Is Prithviraj on his way down?

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Is Prithviraj on his way down?

The title is controversial, I agree. You would say he never was on the top, to be sailing down. Or you could say, there is no question of him coming down soon – he is safe at the top. 

They say viewers, and opinions, make or break a star. Fret not, I am not his well-wisher or a fan. Nor am I a hater. However, I don’t think I have given so much thought to any other actor in Malayalam cinema, nay, in any kind of cinema. That itself is worth noting. When we watch a movie, it is not the actor that we think of. If the acting is good, we don’t notice the man or woman who plays the role. It is the character that captivates us, and stays in our mind. The actor comes afterwards.

There is no denying that Prithviraj has talent. These days it is tough to spot, but it exists nonetheless.

When I watched Nandanam way back when it was released, I knew him as ‘Actor Sukumaran’s son.’ Though the role did not offer much versatility to the debutant, there were a couple of scenes where the subtle emotion that crossed his eyes made me think, “He could make it big one day.” The character was flamboyant. The actor was sincere.

Classmates followed soon after. It is very rare to find a movie with a good storyline, picturization, songs and well-balanced acting. Everyone associated with the film did a great job, no one overdid anything. The characters blended well into the premise. No one stood out. Prithviraj placed one more feather in his cap.

I cannot recall many of his films after that, but I often felt that no new actor could portray the ‘Angry Young Man’ better than he. Comedy was not his forte, that belonged to his brother. It was perhaps a field he was yet to master. He could be forgiven.

Last year I happened to watch a song from the movie Anwar. Though it seemed to be popular at the time, I did not like it. Something about the snow, the romance, the smirk seemed too phoney. But I could not put my finger on the exact problem. It dawned on me much later – it was the Smirk that ruined it all. But I will come back to the Smirk later.

Then Urumi happened. Touted as the biggest hit of 2011, I did not hear many voices against it. When I posted my review of the film, a friend commented on Facebook that she had read somewhere, ‘the arrogance is intentional. The character is arrogant and unyielding.’ It seemed reasonable, but again, I was not satisfied with that argument. I have seen several arrogant characters – the good and the bad ones – played by other actors, in all kinds of cinema. I figured it out soon enough: The character was normal. The actor was arrogant. And it showed, through the skin of the man he portrayed on screen, drowning the character’s own shades.

I would give Prithviraj a score of 98% for his looks, which could be the highest I would give a person considering only looks. Others who score higher in my scale have an endearing quality to them, something about their nature or attitude that attracts people to them. As I said, I haven’t analysed any other actor as much as I do Prithviraj. I am not film-crazy. I may not remember who the director and producer are, or anything else related to a movie, except its name and the actors. For the very same reason, people who have watched most of his films may have a different opinion of him. Their analyses may bring out a totally different picture.

Now let me tell you about the Smirk. I have no idea when it began to appear. I only know I noticed it in the song from Anwar. I must have watched that song three or four times before deciding that I hated it. 

The Smirk often reminded me of something or someone. It gave me a sense of déjà vu. That I have seen that smile before. I could not exactly recollect who or what, for a long time. Then one day, it came to me while I was watching an animated movie with my son, in one of his cartoon channels – Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu, I forget who, was saving the world from chaos and asuras. Voilà – the smile on the Lord’s face after attaining victory, when all the people of the world bow to Him in gratitude – wasn’t it quite similar to the condescending smile on Prithviraj’s face? The animated Gods do not express fear, shock, anger. They always have a knowing smile. Prithviraj’s omnipresent Smirk seemed to have erased all other emotions from his reel life. Even his romance does not have softness anymore. He could no longer portray the different shades that make up a character.

Can you spot The Smirk?! (Click to enlarge)

I should say that at one point I almost gave him up – I forgot the talent I had spotted in him long ago. I thought he never had any, and that his looks alone had rewarded him the youth icon status. Soon after Urumi, perhaps on the very next day, I happened to see Classmates again. The difference jumped out. Classmates was much before superstardom hit him. A few weeks ago, I watched Akale, another of his earlier films which did not provide scope for arrogance. He should watch his own old movies and learn a thing or two. He used to play the disturbed young man, convincing and precise, not a shade overdone. And without the Smirk.

