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The flawed Hero: “Prithviraj”

March 30, 2011

The most anticipated film of the year, personally for me is “Urumi”.

Touted to be one of the costliest Malayalam film ever to be made with a budget of over 20 Crores, the trailer and the story line has already generated a huge buzz around the state and the film is releasing this Friday!

But this post is not about the film but the main protagonist in the film: Prithviraj!

Many years ago, way back in 2002, a film was shot in my college campus in Trivandrum.

It was a tragic campus tale; tragic because the film never saw the light of day! The film production stalled after 2-3 schedules in my campus and the film was soon buried amidst the carcasses of other unfulfilled dreams.

But what was interesting was the fact that we got to interact with the hero of that film. A young actor who was our age (a year older than me) and who had just started his journey in Mollywood: Prithviraj Sukumaran.

At that time, the bloke had only done a couple of films but for a man, who had not yet become a star and was merely finding his feet in the industry, he had a certain confidence about him and was clear in his thoughts.

Cut to 2004, a great Tamil film called “Ayutha Ezhuthu”, by the classic director Mani Ratnam released at the New Theatre in Trivandrum. Even though it was our university exam the next day, we had to go for the FDFS of the film and to our surprise; Prithviraj and his brother Indrajith were at the cinema as well. He was not mobbed by the public like he is now. He was just an actor then, not a star! Not a single person went up to him for an autograph.

The bloke had a hit or two to his name by that time, but the mallu public being the callous lot that they can generally be, kept making fun of him at the theatre hall right throughout the film. A loud comment here and a loud comment there and sniggers everywhere, but the man took everything in his stride and watched the film in silence.

Cut to 2011, the man has become a star and is one of the most bankable stars in the Malayalam film industry. He had worked with some of the top directors in the South and is easily recognized outside Kerala as well and if rumors are to be believed, he will soon be seen in a Bollywood film. But the going has never been easy for him!

The Malayalam film industry is the past decade reminds me of the Malayalam film industry in the 1970’s. Great actors in that era were getting old and on a gentle downward slope, career wise and Mohanlal, Mammootty and so many others were just amateur actors then who had just started their careers. Bharathan had made his first film in 1975 and Padmarajan in 1979. Fazil made his first film in 1980 and Sathyan Anthikkad in 1982.

There existed a general consensus among the public that the “Great Days” were over. They never could have imagined the revolution in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, known as the Golden Age of Malayalam Cinema.

The Malayalam Film Industry I see today is not very different from that era. The “Greats” have either stopped acting or have grown old; desperately trying to hold on to their fan base through their fan clubs. The quality in storytelling and in screenplay which spurred the revolution in the 1980’s is dangerously close to extinction.

The astute Mammootty still does a few good films every year but the other great, Mohanlal has lost it completely (as a fan, I hate to admit it). I can understand that an actor grows old and will not retain his youthful appeal forever. I can understand that the same intensity is hard to emulate, but I never imagined our Lalettan would lose his acting talent! I could only shake my head in disbelief, when I heard reports that Lalettan is now shooting for a new film titled “Casanova”.

Endharae M—-“, my friend said last month on hearing this. That statement really sums it up. He “was” also a big Lalettan fan.

And moreover, the Malayalam film industry is also facing the heat from the Tamil and the Telugu Industry, which now are supported by bigger budgets, larger fan bases and a renewed zeal for basic story telling.

While those industries are undergoing a renaissance, the Malayalam Film Industry finds itself in “The Dark Ages”. The proud Malayali, who once dismissed the other industries with disdain, is now watching those films regularly!

And hence, Prithviraj finds himself in a curious position now.

When he makes commercial cinema, the films tend to be financially successful but they cater only to a certain section of the society. He then faces a backlash across the state from so many others, who still live in the nostalgic “Great Days”. This coupled with the interviews where his answers are never politically correct but blunt, has earned him the special title “Ahankaari”!

When he makes meaningful, story driven cinema, the films tend to be appreciated, but are financial failures. For example in recent years, Punyam Aham, Kerala Café, Arjunan Saakshi bombed at the box office and Veettilekulla Vazhi did not even find a single distributor who was willing to release it in the state (we are still waiting for that film)!

