South Indian movie star Prithviraj Sukumaran is celebrating his birthday on Monday. At 35, he is a leading young actor, who has left his imprints across the Indian film industry. He is already 100 films old and soon, he will be making his debut as a director too. It was not an easy journey for Prithviraj, to reach where he is today. In addition to hard work, determination, consistency and commitment to his craft, he also fought off-screen battles that threatened to end his career as an actor. He had to wade through a slew of hate campaigns against him and rise above it.
When Prithviraj entered the showbiz as an actor in 2002, he was perceived as the future of Malayalam cinema. He went on to cement his position by delivering some memorable performances. In 2006, he won the Kerala State award for best actor for his performance in Vaasthavam. He became the youngest recipient of the prestigious award in the Malayalam film industry. He was part of many films that bombed at the box office. But, that did not affect his film career, which was on the up and up.
The year 2011 was very eventful in the personal and professional life of Prithviraj. He co-founded the production house called August Cinemas, which was jointly owned by cinematographer-turned-director Santhosh Sivan, actors Arya and Shaji Nadeshan. The first film under the new production banner called Urumi also released in the same year. The period film set in the 16th century India was the most expensive Malayalam film at the time given that the filmmakers had spent Rs 20 crore on the project. It was a big hit at the box office.
The same year, Prithviraj married his girlfriend Supriya Menon, a BBC India reporter, at a private ceremony in Palakkad. And he gave an interview to journalist John Brittas on Asianet Channel. Some of his statements in the interview were drawn out of context and he became the target of a hate campaign that dominated social media and text messages (as WhatsApp was not very popular back then).
“I have been hearing about it for a long time and I am used to it by now. But it hurts when your family is brought into it. They are not a part of this. I don’t know what I have done to deserve this. If there is some incident because of which all this is happening, I can apologise or do something,” Prithviraj told Rediff.com in 2011 reacting to the non-stop trolls.
“Eleven years in films is a long time. You start thinking that if this is what your 11 years have come to, it’s not worth it. But then, had this so-called character assassination been for professional reasons then Indian Rupee would not have done well,” he had said.
Prithviraj did pursue acting opportunities in other film industries in the country even as he continued to hold his ground in Malayalam cinema. His performance in Ayalum Njanum Thammil helped him bag his second state award in 2012 and since he has only become a force to be reckoned with in the film industry down south.
In 2014, he was again attacked for including ‘Menon’ in his daughter’s name.
But, all these controversies did not affect the choices in the kind of film he picked. He continued to experiment and take risks, creating an identity of a pan-India movie star.
The actor who was relentlessly attacked and trolled for ‘disrespecting’ Mammootty and Mohanlal, went on to make movies with them. He co-produced Mammootty’s The Great Father (2017) and he will be soon making his debut as a director with Lucifer, which will have Mohanlal in the lead role.
Earlier this year, Prithviraj did something extraordinary. He took a stand against onscreen misogyny even as he admitted that he was guilty of it in the past. And he vowed not to entertain scenes and dialogues in his films that disrespect women in future.
Now, that’s a mark of a true star.