WHEN I asked around about veteran actor and film director Prathap Pothan, three recurring themes emerged: 1.He is extremely intelligent 2. He is devastatingly humorous 3. He is totally eccentric.
So when I went to meet him for coffee at his bright and airy apartment high above the maddening crowds at Kilpauk, the first two descriptions were immediately evident, but the third required deeper probing.
“Wearing jeans was a new thing in films when I first started,” he laughs.
“Speaking only in English was uncommon in the Tamil and Malayalam film sets and at that time I was considered a young hippie and everything I did seemed a little unconventional to everyone.
“The roles I played could be considered eccentric. I seemed to always play characters that were neurotic and a bit helter-skelter. But that was not me.
I think people enjoyed the characters so much that they projected that same persona on me. ” The youngest of five children, he grew up in a household where art, politics, entertainment and business co-existed, allowing him to experience a large cross-section of life from his ancestral home in Trivandrum in Kerala. This seems to be in stark comparison to his contrasting years at The Lawrence School, Lovedale which he recalls fondly.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s, armed with a posh boarding school education from Ooty and awakened by an amazing bohemian experience gained ‘chasing the wind’ during his college days at MCC in Madras, the young Prathap went about shedding his shy schoolboy skin and embracing a culture of theatre and art.
“I didn’t care about what people thought about me. I acted in the films that I wanted to act in and later made the films that I wanted to make,” he says confidently.
“Luck was definitely on my side. I won a Filmfare Award for the first film I starred in and projects and offers kept coming my way from there.
But I got to a point where I found everything about the film industry a little too fast. After a while things just became too chaotic for me and over a period of time making movies I realised that I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
So I stopped.” So now that his youth and crazy days are behind him, Prathap Pothan is spending time enjoying music, books, cinema, good food and conversation with friends in-between his ongoing projects.
Society seems to always be in a hurry to label everyone. When remarkable people show many different skills and traits and many layers of substance and imperfection the common man is overwhelmed by it all and coins terms such as ‘eccentric’. If Prathap Pothan is an eccentric then I want to grow up to be just like him!