'Rishi Kapoor is a very intimidating person'
Malayalam superstar Prithviraj may not have scored in his first Hindi film Aiyyaa, but he's ready with his next -- Aurangzeb, co-starring Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, and produced by the Yash Raj banner.
The actor chats with Patcy N, and tells her about his new film, his plans to shift to Mumbai from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and why he gets hate mail.
Why did you agree to Aurangzeb when you have played a cop many times before?
Aurangzeb is my 17th cop movie and I know that's a big number. But just because two characters are police officers doesn't mean they are similar. Just because two people wear the same uniform doesn't mean they are similar.
Aurangzeb appealed to me because of the script as well as what I do in the film. Playing a police officer is not new to me but what I do in Aurangzeb is different. You see the film through my character. The film starts with me and ends with me. So in that sense, it is a very exciting role.
Photographs: Nadisha Daniel
'Watching Amitabh Bachchan movies helped me get into my character'
What is the character like?
Arya, the character that I play, is very stoic. He does not express himself throughout the film.
There is a scene in the film where his wife tells him she is pregnant and he doesn't react, so his wife tells him 'Smile karega toh bhi chalega'.
Being that kind of a man, he goes through a lot of emotional complexities. Even though the character has a stoic nature, as an actor you have to still communicate with your audience. That was very challenging.
I had to work a lot on my Hindi diction. I worked with a wonderful diction teacher called Vikas Kumar. After watching the film, everyone is complimenting me on my Hindi. For me, Aurangzeb is a very important film.
What kind of Hindi diction classes did you have?
We would have two-hour sessions every day for four months before the shoot. After that, he was there with me throughout the shoot.
Atul (Sabharwal) used to feed me 1970s VCDs of Bachchan films, as everyone knows that nobody speaks Hindi better than Amitabh Bachchan. Atul told me he is a great reference, to observe the nuances and pauses.
Watching a lot of Amitabh movies, spending time with Vikas, put me into training mode to get my Hindi right.
Image: Prithviraj in Aurangzeb
'Doing a Yash Raj film is a value addition for me'
Did the Yash Raj banner matter when you signed the film?
I would be lying if I said that it did not matter. But, having said that, if this script had come to me from an individual producer, I would still have said yes.
The fact that it is a Yash Raj film is value addition for me as an actor because for a production house like this to show confidence in me means I must be good. Aditya Chopra could have got anybody.
I did an audition for this role and then for 10 days I heard nothing. So I forgot about it and I was doing my south Indian films. Ten days later, Shanoo Sharma (casting director) called me and said my audition was the best liked.
When I spoke to Aditya Chopra, he was very magnanimous. He said, 'I would like you to do the film. Read the script and tell me if you want to do it.'
He gave me the bound script and unlimited cups of coffee and a silent room. I read it, and told him that no actor could say no to the film.
Is it true that Rani Mukerji recommended your name for the next Yash Raj film too?
You should ask Rani that.
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
'My friends in school would always make me sing Rishi Kapoor songs'
How was it working with an ace actor like Rishi Kapoor?
I have a lot of scenes with Arjun and Rishi Kapoor. I really enjoyed working with Rishi Kapoor. As a personality, he is an anti-climax to what you might think he is like.
When you think of his old films you imagine a cardigan-clad man singing songs. When he walks onto the sets, you realise he is not that.
He is a very intimidating person but at the same time, as an actor, very accommodating. More than anything else, what really hits you is the fact that he is enjoying this reinvention of himself more than anybody else.
He is having a lot of fun and that rubs off onto his co-actors. If the audience feels that I have done well in scenes where I am with Rishi Kapoor, it was also because my co-actor is a legend.
Both Rishi Kapoor and Jackie Shroff have given fantastic performances though I don't have any scenes with Jackie Shroff.
Have you seen his films? Are you his fan? Which is your favourite movie of Rishi Kapoor?
I love many of his films but I have one distinct memory associated with him.
I do a bit of playback singing in Malayalam. During my school and college days, I took part in district level singing competitions. Every time I went on stage, my friends would demand the song Sochenge Tumhe Pyar (from Deewana, picturised on Rishi Kapoor). That was the first song I sang that won a prize. So I have sung that song about a million times.
Image: Prithviraj and Rishi Kapoor in Aurangzeb
'I am going to give Bollywood a serious shot'
Do you want to act in more Bollywood films?
I am going to give Bollywood a serious shot. In the south, I am in that stage of my career where I want to start slowing down. I have done 75 to 80 films. I don't want to be doing more than two films a year.
I want to take it easy. I have a successful production and distribution house.
Two Malayalam films a year will take me four months which means I have eight months to use as I like. I want to invest that time in Bollywood. Whether Bollywood needs that kind of time from me, is yet to be found out.
You got lots of hate mail sometime ago. In an earlier interview to rediff.com, you's said 'I don't deserve this. If this is the way I will be treated, I will work in another language film industry'.
Yes, at one point of time I started getting a lot of hate mail because for some strange reason, I had not invited anyone from the Malayalam industry for my wedding, and people thought it was not right. So at that point of time there was this whole media, social networking upheaval against me.
At that time I was also doing Tamil and Telugu films. It was an idiosyncrasy that where I am a big star I had to face this problem and in another industry, where I was a newcomer, I was treated with such respect. You lose perspective of where you belong. So that was what I meant when I said that.
If you do get many offers, will you move to Mumbai?
I am already looking out for a house in Mumbai. Regardless of what happens in Bollywood, living in Mumbai has always been a dream because my wife is from Mumbai.
I really like the city. I have always wanted to have a place in Mumbai.
Image: Prithviraj and Arjun Kapoor in Aurangzeb
'I got Aurangzeb only because of Aiyya'
Were you upset when Aiyya didn't do well?
Obviously, if a film you are involved in does not do well, it is a sad thing. But in retrospect, I don't think I have anything to complain about. I got Aurangzeb only because of Aiyya.
People know me or talk about me, good or bad, because of Aiyya. It gave me visibility and a platform.
It would have been great if it had become a hit too, but that's okay. This is not the first time that my film has not done well.
What went wrong with Aiyya according to you?
There could be a thousand reasons. I think probably the brand of humour that Aiyya was trying to propagate just did not communicate with the audience.
It's a film that doesn't take itself seriously so it has to be seen in that perspective. If you look for logical reasoning you may not enjoy it. May be that's the reason it did not work.
Image: Rani Mukherji and Prithviraj in Aiyya