Rishi Kapoor is the most intimidating guy: Prithviraj Sukumaran

The Aiyyaa actor talks about working in his second Hindi film, YRF, sharing screen space with Rishi Kapoor and the difference between South cinema and Bollywood

Most actors, after they achieve a certain level of stardom, get confined to their comfort zones and remain there. It is somewhat like a paralysis for these superstars as they play similar characters over and over again, and venturing out to do a different film is not only difficult but impossible. But Prithviraj Sukumaran has made the transition seamlessly. And he’s not only picked up a differently themed film, but also in a language that’s not his native. His second Hindi venture is Yash Raj Films’ Aurangzeb. And the whole thing about stepping out of his comfort zone as a superstar down South to starting from scratch in Hindi cinema doesn’t bother the actor one bit. All he seems to be seeking is the next awesome script there is! So check out this live interaction with Prithviraj Sukumaran where he talks about movie, movies and more movies!

Doing films in different languages

As an actor what matters is what you get to enact. Cinema as such, I believe, is a medium that shouldn’t be categorised based on linguistic parameters. The best thing to happen to an actor is to grow beyond borders that languages construct. I was very lucky as I started with Malayalam movies, and later I did films in Telugu and Tamil as well. And now I’m doing my second Hindi movie too. I think somewhere down the line, people start accepting you immaterial of the region you are from. They won’t question your nativity. That is exactly why Aurangzeb is important for me. It’s not like Aiyyaa where I played a South Indian character. This is different.

Motivation as an actor

What motivates me as an actor is good cinema. So for example, if the next brilliant script I read is in Tulu, I will do it. For me it is always about the search for interesting scripts and films I believe will make for an interesting watch. So I keep hoping and with fingers crossed for the next best script!

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge for me was to get my diction right. I spent six months getting my Hindi right with my tutor Vikas Kumar. Today, I have people from Yash Raj, who have seen the movie, saying how good my Hindi is. I give complete credit for it to my trainer.

Is Aurangzeb a remake of Trishul?

It isn’t a remake. People are drawing comparisons. But no, it is a very, very original story. The only thing common is the double role. The film is an intense emotional drama. The structure of the film is like a crime thriller. But that is the underline. What comes through is a story about relationship and what happens to the characters. So no, Aurangzeb has nothing to do with Trishul.

Difference between South and Hindi film industry

The language, that’s it. Lots of people have asked me if South cinema is professional and Bollywood isn’t. I’d love to say that that’s not the case. The two Hindi films I did were very professional. I spent the least amount of time shooting for them. South films go on for 80 days. So apart from the language, I can’t see a difference. But Indian cinema is getting more corporate, and yes, Bollywood is the largest stage in the country. So 10 times more people will see a Hindi film than a South one, and as an actor that matters to me. Acting in films where you know maximum number of people will get to see it is what excites me. The fact that my Hindi film will be seen by a far larger number of people than a South film is what makes the difference.

On ‘weight’ issues

When I said yes to Atul Sabharwal, I was very buffed and quite the bodybuilder types. But Aurangzeb is a very real film. The effort has been to make it very real. Nowhere in the film will you see cinematic cliches. So my brief from the director was simple; you need to look real. So obviously I wanted to slim down and look like a normal guy. So yes, Arya is a very fit police officer, but he isn’t the kind to drink a protein shake every three hours, which I did in Aiyyaa! The first connect with the audience is the look. It isn’t easy, but for the last two years I changed drastically physically. Before Aiyyaa I played a 55-year-old guy, then I put on muscles for Aiyyaa and then again I lost weight for Aurangzeb.

Working with Arjun Kapoor

I saw Arjun’s first film when we were doing a workshop together for Aurangzeb. These were my exact words for Ishaqzaade. I told him, “Arjun you make me ashamed of my debut.” I truly believe Ishaqzaade was a sensational debut. The easiest way for a good looking actor is to play the boy next door where a man only needs to wear designer clothes and look good. But Arjun did a tough thing. He looked dirty and gritty. I only wanted to know how much he would come up with in his second film. And if you see Aurangzeb, you will see that he has really evolved as an actor. As someone who has seen all the actors make their debut and move on, Arjun really has surprised me. Almost as if he did a dozen films between Ishaqzaade and Aurangzeb!

Sharing screen space with Rishi Kapoor

I have been talking about it a lot. From Rishi sir, whatever movie I saw of him, classical cardigan wearing lover boy, he is an anti-climax to that. He is the most intimidating guy. He can walk on the sets and steamroll you as an actor, but he is fun. The energy level is something to behold. Some of my best scenes are with him. More than anything else, it’s amazing to see an actor enjoy his work. It’s a performance he really enjoyed doing.

On being offered Aurangzeb

It was YRF. For someone like me, seeking people who are interested in an actor like me is an appreciation of the highest order. So the fact that YRF calls me and asks me to audition, that tells me that it is a very real possibility that I can be a part of Hindi films. Because YRF is as Bollywood as it can get. As much as it is modern and corporate, it is heritage Bollywood. So, for an actor like me to be in a film by Yash Raj tells me I have managed to transcend the South and North Indian thing. And I’m happy with the way Aurangzeb has shaped up!

Describe the movie in one word

Real. Because cop movies are not new to Bollywood, especially recently. But I must assure you that a lot of cop movies haven’t treated the theme as we have. It’s a very urban milieu. The characters are very believable. What’s also more interesting is that everyone has a gray shade. No good or bad. So, real is the word that comes to mind, and come in expecting to see a very real kind of drama.

Shedding 20 kilos for Blessy’s next film

Blessy and I are planning a movie on a man who is stuck in the middle of a desert in Saudi for two years. It can only be shot in two ways – one is me as normal, the next phase is I become thin and famished. That will happen by the end of next year. I don’t know how many kilos I will lose, but it needs drastic weight loss!

Working in Happy New Year

I just had a very informal meeting with Farah Khan. I have to yet make a commitment. So nothing is on paper as of now.

You have played a lot of cops

Aurangzeb is my 16th or 17th cop film. Not that I’ve got to do only those but in my career a lot of them have come my way. But again, just because two characters are cops doesn’t mean they are similar people. Not that I want to play only cop on screen, but when a script is good, as an actor I don’t say that I did one cop film, so I shouldn’t do another. Down South I have done a lot of action films ‘coz in my career one of my biggest hits happened to be an out and out action film and so the audience likes me in similar roles.

If not an actor I would be…

I belong to this group of people, who are a majority – after finishing high school, you have no clue what you want to become in life. I was one of those who didn’t know what to do in life. So I went abroad to study, not because I was interested, but I was very excited with the prospect of going abroad and living by myself. And I probably would have ended up in a boring 9-5 job. But luckily, as destiny would have it, I did cinema. And now, there’s nothing else I’d want to do. I want to direct. I have already produced. I would also like to write. But beyond cinema, I can’t think of a life.