At 34, into his 100th movie: When actor Prithviraj defied all odds to build an enviable career

Prithviraj has not only survived, he has risen above hate to go from strength to strength.
At 34, into his 100th movie: When actor Prithviraj defied all odds to build an enviable career
At 34, into his 100th movie: When actor Prithviraj defied all odds to build an enviable career
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Malayalam actor Prithviraj Sukumaran perhaps had the hardest of times in 2011. A few lines from his interview with John Brittas on Asianet Channel were blown out of proportion.

A hate campaign against the actor was started and trolls aplenty created. The fact that his movies then included the likes of Thanthonni and Teja Bhai & Family didn’t help. I even remember that few people told me he wouldn’t go the distance at this rate.

6 years later, Prithviraj has not only survived. He has risen above hate. He has gone from strength to strength. Today, he has given Malayalam cinema some of its path-breaking movies and huge blockbusters.

In an interview a couple of days back, Prithviraj stated that he would now do his 100th movie as an actor at the age of just 34. This is a serious accomplishment for someone who has been misunderstood and misconstrued for a major part of his early career. We often talk about how Fahadh Faasil made an amazing comeback after a break of 7 years since his dismal debut. Perhaps even more remarkable is the story of Prithviraj who interestingly also made his debut in 2002, just two weeks behind Fahadh Faasil.

Prithviraj has stayed and survived through all these 15 years in the industry. He has found solutions to his problems sooner and made his returns from setbacks look easier. After a couple of early forgettable years, Prithviraj had a great 2006 with Classmates, Vargam and Vasthavam (the last also won him his first Kerala State award).

At a time when his hold at the box-office was on decline, he stepped up his game with the surprise hit Puthiya Mukham in 2009. His likable performance in Indian Rupee could apply brakes to the hate campaign in 2011. His outstanding portrayal of Dr. Ravi Tharakan in Ayalum Njanum Thammil in 2012 won him his second State award.

The actor hasn’t turned back since then. Prithviraj could be proud of a career which he shaped in a way different from others in his generation or next. When he arrived, it was a trend for youngsters to debut as a leading hero but then soon go into a shell playing sidekicks or insignificant roles in Mohanlal or Mammootty flicks.

Except once in Pokkiri Raja where he had the first half to himself, Prithviraj has been mostly reluctant to go down that route. At the same time, he didn't mind playing second fiddle to Anoop Menon in Thirakkatha or Lal in Thalappavu as long as it meant a meaty character in meaningful cinema.

In the latter part of his career, Prithviraj saw the emergence of successful young actors like Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan. But he remained unperturbed and continued to tread his own path, experimenting with diverse genres and roles. After enacting J.C Daniel, the Father of Malayalam Cinema in Celluloid, his next role was that of a gay amnesiac police officer in Mumbai Police who has to both discover himself and also crack a murder case. That such an out-of-the-box script did not find takers in other languages could do with the fact that most mainstream actors are still not willing to play a homosexual person on screen.

For two back-to-back movies with almost similar genres and roles, how he could make his Sam Alex in Memories look so contrasting to Antony Moses in Mumbai Police was sheer genius.

After portraying a real life hero in the hugely successful Ennu Ninte Moideen, what Prithviraj did next was a comedy, Amar Akbar Anthony and a romance, Anarkali - both money spinners as well.

Once in a while, he doesn’t mind taking risks as a producer for experimental efforts like Double Barrel. Prithviraj is still among the very few actors in Malayalam industry who has made a mark in other languages. While he is finding his feet in Hindi movies, he is a more established name in Tamil cinema. His debut in Tamil as the suave and handsome Madhan in Kana Kandaen was the first time we saw his flair for playing grey roles.

Later, Kaaviya Thalaivan won him the Tamil Nadu State Award for Best Villain. In Mozhi, he proved he could excel in romantic roles, too.

Prithviraj also finds time to voice his opinion on issues around him. This February, after his friend and colleague from the film industry was assaulted, he came out in vocal support of her. The actor openly admitted that he was wrong in celebrating misogyny in his movies and stated he would never be part of such movies again. This declaration might be a first among leading stars in any of our industries.

In April this year, I was imagining what an average week in Prithviraj's career would look like. He would release teasers and theater lists of The Great Father for which he was one of the producers. He would travel outside India for the press meet and promotions of his Hindi movie- Naam Shabana. He would give out shooting stills from his upcoming movie Vimanam and also the first look of Adam Joan. He would also be seen starting discussions of Lucifer with which he would make a foray into direction. All of this happened in one week. This is the kind of productivity which is only possible for someone who has dedicated his time 24x7 to cinema.

It’s the same reason why it wouldn’t be surprising if Prithviraj Sukumaran adds another 100 or even more movies to his resume in the years to come.

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