Prithviraj Sukumaran was last seen in Sachy’s Ayyappanum Koshiyum, and as a director he’s currently working with Mohanlal in Empuraan (the sequel to Lucifer) and Bro Daddy. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, ahead of the release (on 30th June) of Amazon Original movie Cold Case, he talks about the five important films in his career, his equation with Mammootty (with whom he has starred in Pokkiri Raja) and how it was directing Mohanlal in Lucifer and then being directed by him in Barroz. Edited Excerpts…
You’re about the same age as many of your contemporaries but you’re also very ‘senior’ in a way because you’ve been through this incredible journey from way back. It’s like you’ve been around forever…
I think that is one of the biggest aspects of my process of refinement as an actor. I’ve been through the phase of dancing wearing white pants and white shoes. And I’m proud of it. I found success as an actor in films like those. Today, I’m working with new age filmmakers. I’m directing films at this age. I’m glad I can do that.
Sometimes, I go to Dulquer’s [Salmaan] house, his mom makes the best biriyani in the world. I land up at his house and then hang out with his dad, Mammooka, all the time, because there’s so much to speak with him. Mammooka will have a lot more in common with me, as an actor, than with Dulquer. So, I know what you mean.
If you had to name five important films in your career, for various reasons, what would they be?
My first film, Nakshathrakkannulla Rajakumaran Avanundoru Rajakumari, and not just because of sentimental reasons. I was someone who was more academically inclined and never thought about an acting career. People in my family thought I’d make it to the civil services.
Another important film was Vellithira,directed by Bhadran sir for very personal reasons. I was going through a phase where I couldn’t relate to the work I was doing. Not just the content, even the way the films were being made.
When Vellithira was released with a lot of hype, I was staying at a place called Abad Plaza in Cochin which shares a compound wall with one of the bigger theatres called ‘Kavitha’. Director Jayaraj walked into my room after seeing the film and asked me if I realized what had happened. I opened the blinds and looked down at the jam packed crowd at the theatre and I couldn’t believe it. Of course, they weren’t there for me, but for Bhadran sir’s film. But, it was a moment for me.
Vargam was the first film where I was involved more than just as an actor. It was directed by Mr. Padmakumar who was an assistant director in my first film. We decided to make the film the way we wanted to make it and I had fun doing the film.
Lucifer, of course, for obvious reasons is an important film for me. And then, Ayyappanum Koshiyum, but for a sad reason actually. It’s a mindblowing film with a lovely script by Sachy and iconic characters. I thought that the film would be the beginning of so many things for Sachy.
What kind of a film is Aadujeevitham? It’s based on an award-winning novel by the illustrious writer Benyamin…
Beyond the huge budget and canvas, I was really impressed with the way Blessy had conceived the film. You would think it’s a very arty, parallel kind of cinema. But he’s conceived it as an event film, something like Life Of Pi, where the narrative goes non-linearly from one event to the other. It’s an engrossing, mainstream cinema that talks about something deep-rooted and philosophical. The film has fantastic work from Rahman sir and we also have an international crew working on it. I hope Blessy’s vision comes to fruition. I said yes to Aadujeevitham on the sets of Pokkiri Raja in 2008 (laughs), so it’s been a long journey.
You and Mohanlal are bros now. You direct him in your directorial debut, Lucifer, and you’re also there in his directorial debut, Barroz. How was it like being directed by a person you’ve directed before?
I know it all sounds complicated but the fact is that once you’re on the set, it’s all very clear and simple. I guess it also stems from the fact that he has unimaginable experience and I have a body of work behind me. So, once I am on the set, he’s a director and I’m an actor and the equation is very clear. With Mohanlal, who usually calls me mone (son), when the scene is lit, the shot is ready and he is in front of the camera, he switches to calling me ‘sir’. He’s like that and it’s not even a put on, it comes from almost a subconscious level.