It’s not often that you see someone accomplishing a lot of the things they once said they’d like to achieve. And it’s not often that you meet an idol who lives up to his reputation. Needless to say, Prithviraj Sukumaran is an ideal role model material. 2019 proved to be a major year for him. With his newly launched independent production company doing well and a tremendously successful directorial debut to his credit, the actor-turned-filmmaker has been instantly hailed as a visionary.
He is now in a position where he can put together any project he wants, with a team and degree of excellence that he demands. Perhaps things would’ve been different had Lucifer not been a success, but the wind is currently blowing in his favour. I ask if there was ever a moment of self-doubt in his 18-year journey, and he replies, “No,” without a second’s hesitation. “I couldn’t fall back on the excuse of not getting any opportunity,” he said. “I first got an opportunity to be a producer with Santosh Sivan’s Urumi. It might not seem like it today, but back then it was a big deal to pull off a large-scale production like that. And contrary to popular belief, there was actual investment involved. So it was a brave thing for me, Santosh, and Shaji Nadesan to do at the time (the three co-produced the period epic).”
Prithviraj was supposed to make his directorial debut much earlier, with Lijo Jose Pellissery’s City of God (2011), but he was called by Mani Ratnam to act in Raavanan. But he is glad that Lijo made it instead because he feels he wouldn’t have done it as well as the Angamaly Diaries director did. Prithviraj got his golden opportunity five years later, with Lucifer. “I know that this opportunity came to me on a platter and there are more talented filmmakers out there waiting for an opportunity to make their first film. I got it easily because of my experience. But I still chose to take the tougher route in spite of it. Maybe it would’ve been easier for me to do a smaller film, for a festival circuit or something. With a big film like Lucifer, I knew that if I messed it up, everyone would bury me (laughs). I mean, I managed to get one of the biggest stars in India, a big production house, screenwriter Murali Gopy, cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev, and all the technicians I wanted. So there was no excuse for me to not make a good film, was there?”
Prithviraj was bitten by the filmmaking bug early on and made serious efforts to learn the craft on every film he has been part of. He got his taste of practical experience when he was allowed to shoot an action sequence for M Padmakumar’s Vargam (2006) and a small prison scene for VK Prakash’s Police (2005). He is indebted to director Bhadran and cinematographers S Kumar, Azhaggappan, and Santosh Sivan for teaching him everything he needed to know about the craft.