And which is why; he will remain a flawed Hero for the time being. He has all the right attributes. The bloke can act! He can bloody well act the pants off many of the other stars in the other industries. He can fight, sing, dance and has the right appeal/talent/looks, but has somehow not gained a strong foothold on the pulse of the state.

Hence, I hope that Urumi becomes a huge hit, a blockbuster; for Prithviraj; for the Malayalam Film Industry; and more importantly, for the audience as well.

Until change comes to the present deadlock; whenever there is a mallu get together, films like “In Harihar Nagar”, “No: 20 Madras Mail” and “Sarvakalashala” will be played…………..

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 4:01 am

    I too hope so for malayalam cinema’s sake! With Lam and Mammu still feeling no inappropriateness in acting as 25 year olds romancing heroines the age of their grand-daughters, there should be someone bold enough to break these set caricatures of malluland film industry. Hope Prithvi leads with the lamp.
    OG: totally agree machu…… not just prithvi but others as well!

  2. March 30, 2011 4:07 am

    no offense, but in the career of 11 years, i am yet to see a challenging role he even attempted?
    OG: no offense taken. Your question is so multidimensional that it cannot be answered with a single line

  3. March 30, 2011 4:22 am

    Is this the same Prithviraj who acted in the tamil movie Mozhi ???
    OG: yeah!

    • March 31, 2011 3:14 pm

      Ok, its him…..He’s quite good in the movies he has done in tamil or probably the ones I’ve seen…..

      No idea abt malayalam movies….

  4. March 30, 2011 5:44 am

    Mammotty has done some absolute crappy movies too…. He did the awesome Paleri Manickyam…and rocked as Hajiyar…
    OG: phew.. endhoru comment annu ithu! yeah, paleri rocked
    But he also did nonsense movies like Love in Singapore, Daddy Cool, Drona and goodness knows what else….God knows if it was for money (as if he doesnt have enough already!) or for simply lack of choice….

    I loved both Mohanlal and Mammotty in their hey-deys….they have been the pillars of Malayalam film industry and have given some of the best movies of hte decade. They got to work with stalwarts of hte indutry and produced awesome movies….technically sound as well as unbeatable script and acting.

    But now they are a sorry shadow of their former selves. They seriously need to be more selective while thinking of movies. And stop trying to do 20-something roles anymore… simply wont work.
    OG: agree!
    I’m not sure where the problem actually is – whether audience tastes have changed – a Pokkiri Raja ran for 100 days effortlessly – and hence actors are doing such movies….or because there are lack of good writers hence audiences are forced to choose such movies to watch. Daivanamathil was not a hit….among many other non-commercial stories like Punyam Aham and Kerala Cafe…
    OG: the problem lies partly in the changing views of the audience!

    I’ll give you this much. Prithviraj means well. He has grand plans. His head is in the right place. He has talent. But he needs to learn to be more diplomatic – or maybe not, considering the hoopla around him is what gained him all the attention.
    But why target just him? There are also other new actors. Indrajith is the dark horse….I think he has a far wider range than his brother. Jayasurya is also good – watch the climax of Kangaroo movie and u’ll see….
    Vinu Mohan also has a spark. Kunchacko is also making a comeback—no dont write him off saying he is just a chocolate hero.

    We have many young heroes. It’s just that unlike other industries like Tamil and Hindi where younger heroes have started to gain their own foothold, the cynical Malayalee audience have serious problem accepting new heroes. For goodness sake, how can the young actors come up unless they are given a chance in the first place?? Note that the same audience have no problem accepting new heroines. 😡
    Baby Shalini played Mammotty’s sister in Kaliyoonjal. Anju played Mammotty’s wife in kauravar. Both heroines have appeared as his daughter in the 80s movies. Sanusha is going to be Dileep’s heroine in a forthcoming movie. Kavya Madhavan was Mammootty’s and Mohanlal’s heroine in Pattanathil Bhootham and Madambi respectively. Navya Nair was Mohanlal’s heroine in Chathurangam. I could go and on. 🙄 sigh….

