Prithviraj: It is only a matter of time before the next 'Baahubali' or 'KGF' comes out of Malayalam film industry

The actor along with his 'Kaapa' costars talk OTT, theatrical releases and more


Nasreen Abdulla

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Prithviraj, Anna Ben, Aparna Balamurali and Dillesh Pothan during the Dubai promotion of Kaapa
Prithviraj, Anna Ben, Aparna Balamurali and Dillesh Pothan during the Dubai promotion of Kaapa

Published: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 12:38 PM

Last updated: Mon 26 Dec 2022, 12:04 PM

Exploring the dark underbelly of Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram, Kaapa is the story of how rival thugs battle it out ruthlessly to establish their rule over the city’s towns and slums.

The movie is based on a novel by GR Indugopan titled Shankumukhi, and the entire premise of it is centered around the Kerala Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act, popularly called KAAPA. Introduced in 2006, the act was designed to prevent and control certain kinds of anti-social activities.

Directed by veteran Malayalam director Shaji Kailas, the action thriller features a stellar star cast including Prithviraj, Dileesh Pothan, Anna Ben and Aparna Balamurali. For Prithviraj, this is the second outing with filmmaker Shaji Kailas this year, after the successful Kaduva in July. For the remaining three actors, it is the first time they have worked with the director who has churned out some of Malayalam’s biggest hits in the past years.

In Dubai to promote the film, the actors spoke extensively about the movie. "This is a very different gangster kind of movie," said Prithviraj at the press conference held at Ce La Vie. "It is not like the gangster movie you have seen in the past. Underneath its gritty exterior, there is a very raw and real emotional core. The characters make up the story and the film traces how their past is intertwined. The movie is told through the point of view of Asif Ali's character, Anand."

City Times caught up with the stars of the film to chat with them about their characters, their experience with director Shaji Kailas and their take on OTT.

About their character in Kaapa:

Prithviraj: I play a character called Madhu, who goes by the nickname Kotta Madhu. Although he is a fictional character, he is inspired by a lot of real people and real incidents that have happened in the city of Trivandrum. Madhu is someone who very much exists within the criminal realm of the world but is now trying to bury the past and move on to a more legitimate and better life. But as pasts usually go, they don’t let go of the person that easily. It keeps haunting him at various junctures in multiple ways. The ghosts of his pasts are always with him. There is violence in the film because we are speaking about a world that very much operates on those lines but that is not what the film is entirely about. Whatever you have seen in the trailer and teaser is only one part. The part of the film we would like you to discover after watching it is the emotional, evocative crux that exists within the world of these characters. I think what I enjoyed the most about playing the character is speaking the Thiruvananthapuram slang of Malayalam. It is the language I grew up speaking with my friends and family while growing up in the city. So, I really liked that aspect of playing this character.

Aparna: I play the character of Prameela, wife of Kotta Madhu. She is a government employee who is a very strong personality. There are a lot of emotions that she goes through. The character has been conceived and etched out very well and I think viewers will really like it. I am proud that I could be a part of such a movie with such brilliant actors with a character like this.

Dileesh Pothan: I play the role of an investigative journalist Latheef. It is a character that has some grey shades to it. I have my own agenda and I am a rival to Prithviraj’s character, but I don’t think we can call the role the “villain” per se because I have my own justifications as to why I do the things I do.

Anna Ben: I play the role of Binu. It is a character which has some grey shades to it. Actually, every character in this movie is not black or white. Everyone has different shades of grey and has their own ulterior motives. It was a completely new character for me because I was used to playing the girl next door and this was uncharted territory for me.

About director Shaji Kailas

Prithviraj: I enjoy working with Shaji Kailas. There is something that makes us click. I don’t know what it is but I am a huge fan of the way he approaches filmmaking. I think he's a maverick filmmaker. At one point in time, he single-handedly made a difference to the language of filmmaking in the Malayalam industry. I am inspired by a lot of his films and when you watch my debut film (as a director), you will know that there is a lot of inspiration from Shaji Kailas and Joshiy and so on. We find a rhythm as an actor-director team. Also, I am an old school actor. Now that the films have started becoming digital instead of using the film tape, the art of shot division is being lost. Earlier when there was limited film tape, the director knew exactly what he wanted from a scene and what kind of a shot it would be. Shaji Kailas still works in that way, and I really enjoy that kind of filmmaking.

Aparna: Initially when I got the call, I was very tensed. Shaji Kailas is a legendary director who has worked with some of the biggest actors in the industry. I didn’t know whether as a fairly newcomer, I would be able to match up to his expectations. I didn’t how he would be or how the set would be. However, I was super comfortable acting under his direction because he has a clear vision on what he wants from the actor or how a scene should be shot. This character required a lot of emotions and lot of intense acting, but I didn’t have to take the pressure of figuring out how to do it because Shaji sir guided me through every bit of it.

About impact of OTT platforms

Prithviraj: Cinema has begun bifurcating. Movies are now being made either for a big cinema hall experience or a more personal home viewing experience. I think that in the last two years, no other industry has grown and got recognition as much as the Malayalam movie industry. Being on OTT platforms gave Malayalam cinema widespread reach and a fan following beyond the borders of Kerala and India even. Although there are people complaining and OTT has impacted the revenue of theaters, I think that the biggest theatrical releases are being planned because of OTT and its reach. The budgets of Malayalam industry have grown exponentially. Producers are ready to invest in the movies because of the recognition it has got. It is only a matter of time before the next Baahubali or KGF comes out of Malayalam film industry.

Dileesh Pothan: Releasing movies in OTT is a very different ball game. For example, the movie Joji was made specifically for OTT. If it had been made for a theater release, the movie would have been shot in a very different way. It is clear that the platforms are here to stay. As Prithvi said, both kind of movies are here to stay, and I think they will coexist peacefully.

Kaapa is currently running in UAE theatres

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