Mohzin on my Wednesday Watching post recommended a new interview with Prithviraj, which I was able to watch after work today, and it was fascinating! Probably in a bunch of ways I missed, but also in some I managed to actually catch despite knowing almost nothing about his industry. And then separately from that, trailer for Sarkar 3 came out! And it is kind of fascinating to look at the two of them in terms of how Hindi film stars present themselves versus Malayalam.
Really, you should just watch the below video for yourself, there is so much there and I only caught like half of it. He talked about making Ezra, he talked about picking scripts, he talked about feminism, and he talked about an upcoming movie.
All of the details of that, Whoosh! Right over my head! But I am super interested in the general things about this interview. Firstly, the casual way it is filmed. There’s no make-up, there’s no special lighting, the interviewer isn’t some fancy slick young guy, he’s older and relaxed.
Most of all, I was really struck by how Prithviraj’s mannerisms reminded me of educated desis I have met in the US. Like, in an almost spooky “If I close my eyes, I think it’s my friend’s husband” kind of way. I think there are two parts to that, that Prithviraj doesn’t feel the need to put on an attitude of a super aggressive and cosmopolitan superstar, he can use casual Indian-English phrases and be very laid back in his stories, just like a regular person would be. And secondly, I suspect that his life and background and upbringing as a Malayalam superstar are probably very similar to that of, for instance, an IIT grad who ended up in America. An educated family that likes to talk but isn’t very aggressive about it, who isn’t always focused on making sure they are being the wittiest or the sexiest or anything like that. Unlike the Hindi film stars who often are from the very very top of society, or the very bottom, and have learned to always be “on” and on the defensive.
He was also very intelligent in his discussion of film. Which is to be expected, all these major stars are smart about that, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten to be major stars. He talks about how with Ezra it was pretty easy to make a horror film with international standards. How cameras are cheaper, and it’s a good genre to experiment in, and all that cool stuff. But what really struck me was when he explained what he meant by promising not to do a movie that promotes harassment of women. He clarified that he would absolutely play a rapist in a film, definitely. But only if he is the villain in the film, not if the film supports what he is doing. That is the key that so many people (usually censors and politicians) miss. It’s not just about “don’t objectify women”, it’s about how the narrative as a whole treats that objectification. Strip scene in Bahubaali=Bad. Strip scene in opening of Darr=Good.
And then finally he talked about an upcoming film that might be made with him, directed by Gautham Menon (who did Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada) and featuring Prithviraj and stars from “the other 4 industries”. I assume he means Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada? Would that be right?
Now, this project is really interesting! As an audience member, sure, assuming the music is good, I am all in. But from an industrial standpoint, the idea of a Malayalam star who has some national recognition using that to try to pull together all the southern industries on to one film is a big big deal! I know it’s been done before in various ways (I was just talking about Hum in my Amitabh post earlier), but the way Prithviraj was talking about it, not “Pulling together these 4 big stars” but specifically saying he wanted a star from each of the 4 industries, that feels blatant. They are going after unifying the southern audience for at least this one film but, who knows? If it works, could this be the future of South Indian film? A blending of all the industries into one mega-industry that could easily dominate the global film market? Probably not going to happen, but exciting to think about!
Speaking of dominating the global film market, let’s see how Amitabh is doing. The Sarkar 3 trailer just came out and it’s pretty much the complete opposite of that Prithviraj interview. Watch it!
Firstly, can I just say “AMIT SADH!!!! Woot-WOOT!” As I have said, and will continue to say until everyone reading this blog has watched it, Running Shaadi is the best rom-com in years!!! And as I have also said, but not nearly as much because I am a little ashamed of it, I had a HUGE crush on him in Sultan. I know, the hair and the cool guy suits and all. But still!
I hope Amit Sadh does well in this film, not just because I luurrrv him, but also because it would be a good sign for the film in general if he has a strong character. The Sarkar films have been a brilliant deconstruction of Amitabh’s career, and while Sarkar 1 was the 70s brilliant period, Sarkar 2 was definitely the 80s slide into mediocrity. But I have hopes that Sarkar 3 could be the 2000s rebirth!
What I mean by that is that Sarkar 1 was an Amitabh movie, his power was at the center of it. But it was balanced by an excellent script, really good characters surrounding him, and ultimately a central character played by Abhishek, not him. Just like in the 70s Amitabh was AMITABH, but only because he had great scripts and great collaborators. And then in Sarkar Raj, it just got too much Amitabh. Everything else around him kind of fell apart, the plot made no sense, there was no big overriding theme that I could find, it was just all floofy. And not in the good way, like hair.
My hope for Sarkar 3 is that the cast around Amitabh is given a chance. And this really is a great cast, besides my crush Amit Sadh, there’s Jackie and Manoj Bajpai and even Yami isn’t bad (still haven’t seen Kaabil, tell me if she is horrible in that and I should hate her).
But mostly this trailer tells me how very very different the Hindi and Malayalam industries are. Prithviraj is up there chatting, all relaxed and casual, talking about the thoughtful way he considers which films to do, and the films he is planning on producing, and it is all just super lowkey.
And then we have Amitabh up in Bombay, with a trilogy of films made to honor him at age 70+, massive marketing campaigns planned up, huge casts surrounding him and yet not over-shadowing him, it’s a whole different world!