    And the less about today’s music, the better. With rare exceptions, most of the music in Malayalam cinema gets forgotten days after its release. I was just listening to this seemingly ordinary song

    But it sounds so melodious now…. pure Malayalam, no rap….lovely music…and Yesudas voice sounds awesome. Compare it with the crap that comes out in the name of music these days and it makes one want to head for the hills! 😐

    We are facing a severe dearth of technicians as well. Missing the veterans like Bharathan, Padmarajan, M T Vasudevan etc. There also needs to be a drastic change in the attitude of the Malayalee audience as well.

    Wow! I ranted a lot eh? 😀
    OG: hahaha yeah 😀

    • March 30, 2011 5:45 am

      Er…how do I make the song play here in the comment itself? I dont know hence pasted the link instead…

      • March 30, 2011 11:49 am

        Looks like a post for a post as reply….. 😀 😀
        To make the song play here, use the embed code in youtube. 🙂

  5. March 30, 2011 9:31 am

    Given my malayalam cinema knowledge, erm… I do not really have any points to make here! 😉

    About the lead of this movie (& of your post)… I’m aware of him! (phew)
    I’ve seen him in an off-beat movie called ‘Akale’. Have you seen that EOG? It’s based on a play called ‘Glass Menagerie’. And I must say, he was good. It’s really difficult to do parallel cinema, and not come across as too subdued or trying-too-hard. He managed.

    The issue of older heroes not making way, guess that’s valid in Bollywood too. I remember SRK saying he was astonished & embarrassed on the sets of Om Shanti Om, when Deepika who was his lead, confessed she really loved his work in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, when she was in school.

    Now about this movie, give review… will watch 😀

    OG: haha 😛 athu sheri! so you not watching it in the cinema I guess!

  6. Rajani Ram permalink
    September 27, 2011 1:23 am

    I just saw this post….and I am a fan of Prithviraj… so I was like ‘ how did I miss this blog?”..totally agree on wat you said… and also I must say I agree a lot with wat Ashwathy mentioned too. There are actors out there. We need a good script, good director…Someone willing to make a difference. The formulas so far is just not working. Did u know that ‘Adaminte makan abu’ is us for Oscars? Anyone watched it? Wat are your thoughts on it? ..
    OG: yeah, just read that the film has been nominated for the Oscars and I have not yet seen it . Not yet found a copy here in the US.

    • Rajani permalink
      September 27, 2011 6:37 pm

      I have it here in NJ. but I am not sure if I shud watch it or wait for someone to see it and then I will get it. I am not into artsy movies. I have a feeling I will be in tears at the end of this one. I am not into any movies that is closely related to life. I believe that I want to go and relax watching some unrealistc movie. Coz at the end of it I want to be able to relax and laugh and not cry or feel depressed. Some or I shud say a lot of people have the ability to watch the movie and leave it at the theater. I, on the other hand, bring it home. Think over it.. so realistic movie will have me in a loop, so I avoid that. :-)…. I will let u know in case I get any more news about it…. or may be I would see it .. so then I can tell you what that movie was about… LOL!!! 😀
      OG: ooho! so u live in new york? kollam! you should watch the film 🙂 will be a change from the usual masala film! watch it and tell me as to how it is!

      • Rajani Ram permalink
        September 27, 2011 9:13 pm

        :-))… Not New York…. I am in New Jersey….. ok sheri… just coz u said it I will watch it…. Blog Friend alle….:-)) . but u make sure u keep writing ok…
        OG: haha! to a californian, NJ is the same as NYC 😛 yeah, I will 🙂

  7. Rajani Ram permalink
    September 28, 2011 9:10 pm

    Oh really…. ok here try this…. if not the go to youtube and search for songs from Theja Bhai… they have a remix of an old malayalam song… and Prithvi Raj is dancing to it…. I find it hilarious…. so see if u can chk it out too… 🙂

    • OG permalink*
      September 28, 2011 9:56 pm

      yeah, heard this one and the others in the film! And I also heard the film is really bad 🙂

      • Rajani Ram permalink
        September 28, 2011 10:10 pm

        LOL!.. so its old news… damn! I thought I’d beat u to it…. lol!… that will beone movie I wont be watching then. thank u for telling me that its bad….

        • OG permalink*
          September 28, 2011 11:35 pm

          haha! you are “the” welcome!

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