Saturday, October 17, 2009

Long way ahead

Superstardom is the culmination, the grand finale, of a natural progression of happenings. It is a force of nature unleashed when a series of instances, by way of some magical influence, gather into a splendid constellation.

In Prithviraj’s case, events look too scattered and uneven to be called a stellar formation. Puthiya Mugham is a massive hit but it would be folly to think of it as the grand finale, as the event that has installed Prithviraj in the pantheon along with the presiding deities Mammootty and Mohanlal. When superstardom comes, it comes not in the form of a superhit but as a rousing feeling, something akin to what the boys and girls in Hamelin felt on hearing the Pied Piper play.

The success of Puthiya Mugham has not let the misconception be put to rest once and for all. It has not transformed Prithviraj into a Pied Piper-sort of being. By the way, boys and girls and men and women were not lured by the supposed charms of ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, Prithviraj’s release after Puthiya Mugham.

Mammootty and Mohanlal too deli­vered hits during the early ’80s long before they were considered superstars. In Mammoo­tty’s case, there were Koodevide (Padmarajan) and Aa Raathri (Joshy). Mohanlal had Uyarangalil (I V Sasi) and T P Balagopalan MA (Sathyan Anthikkad). These hits did not make them anything more than promising talent. At that time, in the early ’80s, they lacked a hyperactive media more than eager to grab, embellish and dramatise their success.

The tipping points in Mammootty’s and Mohanlal’s careers came later in the form of Adiyozhukkukal (I V Sasi-M T Vasudevan Nair) and Rajavinte Makan (Thampy Kannamthanam-Dennis Joseph) respectively. There are some who say it was Kana­marayathu that worked as the tipping point in Mammootty’s career and Thalavattom in Mohanlal’s. These disputes only strengthen the argument that superstardom works in mysterious ways.

The point is, though these ‘tipping point’ films were not the ones that made them superstars, by the time these films were released the Big Ms had acquired

the near-divine power to inspire in viewers a strange sort of trust. Or was it an overwhelming hope?

Events in Prithviraj’s sparkling career have still not accumulated the critical mass needed to propel him to superstardom. The idea of Prithvi’s evolution as a superstar was the result of an ephemeral illusion caused by the stupendous nature of Puth­iya Mugham’s success, something which was totally unexpected.

There is a danger, it should not be forgotten, in considering Puthiya Mugham as the film that has ushered him into the big league. It could demean an actor of Prithviraj’s individuality. Though the film was well received in Kerala, it is a pale version of the thrill-a-minute Tamil films that features big-ticket Tamil stars. Prithviraj can never match the machismo of a Suriya or a Vikram, or even that of a Vishal or a Bharath. Prithviraj’s beefed-up body will look famished if pitted against Suriya’s or Vishal’s six-packs. Perhaps why, even with his dashing good looks, Prithviraj is still a second-rung hero in Tamil films. A second-rung hero in Tamil, as a rule, will always remain second-rung in Malayalam. For clarification, get in touch with Jayaram.

This brings us to the biggest hurdle Prithviraj will have to clear in his quest for superstardom. He has to break the mould and discover his unique screen identity. His muscular fury in Puthiya Mugham, for inst­ance, is a repetition of what his Tamil contemporaries do with greater dash. He is the best among the younger lot in Malaya­lam but even his exceptional performances — Vaasthavam, Classmates, Akale, Chocolate — have stopped short of being revelatory. Unlike, for example, a Mammootty in Thaniyavarthanam, a Mohanlal in Thalavattom, or a Sukumaran in Nirmalyam.

Even Suresh Gopi and Dileep, actors who could sustain the impression of being super­stars for quite a reasonable period, broke the mould in a manner that could be described as masterful. Suresh Gopi took Mammootty’s raw uncouth rage,

the kind he had perfected in films like Adiyozhukkukal and Aavanazhi, and gave it a learned sophisticated tweak. Dileep, on his part, gave a rascally edge to Mohanlal’s charming antics. Mammootty and Mohanlal, and to a limited extent Suresh Gopi and Dileep, res­ponded to a set of yearnings deep inside the Malayali psyche. What Prithviraj represents is a mystery.

And what he owns is a worn-out cockiness inherited from his father, the late

Sukumaran. Though the towering nonchalance looked appealing on his father,

Mammootty usurped it and made it look even more attractive by softening it with tears and blasting cracks of vulnerability in it. Supreme confidence, too much of it, has never sat well with the Malayali audience. Even Mohanlal was asked to mend his ways when it was found it had gone too much to his head. If on Mohanlal arrogance looked like an accessory that had outlived its use, on Prithviraj it looks like a permanent scar.

But it has to be said, Prithviraj looks a more accomplished actor than Mammootty or Mohanlal at a corresponding period in their careers. In fact Prithviraj looks so complete, so chiselled, that there is a creeping sensation that nothing more can be expected from him.

SOURCE : Expressbuzz

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