Saturday, February 23, 2013

I don’t take my shirt off for every film!

From Malabar to Mumbai, Prithviraj’s robust entry has left Bollywood gaping. Agreed, he didn’t have much to do in Aiyyaa, but those bulging biceps, that searing intensity and an assurance that he is a very good actor down south, have been enough to make everybody go gaga over him. But sorry, girls, he’s taken and totally smitten – by Supriya Menon, a journalist with BBC!“I AM very intrigued that my body is the topic of discussion,” says the well-spoken and vastly amused good looker. “But I understand it and am completely enjoying it actually. I have never been categorised as an actor in that slot, probably because it’s the only place I have not been as an actor (in the south). And my first Hindi film has done that for me. Oh, fantastic!”

So is he Kerala’s Salman?

“I am not, I am really not. You know, I am doing a second Hindi film already (Yash Raj Films’ Aurangzeb) and I have not taken my shirt off. It is not even that kind of film. And see, in Kerala those things tend to matter a lot less. If you have a great body, it could make you Kerala’s most wanted model but to be in the kind of cinema or to be the kind of actor that Malayali aesthetics would accept, is not so dependent on your physicality. So, strangely suddenly this new thing is happening around me and I’m loving it!”
What? No 6-pack demos on screen? What has Prithviraj been up to as an actor?

“I have done everything,” he replies, still amused. “I have done crazy stuff with my body. I have eaten non-stop; I have woken up at night and eaten cheese to put on weight for a role. In fact, last year for the National Award winning Indian Rupee which I also produced, my director told me, ‘Unless you have a paunch, I will not shoot the film’. He is the same director who introduced me in my first film, so with him, I couldn’t even argue. And this was just after Urumi where I was looking like this 13th century warrior! So all this is not new to me. But so much attention definitely is!”

With such weight-swings, does he have a regular regimen which he follows?

“I am blessed with a physique that is good and I have always taken care of myself. I am from an army school and from a very young age, the fact that you should be fit and disciplined was always there in me. But no, I don’t take my shirt off for every film!

“Unfortunately, being an actor who does one film after the other, there is no lifestyle routine that I follow. As I said, some films require me to put on weight while for some I have to be underweight. I loved it when I was doing Aiyyaa because I was eating so much. I had to be on a 6000 calorie diet. In the song, ‘Aga bai’, yeah, in the bare-bodied one, I was 94 kg. Right now, I maybe 87-88. I have even been 106 kg and then 76 kg. I know it’s not healthy but I did it for my films.”

Aiyyaa didn’t do well, plus his role was minimal except to flaunt his body. Why did he choose such a film for his debut?

“See, at that point of time, I couldn’t bring myself to think like that. For me, it was my 81st or 82nd film and I was looking for some new stuff to do, some experiments, and this was like, ‘Wow! I have not done anything like this before, I have not even been offered anything like this before. So let me do it.’”

After its release, any regrets?

“I would’ve done Aiyyaa regardless of it being in Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil or Telugu. I was, of course, disappointed that Aiyyaa didn’t do well but, in retrospect, I can’t be complaining because of the kind of buzz that Aiyyaa created for me. I have already almost finished shooting my second film in Hindi and I have listened to a lot of scripts. I don’t know as a debutant if I could ask for anything more, especially one who has absolutely no connections with Mumbai. I have not lived here, I am not even some struggling actor in Hindi. I’m just a completely new entity who did this one-off film, and suddenly there is this interest around me. So I can’t be complaining about it.”
With Aurangzeb, his next in Hindi, getting ready and the general buzz around him, is it adieu to the south?

“I am not going to shut shop there because obviously, Malayalam and Tamil cinema are what made me who I am today and the fan base there is just too big for me to suddenly say that I am not going to do films here. They have watched me grow and they have supported me all these years.
“But now is the time when I don’t have to work there for money. I can really think, sit back and do only the cinema that I really, really think should be done. Then I want to make a successful production company and I want to see youngsters coming and making films.

“Finally, I want to be in that space where I do only one or maybe maximum two Malayalam films as an actor. That would mean about three to four months of work which will leave a good part of the year free for me to invest in Mumbai.

“Also, regardless of whether Bollywood happens or not, my move to Mumbai was something that my wife and I have been dreaming about for a long time because this city has played a great role in our love story when we were dating. She is from Mumbai. We had always planned that once I slowed down, we would find a place in Mumbai and live here. We obviously have places in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and different places in Kerala. So yes, I am looking to get a place in Mumbai.”

Bollywood is indeed welcoming, but does Prithvi have a language or accent issue?

“Not really. I have learnt Hindi in school. In fact, I can’t read or write Tamil or Telugu. I can only read and write English, Malayalam and Hindi. So it’s not a language that I don’t know but obviously it is not the language that I am used to conversing in daily. That’s what I need to get used to. Hindi cinema definitely has a wider reach. I am sure more people would have seen ‘Dreamum wakeupum’ than all my 80 films down south put together.”

And finally, Prithviraj doesn’t just do films. Isn’t he a big movie buff too?

The son of late veteran actor Sukumar who curiously discovered his love for cinema as an IT student in Australia, grinned widely and twinkled, “I am a big film junkie. I have my own theatre at home and I don’t mean a home theatre; I mean a real digital projection theatre. When any film releases in Kerala I can see it at home whenever I want to. So I just watch films, film after film, after film… Every day after shooting I end up watching a couple of films.”

So that’s it, folks. A New Year, a new industry and a new house in Mumbai this year. A very Happy New Year, Prithvi!

Priyanka Ketkar