South Indian superstar Prithviraj, who is known for his heroic roles in Malayalam films, revelled in playing a toxic and chauvinistic character in ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, out now in UAE cinemas.
“I had such a ball. It’s not often that I get such complex roles. I always end up playing those boring hero roles,” said Prithviraj in an interview with Gulf News tabloid. “I am not traditionally someone who’s bothered about perceptions. If I could do a film like ‘Mumbai Police’ in 2011, then I have no problem in doing an ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ in 2020.”
In the blockbuster ‘Mumbai Police’, the actor played a police officer who murders his best friend in a bid to hide his homosexuality.
His latest film will also show him revealing some unsavoury shades in his role as entitled lad Koshy Kurian. Directed by Sachy, ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ takes you into the world of two hyper-masculine men who have a bitter clash of egos and let their fight consume their lives.
Excerpts from our interview with Prithviraj...
Why should I watch your new film ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’?
I was hoping that me being in the film would suffice.
Aren’t you so modest?
[Laughs] The biggest reason is Sachy [director K R Sachidanandan]. The movie is written by him and it is his second film after ‘Anarkali’, which I thought was a fine film. Also, this film explores the territory that Sachy excels in. It’s between two people and male egos.
What is interesting about ‘Ayappanum Koshyiyum’ is that these characters are diametrically opposite, yet similar in many ways. So you have on one side a police officer Ayappan Nair [Biju Menon] for whom the uniform is a cage. It’s this cage that is protecting his inner, wild side from emerging.
Then there is Koshy Kurian, my character in this film, who is such a spoilt brat. He could never find a footing in his life. He even served in the army, but he came out of it. Now, he’s living his life off the wealth that his dad has made. He is always had a privileged life and assumed that getting into the army was his way of saying that he’s ready for the big, bad world. But this boy-man never evolved into a fully, complex adult. I truly believe what’s interesting in this film are the women in this film. When I first read the script, that’s what struck me the most. Their role may not be as lengthy, but I enjoyed watching the women’s role in this movie.
How are the women empowered in a film that’s basically about the clash of two male egos?
You have Ayappan Nair who belongs to Athipara, a tribal belt and he’s married to a tribal woman. You look at them and you feel that it’s a couple who have not seen the world much and just have some basic education under their belt. But they have a very modern, evolved man-woman relationship. They are equal and they have such mutual respect for each other. They are the portrait of a modern-day couple.
Then, you cut to Koshy Kurien’s life where he is rich and is seemingly worldly-wise and had the privilege of going to a nice school. He’s a classic example of toxic masculinity. He is an absolute chauvinist and is entitled. He thinks the world owes him big. But you cannot blame him. It’s the way he has been brought up. You see his father and you realise that this is what the boy has grown up seeing.
His surroundings, his family, his father, his friends and his environment has constructed this man. So when he meets Ayappan Nair, he collides with a world that he doesn’t understand. He does not understand Ayappan Nair nor his wife, who is a tribal woman, who stands up to a rich, midland Christian boy and says [expletive] off. In his house, his wife is even scared to speak to him. It’s a very interesting character. This is one of the most coherently written, but complex male characters that I have played in a long time.
You may not have been offered many toxic male characters, but Malayalam cinema is notorious for heroes who are intrinsically and unapologetically hyper masculine. How did you make this role more humane or were you expected to be popular with this role?
You will end up feeling sorry for Koshy in the film and that’s why I say the writing is brilliant. For all his sense of entitlement and chauvinism, you feel sorry for him. You may think: ‘hang on, he is brought up in such a way that he believes that this is the way he should act and behave.’ When Koshy looked around and saw his dad, friends and his environment, he saw just that.
So when he saw Ayappan, he couldn’t just wrap his head around it. He can’t even understand how a tribal woman can have an equal standing with her husband who’s a police officer. While Ayappan Nair isn’t condescending about it. I strongly believe that good cinema either embodies creativity in a presentable manner, breaks cliches and gives fresh narrative. As far as a movie gives you an interesting story, then cinema is good. ‘Ayappanum Koshiyum’ has an interesting, complex dynamic about male egos and relationships. Koshy makes this big mistake of goading Ayappan and he unleashes the wild animal in him.
Was it tough to play this role of a toxic chauvinistic male?
The reason why I enjoyed doing the film so much is that at no point does the film say that what my character Koshy does is right. At no point does the film say that Koshy’s wife is someone you should look up to as a woman. In many ways, it tells the viewers to look up to Ayappan Nair’s wife [a tribal activist]. I was a part of a larger narrative here and me playing this character lends it a lot more weightage. I will be immodest and say that. If you ask me to pick a villain and a hero in this film, it’s Ayappan Nair’s character who’s the hero and I play the villain.
What’s your equation with Biju Menon, an actor known for his excellent comic timing?
If you love him for his comic timing, then Biju Menon is going to take you by surprise this time. This film has nothing to do with comic timing, but he’s excellent in this film. As actors, we were both aware of the dynamics that we were going to create as actors. I had to make sure that Koshy Kurien perceived as doing the wrong thing. But their clash escalates so much, it becomes all about male ego. When the story transcended into that grey zone, we both cannot claim to be the right guy. Sometimes, our cause will not seem worth fighting for. By then both these men have become animals.
Don’t miss it!
‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ is out now in the UAE cinemas.