Ahead of his next film, Kuruthi, which gets a direct OTT release on Amazon Prime Video on August 11, Prithviraj speaks to Anupama Chopra on how he played a role in developing the film from its initial stages, why he doesn't care whether he plays likeable characters, and being open to roles in other languages. Edited Excerpts…
Kuruthi is an extremely complicated subject. How did you decide to take a shot at it with Manu Warrier, who is a relatively new director?
The film's subject is quite complicated to translate into cinema. I read Kuruthi as a synopsis of about nine or ten pages. It was a year back when I was quarantining after having tested positive for Covid. I felt it was a film that had to be made. I got in touch with Manu. Manu, Anish [Pallyal] and myself had many discussions and frankly, I've pulled them away from being very honest filmmakers. The initial draft was very sober and had an almost arty kind of a narrative.
My take was that it was a film that needed to be said in the populist mainstream language. But we also stayed true to what the film wanted to talk about. From there, it took a few months to give shape to the vision. During that process, I managed to facilitate (for lack of a better word) Kuruthi being made. Manu didn't know any actors and technicians in the Malayalam industry. I took it upon myself to get the correct technicians, best actors for each character and more or less the look and feel of the whole film.
My team took Manu to Eratupetta and the rubber plantations in Vagamon. It was a process through which I trusted that Anish and Manu as a team could execute the vision. This was a film that was shot in twenty four days. We didn't plan it that way but we couldn't stop once we started.
You're the producer and biggest star of the film. And yet, you seem to be playing an unsympathetic character. As a star, do you worry about being likable on screen?
Never. If you look at my filmography and speak to people who've world with me, the first thing they'll tell you is: you never know what Prithviraj will come up with next. And I like that. Even in business and trade circles in the Malayalam industry, they're worried about that. I know as a "star", there's money riding on me and I understand when people are worried.
When Kuruthi came to me, I was supposed to play Ibrahim [now played by Roshan Mathew]. But I just couldn't cast Laiq. It's a far-fetched analogy but it's like Christoph Waltz walking into the house in Inglourious Basterds. There's palpable tension when Laiq walks in, he comes with such a force. So, if I'm playing Ibrahim, who will play him? We tried many names but it didn't work. But when we started seeing me as Laiq it all opened up.
Your forays into Hindi cinema, Aiyyaa and Aurangzeb, didn't work at the boxoffice. Is it even necessary, especially in the last 15 months when the world has woken up to the brilliance of Malayalam cinema, to do a Hindi film to be a national actor?
Not at all. Doing Hindi cinema is not about being a national actor. Even if Malayalam cinema didn't have national recognition (which is not the case), it will still take a really, really good script or character for me to do a film in another language. The reason is I'm happy with what I'm doing in Malayalam. Things like fame and wanting to be on the bigger stage don't matter any longer. I believe we have to take our cinema to the world rather than waiting for them to discover us. I'd even do Bhojpuri or Assamese films. I'm just an actor and language doesn't matter to me.