It’s great to be part of content that travels: Prithviraj Sukumaran

The actor-filmmaker reflects on doing a comic script after a long time, humour in Malayalam cinema, and why he believes remakes of successful Malayalam films is a good thing.

Published: 05th October 2021 09:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th October 2021 10:58 AM   |  A+A-

Prithviraj in a still from 'Brahmam'

Prithviraj in a still from 'Brahmam'. (Photo| Cinema Express)

Express News Service

It's been a long time since we have seen Prithviraj Sukumaran in a comical role on screen. If the trailer of Bhramam is any indication, we may not have to wait until his second directorial feature, Bro Daddy, to find out whether he gets to exercise his funny bones.

The Malayalam remake of Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun, Bhramam, directed and shot by Ravi K Chandran, has Prithviraj playing Ray Mathew, a gifted pianist who may or may not be blind. It's a character that Ayushman Khurrana played in the original.

Prithviraj believes Bhramam, which hits Amazon Prime Video on October 7, is funnier and more wicked than the original version, and he attributes this to him relating to the Malayalam humour more or understanding the language better.

"Sarath Balan's script has a little bit of an edge," he says, adding that Ravi K Chandran was also particular about having a layer of black humour throughout the film. Prithviraj is optimistic that it would also appeal to anyone who saw the original.

Your funnier side doesn't get explored often on screen. Aren't you being approached with enough comedies?

The fact of the matter is I haven't heard a funny comical script as an actor till Bhramam. And, of course, there is Bro Daddy, which I've acted and directed with Lalettan (Mohanlal). It is one of those proper comic films. By that, I don't mean the slapstick capers but rather a lighthearted candyfloss piece of cinema that makes you smile. That in itself is an art form that's gone missing from Malayalam cinema.

Humour is a tricky genre to pull off. Trickier still is black humour. What worked in international cinema doesn't necessarily work when tried here. Thoughts?

I think humour works best when it's more relatable. For someone to smile, they have to be first involved in the situation. When it becomes alien and unrelatable, then you have to work at the slapstick level - the Tom and Jerry stuff, where the physicality is more dominant - whereas, in real-life, situational humour works better when it’s relatable.

I think that's the strong point of Bhramam because you follow the journey of these characters, and, at some point, you start relating to what they are going through. There are moments in Bhramam that come across as genuinely funny for that very reason. I think that’s where the mastery of someone like Sreenivasan sir, or Priyadarshan sir, or Sathyan Anthikad sir comes through.

In the 80s, they used to churn out a lot of comedies, and most of them were good. That's not the case today. I think it simply has to do with the mood of the times we lived in. There was a lot of satire and sarcasm in our lives during the 80s - at the heights of unemployment and when the issues were a lot simpler.

So, right now, it has become such a complex existence that cinema tends to find inspiration from darker and sober pieces of society and stories. But I'm hoping that it will change, and I'm hoping films like Bhramam and Bro Daddy reawaken that trend. A while ago, I listened to something from director Shafi, which genuinely made me laugh. So let's see.

While on dark humour, you have appeared in Lijo Jose Pellissery's Double Barrel, an epitome of whacky, unhinged comedy. I found it enjoyable, but many don't share the same sentiment. Do you, as a filmmaker, find the reception to such films discouraging?

Well, I'm okay with it because I'm used to failures as much as I'm used to successes. If a film I'm in didn't work, that’s fine by me. But like you said, it's a film that I also enjoyed and still do. Even the last time I was at Lijo's house, we still watched a few reels of Double Barrel.

It's one of those films to which I keep going back. What’s sad is not that particular film not working, but I would have loved to see a scenario where Double Barrel became a commercial success and that starting a whole new trend.

That would have been an exciting world to live in as an actor, a director or a producer. We would have gone down the comic, graphic novel route, which would have been great. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I’m still hoping that happens at some point.

I heard that Unni Mukundan is quite funny in Bhramam. The trailer gives a hint. How would you describe your interactions with him as a co-star and as a character in the film?

Unni and I've known each other for a while. He is a friend, and when we were discussing casting for the film, the moment we said Unni, everybody immediately agreed. I was happy that he grabbed the opportunity when we presented it to him. He immediately knew that this was something he hadn't done before. I genuinely liked his performance in the film, and I think others would do too.

Having said that, I think people would enjoy watching all the actors in it, be it Mamta Mohandas, Raashi Khanna, Jagadish ettan and Shankar ettan. It's a group of well-cast actors, and it's why the film works for me. Andhadhun also worked for the same reason.

Bhramam is the remake of a successful film. How do you feel about some of your successful films - say, Ayyappanum Koshiyum - being remade into other languages?

It's great to be part of content that travels. Ultimately that's one of the aspirations behind all content creators  to make a piece of art that traverses boundaries and find acceptance outside your linguistic borders. So, films like Ayyappanum Koshiyum getting remade in other languages is a sort of justification of your belief in that piece of cinema.

I think that is going to be one of the main ways for Malayalam cinema to start growing. When our cinema starts finding acceptance at national levels, down the line, you are looking at Malayalam IP rights in a completely different light. So it’s one of the arenas that Malayalam cinema needs to learn to explore.

Anything you can tell us about Alphonse Puthren's Gold? Which film is next?

All I can say right now is it's an Alphonse Puthren film with a long list of names in its cast. After Gold, I move on to Shaji Kailas's Kaduva.


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