There are other actors who started much before he did, and have not reached any closer to where Prithviraj is today. I see them making their presence felt through small roles in small movies, making mistakes, learning, taking small steps forward, falling, advancing. They may take a long time to reach where Prithviraj is, but they are persistent and diligent enough to attain those heights one day. When they do, they will have enough learning to stay there. Prithviraj seems to have got things too easy, and if he cannot hold on to them, he will have to risk losing them too soon.

Prithviraj has the skill to justify his presence at the top. He has the learning to hold on to it. He can be part of brilliant cinema, yes, he can indeed be a brilliant actor.
But only if he tries to go back to where he was before the Superstar title got to his head.
If not, he has to slide down till he hits rock bottom. Who knows what will happen if he does?

By |2018-12-10T11:17:41+00:00January 27th, 2012|As I see it, Movies|15 Comments

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  1. Harish January 28, 2012 at 12:02 am - Reply

    His last movie Indian Rupee still bears his smirk in some places. But in most of the movie you can locate his old charms

  2. Jean January 28, 2012 at 7:30 am - Reply

    As you guessed, Harish, I haven't yet seen that one. I don't think he can get rid of the Smirk very easily!

  3. Doc January 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    The last word I heard about him was how he lost a couple of roles to some movies cause Mammootty's son is into the business now. Though I have to admit, that arrogance is definitely not character based, and truly his attitude. There is a fine line between being arrogant and portraying arrogance, but as you said, probably stardom came too early for him..

    He speaks a lot of wise things in interviews, though the question is, whether he really means any of it 🙂

    Indian Rupee was something like a revival role after a series of unremarkable roles towards the latter 2011.

  4. Anonymous January 29, 2012 at 10:20 am - Reply

    I completely agree… He seems to have developed a generic set of mannerisms which can be used for all his roles. Unfortunetly, this causes his performances to lack spontaneity and looks very rehearsed. He is missing that so called "spark" which we find magical on the celluloid.

  5. Jean January 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Anonymous: I like the way you put it. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Jean January 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    I didn't know Mammootty's son has already started acting. (Forgive me, I am too much behind the news. I saw a few of his snaps. Smart-looking lad.)
    Apart from Indian Rupee, wasn't there also an attempt at comedy (with a remix of Rahman's old hit song)? I don't think that film made the headlines, though!

  7. Doc January 30, 2012 at 1:06 am - Reply

    Haha.. yesterday I went to watch The Dr. Saroj Kumar movie just to see what the whole controversy was all about. They have really taken a huge dig at the 'megastars' of the industry in it. No surprises that the director of the movie is banned at the moment.. lol

  8. Jean January 30, 2012 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Now you have made me curious, I'll have to read up on what the controversy is all about. Doc, can I expect your detailed blog on the controversy, the movie and the said ban? 🙂

  9. Jithin BK January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Hating him on a rather trifle matter, as lame as spotting out a 'smirk' on his face, appears to be frivolous and foolish to me.

  10. Jean January 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I believe I have mentioned in the post that I don't hate him (yet). But yes, sometimes I am a bit too foolish that way, I hate people for even lesser reasons, and I dare say people hate me for such reasons as well! 😉
    Thanks for sharing your opinion in my blog.

  11. Anonymous February 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Just my opinion… used to be an admirer of his older movies…but now he seems to have lost that script sense.

  12. E Pradeep February 4, 2012 at 4:29 am - Reply

    A rather harsh criticism based on something which does appear rather trifling, I'd say. While I hold no brief for him, I think he's among the present lot who's attempting to break from the rut that Malayalam cinema has found itself in, where we have resorted to mimicking Tamil and Hindi cinema (even though Tamil has taken rapid strides ahead) and creating 'superstar' movies. 2011 also saw Indian Rupee, Veetilekulla Vazhi and City of God from him and these are positive efforts in that direction.

    Couple of links from my thoughts on Urumi and Indian Rupee:

  13. Jean February 4, 2012 at 6:30 am - Reply

    For an actor, emoting is not a trifle, it is everything. True that I haven't watched the three 2011 films you mentioned. If he is in the right path then there is nothing more to be said.
    Thanks for posting your thoughts here.

  14. Manikandan February 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Hooo, jeans.. I love the way you express things. (Still no insights into the ideas u expressed). I feel English is doing its wonders where Malayalam stands helpless. Manikandan ece97

  15. Jean February 6, 2012 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Thank you, Manikandan. 🙂

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