South Indian actor and filmmaker Prithviraj, who was honoured with the UAE golden visa last week, described it as an incredible ‘privilege and honour’.
“I was invited, awarded, and presented with this UAE golden visa and it is just underlining what we always knew … Dubai is our second home and in future it will be the base where Malayalam cinema networks and co-ordinates for all its international territories,” said Prithviraj in an interview with Gulf News.
The multi-faceted star -- who can act, direct, produce, and even sing in his films -- believes that the world market for cinema outside India is ‘controlled from Dubai’.
“I have a strong feeling that it’s now going to take a very corporatised and shapely form in the future. In the not too distant future most of Malayalam film production houses will need to have a proper official base here to take care of that,” said Prithviraj.
The UAE is one of the key international markets for Malayalam films and Prithviraj hopes to be in the forefront of creating change for his cinema in the UAE.
Other prominent Malayalam actors such as Mohanlal, Mammootty, Tovino Thomas, and Dulquer Salmaan were also bestowed the same UAE golden visa honour recently. But getting the golden visa is just the beginning, says Prithviraj.
“I have thought of it multiple times before. The next step would be to get in touch with the Dubai Film TV Commission and discuss how we can take this one step ahead. OK, you have called us and given us this privilege. Thank you so much, now how do we sit across the table and how can we bring Malayalam films to Dubai?” asks Prithviraj.
The prolific actor, who competes two decades in Malayalam cinema next year, has an ambitious blue print.
“Malayalam cinema is a very small industry when you look at global cinema … But how can we have a proper pipeline and one-point contact where Malayalam cinema and filmmakers will have access to filming in Dubai and do post production in the future. This is just the first step towards making it all a reality,” said Prithviraj.
While the ‘Lucifer’ producer and director claims he cannot afford a home in the UAE, he has been a constant traveller to this region (‘One day, I will be able to afford it, then I will get one’). Whether he was joking or being painfully modest couldn’t be ascertained in the succinct, sharply-clocked seven-minute interview.
Several Bollywood and South Indian talents such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Mohanlal, Shilpa Shetty, and Sanjay Dutt own palatial homes in the UAE. But a lack of a residential address hasn’t stopped him from being a frequent visitor to the UAE.
“In all likelihood, ‘Bhramam’ will be a theatrical release in Dubai and GCC and an Amazon [Prime Video] release outside of those territories. Plus, I am also looking to come here for a small four-day shoot soon,” said Prithviraj. But the details of the local shoot are yet to be finalised.
Prithviraj's career trajectory:
The actor, who is one of Malayalam cinema’s most bankable faces, has enjoyed an eventful year with two back-to-back releases ‘Cold Case’ and ‘Kuruthi’. While ‘Cold Case’, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, was an underwhelming thriller which saw him play a strapping cop, ‘Kuruti’ on the same platform was a gripping socio-political thriller on tenuous communal ties in Kerala and how extremism has shattered the fabric of their society. Adjectives such as ‘provocative’, ‘bold’, and ‘brave’ are often ascribed to ‘Kuruthi’. But Prithviraj did not set out to make a feature that would attract such pretentious adjectives.
“It was a superbly interesting piece of cinema. Everything else was secondary … Words like bold and brave attempt keep popping up … But none of that would have mattered if it wasn’t an engaging cinematic experience. When I read the synopsis I thought it would make an engaging piece of cinema and we managed to do that. And second, what the film speaks about needs to be spoken about. The film is the byproduct of our times that we live in,” said Prithviraj.
‘Kuruthi’, directed by Manu Warrier and also starring Roshan Mathew, Mamukkoya, and Murali Gopy, was a searing portrait of how religious tensions can erupt and obliterate civilised minds. It was a sensitive subject handled in a delicate-but-pointed way.
“Both you and I know what the film speaks about is something that needs to be spoken about …That thought is the byproduct of the times that we live in and I don’t think we can just play the ostrich and tell ourselves that it doesn’t exist. It exists, so you speak about it and that film did,” said Prithviraj. His ‘IT’ alludes to human relations being put to test due to their prejudices, hatred, and faith.
While ‘Kuruthi’ was riveting, his other film ‘Cold Case’ didn’t live up to the hype. Point that out to the actor and he adopts a pragmatic approach. In all fairness, nearly twenty years in the industry and more than 100 films later, Prithviraj admits that he is yet to crack that elusive ‘hit or miss’ code. He’s also a tad defensive.
“I remember telling my friend the same thing last evening. You read a script and you think that it’s going to be a certain kind of film. As an actor, you have very limited control, and as a producer you have slightly more control, and as a producer-director you have complete control. In ‘Cold Case’ I was just an actor, but that’s not to say what I saw in my mind was better than the ‘Cold Case’ that was made … But it was director Tanu Balak’s vision. I am sure there were people who liked the film,” said Prithviraj, adding that he is willing to also accept a negative review of it too. He’s in a good space in his life and career, believes the actor.
The actor is currently working with the iconic actor Mohanlal in ‘Empuraan’ (sequel to his directorial debut ‘Lucifer) and ‘Bro Daddy’. “I have no complaints. I have learnt in equal measure from my success and my failures. Ten years ago, if you had asked me where I wanted to be I would have described this scene. I want to be in a place where I can pick and choose the scripts that I want. I wanted to have enough clout in my industry and enough skills within me to make sure that the scripts I liked becomes a viable project. I am in that place now,” said Prithviraj.
In another ten years, he wants to shape and mould the world of Malayalam cinema based on his vision.
“I may dream bigger and I may do it in a larger scale,” he adds.