation between Prithviraj and Vivek Ranjit.
You’ve been acting as the leading man since you were 18, and have mostly played characters older than your age. Have you ever missed campus life or just doing normal teenager stuff?
Yes, absolutely. Anonymity is priceless and you don’t realise it until you lose it. But then, when I complain about the loss of anonymity, there is also so much that this job has given me. I guess this is a trade-off that one has to learn to live with. Have I learnt to live with it? I am not sure. But I don’t see a point in complaining. I did not have a conventional campus life, because the only two years of my campus life were spent in another country where the culture of college is very different from what we are used to in India.
When you entered films you were mostly working with seniors who were your dad’s colleagues…
Yeah. For the longest time I used to call actors like Jagadish ettan ‘eda’ in films because they would play my friend.
Was it weird?
It was. In fact I remember in a film called Chakram, an actor called Srihari used to address me as Chandretta. The gentleman might have been twice my age, I am not sure. But I also think that this has been an integral part of my refinement process as an actor. Now I have a wealth of experience that I can tap into in the future. In that sense, I think I am a very lucky actor.
Malayalam cinema is going through a great phase, and there’s huge interest in it. You’re doing a global project like Aadujeevitham next. How do you wish to expand the market of Malayalam cinema?
I have always maintained that the only way to expand Malayalam cinema is to make films that would appeal to a global audience. True growth will happen when we make content that will also appeal to audiences that do not know Malayalam or Kerala. Films such as Take Off and Ennu Ninte Moideen, though deeply rooted in Malayalam, carried content that would appeal to anybody. Aadujeevitham is very much in that space, although made on a much bigger scale. The dream of director Blessy and myself is to make it the biggest-ever global venture that Malayalam cinema has come up with. We are going to make sure that it travels the world. We want it to reach a place where we can tell the world that there is a small strip of land in the South of India, and we did this. That’s the idea.
How did your foray into other languages happen? Was it part of a plan?
Both these languages (Tamil and Hindi) found a way to me. I remember seeing a Hindi film called Khakee and I felt it was shot in a very interesting manner. Later on, I learnt that it was the first film in India shot with a digital intermediate and was done by KV Anand. So, I called up my friend, director VK Prakash and asked him who this guy is. He told me that his first film was our Thenmaavin Kombath. The next day, I got a call from Anand, who said he wanted to pitch his directorial debut to me. I was in Bombay and he met me there. That was how Kana Kandaen happened. In the same way, I was shooting Urumi when Anurag Kashyap told me he is producing a film that a director wants to pitch to me. That was Aiyyaa. It has all been beyond and outside of what I had planned.
Your first Hindi film had one of India’s top heroines Rani Mukerji lusting after you. Was it ever awkward?
Actually, that was the most interesting dynamic of the film. Indian cinema is unfortunately so used to objectifying women; with Aiyyaa, we just turned the tables and said that now, let the woman objectify the man. I am a big fan of Rani. It was a satirical take on a lot of Bollywood cliches. It was a great experience working with her, and I got to work in close quarters with Anurag. The director Sachin Kundalkar was quite a genius too.
You’re one person who has been trolled for various reasons, including your English and your Facebook posts. How do you see that?
Well… keep them coming. I genuinely love them, especially because some of them are so creative. If my written English fails to communicate my thoughts, I guess it is a problem with my language, and my fault. But, I must admit that some of the trolls are really, really creative.