Why Prithviraj doesn’t want to speak much about new film 'Jana Gana Mana'

The South Indian superstar is cagey about his latest enigmatic offering at the cinemas

By Anu Prabhakar

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Published: Wed 27 Apr 2022, 2:38 PM

Last updated: Wed 27 Apr 2022, 2:59 PM

Prithviraj Sukumaran won’t talk about his upcoming Malayalam film Jana Gana Mana.

The plot of the movie has been kept under wraps and in interviews, the team has remained very tight-lipped. The teaser and trailer reveal nothing – in fact, scenes in both are not from the film and actually form the narrative of a sequel that the team is already thinking about.

“I think Jana Gana Mana must be that one film that has let out the least about the plot before its release in recent times,” says Prithviraj, when we chat via Google Meet.

“And I know, having seen the teaser and trailer, a lot of people assume that this is what the film is going to be like. And I think they might be surprised when they watch the film.” The movie, which is directed by Dijo Jose Antony and also stars Mamta Mohandas and Suraj Venjaramoodu, will release on April 28 in the UAE.

It’s tough to slot the movie under one genre, he adds. “Is it a political thriller? No. Is it also a political thriller? Maybe. Is it a drama? Yeah, for sure. Is it a suspense thriller? Yeah, it is that too,” he says.

“If you want to speak more about the film, you’ll have to speak more about my character. And the more you do that, the more you’ll have to reveal the plot of the film.” Which, as is obvious by now, he is not going to do.

Still, we make one last valiant attempt. Is he playing a grey shaded character? “That’s exactly why I can’t be speaking about my character,” he smiles.

“But let’s just say that you don’t know what or who I am playing in the film from the teaser, trailer or the songs.” Not exactly the revelatory piece of information we were hoping for, but we take it.

What we do know is that the script met the actor’s thumb rule – it appealed to him as a film lover. “I listened to the script and thought it might make a great film, that it definitely needs to be told now and that it’s a product of the times that we live in,” says the actor, who has also produced the movie.

“The film leaves you with a lot of questions in your head and all this is conveyed in the format of a thoroughly engaging, mainstream commercial entertainer. And I think that’s a very fine, tough balance to strike which the writer and director have managed very well with the script.”

Making ‘Pan-Indian’ films

With Baahubali and more recent releases like Pushpa The Rise and RRR, ‘Pan-Indian films’ has been the buzzword in the industry for a while now. In previous interviews, the Jana Gana Mana team too had discussed how Indian audiences everywhere will be able to relate to the movie.

Prithviraj points out that producing or backing a film is no longer about the money alone. “I think it’s about being able to comprehend the script in its entirety, sitting with the director and comprehending his/her vision for the film and realizing this is what you need to do as producers to back that vision.

"It is definitely a skill set and I think modern day cinema has shed some light on that aspect of producing a film,” adds the multi-hyphenate who, most recently, got the Malayalam distribution rights for K.G.F: Chapter 2.

It helps that he works with producer Supriya Menon, to whom he is also married. “She keeps telling me that if I were alone, I would make a really bad producer and she’s probably right - I’m not the kind of person who keeps track of how much money we’ve spent on a film and all that,” he says.

“I am lucky that I have her as she takes care of all the monotonous, boring paperwork and lets me take care of the creative side,” says the actor, who is also currently co-producing his first Bollywood movie starring Akshay Kumar and Emraan Hashmi.

Criticism, nepotism and 'Empuraan'

We ask him about his changing parameters as an actor – for instance, he may not play a toxic lover today?

“Let me interrupt you right there,” he says. “I will absolutely play a toxic male character in a film with all my heart. My problem is with movies that say that that’s how men should be, or this is the ideal man.”

Talking about handling critical interpretations of movies like Kuruthi and its effect on filmmakers, Prithviraj points out that we are living in a time where ‘anything you do will be interpreted to everybody’s convenience’.

“The only way you can go about (doing) art right now is to make sure your intentions are honest,” he says. “I still listen to a script and do it if I want to regardless of who may or may not like it. But I’m assuming at some point, there will be pressures.

"When you make a direct to OTT film, there is a review committee that will watch the film to see if there is anything that they should be worried about. That is not the ideal way to create art but that is where we are.”

We also talk about the raging debate about nepotism. “I have absolutely no illusions about the fact that I got my first film only because of my surname (Prithviraj’s father is the late actor Sukumaran),” says the actor.

“But neither should you have any illusions about the fact that I got only my first film because of my surname … I completely agree that there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were more deserving of that first opportunity than I was or the next star kid will be. But it will only give you that first opportunity - from there on, it will have to be your talent, hard work, application and drive.”

There is a lot of buzz around Empuraan, the sequel to Prithviraj’s directorial debut Lucifer.

“I think the one lesson I learned firsthand while making Lucifer is that filmmaking is never about 100% control. You’ll have to be comfortable with letting go of control at multiple places, multiple times. And my wife will tell you that I’m not comfortable with letting go of control at all,” he says.

“Turning director has made me more comfortable with letting things happen the way they should and sometimes having to take a backseat and seeing how things pan out.”

It’s time to wrap up and shift gears.

Any secret skills? Is he, for instance, an amazing baker?

“I’m a horrible baker. I don’t think I can pull off a muffin.”

Right. Maybe he’s picked up knitting during Covid-19 and is now a ninja knitter?

“I wish I was that talented.”

Would you like to reveal some fun secrets, we persist.

“I’ve been doing interviews from the time I turned 18. So over 20 years of interviews means there is very little information that hasn’t been written about. I would love to create this enigma about me and seem very interesting, but unfortunately, I’m not,” he chuckles.

Jana Gana Mana is out in UAE theatres on April 28

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