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I am against stardom in the Malayalam film industry: Prithviraj Sukumaran


After 'Aiyyaa', Sukumaran will star in the Hindi film 'Aurangzeb'. A still from 'Urumi' (left)

Prithviraj Sukumaran, 30, is often referred to as the emerging super star in Malayalam cinema. Over just a few years, he has also become a familiar face in Tamil cinema especially through his roles in 'Mozhi' and Mani Ratnam's Tamil version of 'Raavan' where he starred with Aishwarya Rai. The southie star talks to TOI-Crest about his Bollywood debut in 'Aiyyaa' next to Rani Mukerji

You have had offers from Bollywood before but never said yes. What made you take up 'Aiyyaa' finally? 

It happened by surprise. I was shooting for my film Urumi when Anurag Kashyap rang me up and asked if I would listen to a script. I found it compelling and I believe I would have taken it up even if it had been in some other language.

Why do you think you were picked for 'Aiyyaa' ?

Even I didn't know till I met the director, Sachin Kundalkar. He is a feted name in film festivals and during a recent edition of IFFK, he told the festival director Bina Paul that he was planning to make a full-length feature film on his Marathi short film Gandha. It was Bina who suggested my name for the lead role.

There is a general perception that Bollywood goes by certain stereotypes when it comes to portraying South Indians. Even in 'Aiyyaa', the heroine prefers dark men to fair ones. How did you deal with this?

I don't think there is even a slight tone of racism about Aiyyaa. In a way, it features South Indians as cool and sexy. The heroine in the film has a distaste for fair, chubby men with ruddy cheeks. In fact, she loves more manliness and she finds it in a South Indian guy. People spread rumours because they are ignorant about the film. In Aiyyaa, the hero is an object of desire, the heroine is fascinated by the scent of her man. How can it be a perceived as an insult to South Indian sensibilities?

What do you think it takes to make it big in Bollywood?

I don't give much thought to such things. For me it's all about enjoying my work. I enjoy a comfort zone in Malayalam. To move out of that zone into an extremely competitive arena and to begin from scratch is risky. But I am ready to take the risks. Now I am doing my second film Aurangzeb in Hindi. It's a Yash Raj film and I was selected after an audition. I have done close to 75 films so far and yet I had no problem doing an audition. If I am doing a role in Aurangzeb, it was because I gave the best in the audition
and not because of my
established reputation.

How comfortable has Bollywood been for you?

They don't work by deadlines unlike Malayalam films. Once you have that liberty, you will always be more relaxed. I never felt out of place while doing Aiyyaa. They respect your body of work and respect you as an actor. Sachin is a brilliant director and he thinks uniquely. I truly believe that he has the potential of sparking a new beginning in Hindi cinema.

Do you think that language would be a barrier for you in Bollywood?

In Aiyyaa, I play a Tamil art student. I know Hindi very well and in the film, my challenge was not to render perfect Hindi - it has to be spoken with a South Indian accent. Sachin and Rani have been extremely supportive of me.

How was it working with Rani Mukerji?

I was in eighth standard when I first saw Ghulam and ever since, I have been a huge fan. At the set of Aiyyaa I told her about this and she was so happy. While shooting for Raavan, one of my colleagues said I was lucky to pair opposite Aishwarya Rai. I just sighed and said, 'If only it had been Rani Mukerji'. Now I am glad that it actually happened for me.

Do you consider yourself a superstar?

Not at all. I have never proclaimed myself as a superstar. When my fans put up a banner calling me a superstar for the first time, I personally made sure that they removed it right away. I was the first one to have openly spoken against stardom in the Malayalam industry. So how can you expect me to enjoy that tag myself? As for the awards, I don't think they are special. Given a choice between a successful film and an award, I would definitely go for a successful film.

Over the past decade, there have been many controversies involving you. How do you manage them?

I don't manage them because I don't care about them. I don't relate myself to any kind of controversies. I behave as any human would do. I will feel angry, happy, sad and sometimes frustrated like anyone else. That's the way I am and I will remain like that. My schedule is packed for the next few years. I keep myself busy all the time and I enjoy what I am doing and I get hefty returns. Very few people get to do what they like the most and get paid handsomely for it and I am one among them. If I look at what I have accomplished so far, I have no space for complaints. But I don't know how many more films would it require for certain people to appreciate a person for what he is worth.

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