Actor Prithviraj is someone who had predicted an OTT revolution in the Malayalam cinema industry, years ago. Even as the Covid pandemic made his prediction true, the actor has given newer dimensions to his career. When the pandemic stalled the industry, Prithiviraj was on a career high as he shined as an actor, director and producer. Upcoming movie Bhramam would be Prithviraj’s third consecutive OTT release. In a candid chat, Prithviraj opens up about Bramam and also about his future projects.
Usually, Malayalam movies are remade into other languages. Why did you act in a Malayalam remake of the Hindi movie Andhadhun?
We didn’t choose Andhadhun just because we had decided to do a remake. Some of us had wanted to remake Andhadhun in Malayalam as soon as we watched it. We had been trying to contact director Sriram Raghavan and the producers to purchase the rights. It was the time when we were filming Lucifer. But, things didn’t work out then. This movie could be easily remade in a Keralite background. However, it has to be done carefully. Screenwriter Sharath wrote the script amazingly and the film is shot beautifully by Ravi K Chandran.
How challenging was it to play a blind character?
It is indeed a challenge playing a blind character. But, it is even more difficult essaying a character who acts as a blind person. More than learning the body language of an actual blind man, it is challenging to act as a person who is trying to imitate a blind man. I too have tried to do that. However, it is up to the audience to decide whether I have been successful in doing that. I decided not to watch the original as soon as I decided to do Bhramam. If the songs from Andhadhun were played in the gym while I was working out, I used to change them.
Were you tensed that Bhramam would be compared to Andhadhun and you would be criticised if the remake is not as good as the original?
There would surely be comparisons. It is quite natural that people compare both the movies. However, we don’t see it as a competition. Instead, we have done it as our own creative expression. Let the audience watch the movie and enjoy it. Let them criticise or share their honest opinions. Personally, I really liked the movie. I wish that others too would enjoy the film.
Did you like Ravi K Chandran, the cinematographer or the director?
When he decided to direct this movie, he wanted someone else to handle the cinematography. It was I who persuaded him to handle the camera too, as I had never got the chance to act in a movie in which he is the cinematographer. He took up that responsibility as he said ‘yes’ to a selfish desire of mine. But, I didn’t see Ravi K Chandran, the cinematographer during the shooting. He was a full-time director. He handles the camera quite effortlessly. He is very quick when it comes to deciding the angles. He would just give instructions about the positions of the camera. So, I could answer your question properly only after acting in a movie in which he does only cinematography.
This movie marks the return of yesteryear actor Sankar. Besides, there is an interesting star cast including Mamta Mohandas and Unni Mukundan. How do you evaluate their performance?
The success of this movie depends on the performance of the characters too. It is indeed a significant part. I couldn’t think of anyone else other than Sankar to play that role. Only he could pull off that character. His old songs and the nostalgia that we feel when we see his face are all important elements in this film. He is currently living in London. We had thought about making this movie when travelling was difficult due to the pandemic restrictions. We had decided to shoot his portions whenever he was available. But, he could reach here at the right moment. I really wish that this movie inspires him to become active in the movies again.
You became an actor, director and a producer during the lockdown period. Which role suits you the best?
I think producing is the most challenging. In fact, the restrictions had actually made our job as an actor and a director easier. Earlier, there were at least 150 crew members on the location. Now, it is limited to 50. We are aware that it is a small unit. Hence, we do not attempt bigger things. So, things became simple and easier. However, the producer has to spend lots of money to ensure that the pandemic protocols are strictly followed. So, it is a challenge being a producer now. Meanwhile, things have become easier for everyone else.
Supriya calls you an expensive director. Did you have to compromise on anything while making a movie during these times?
The story that I chose was simpler. I have done it on a canvas that suits its premises. I think we need to do what is just required. So, I haven’t really compromised on anything.
You are someone who predicted the OTT revolution. Do you think Malayalam cinema has now been limited to OTT?
Even though the screen size became smaller, I feel that viewing has now become more personal. Instead of watching a movie in the company of strangers, we watch movies in the privacy of our mobile screens or TV. Such movies would be made for those who prefer watching films like that. There would also be movies for the audience who enjoy the theatre experience. Both would exist side by side. Movies of various kinds and genres would now be produced.
What are your future projects?
I am currently acting in Gold directed by Alphonse Puthren after Premam. It is a movie that has an amazing star cast. As I am also the producer, I clearly know that there are 47 actors in this movie. After that I would complete Kaduva. Then I might take a break to transform into the character in Adujeevitham. I would fly to Algeria by the end of February, next year, to film that movie.
When can we expect Empuran?
We are doing all that we can do for Empuran. In order to proceed to the next stage, the world too has to go back to the pre-pandemic times. In this situation, we cannot even go location hunting for that movie. We hope that the remaining works could be resumed by the middle of next year.