‘I won’t be able to do this again’

‘It took us 14 years to get our story into theatres.’

IMAGE: Prithviraj Sukumaran in The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham).

Playing the real-life abuse survivor Najeeb Muhammed, Malayalam superstar Prithviraj’s transformative performance in The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham) has the nation transfixed.

The actor internalises the turmoil of a man thrown into a horrific situation for years.

He becomes one with the shrunken, smothered, parched universe of Najeeb, a man so wronged you wonder if there any justice left in this universe, especially for the poor.

The praise hasn’t stopped pouring in. But the best moment since release for Prithviraj was when the real-life Najeeb Muhammed saw the film.

“It was like re-living the entire nightmare. He cried and in his tears was my triumph. An actor can’t hope for a better endorsement of his efforts than to have the real character being moved by the actor’s performance,” Prithviraj tells Subhash K Jha.

IMAGE: Prithviraj Sukumaran and Amala Paul in The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham).

The film has upped the sales of the book.

“We haven’t even shown all of what author Benyamin has described in his novel Aadujeevitham. (Publishing house) Penguin is planning another edition of the book with my face on the cover. Yes, the whole idea of a literary adaptation is to draw attention to the original work and at the same time, providing a new experience,” he says.

Prithviraj can’t stop counting his ‘Blessy’ings.

“It is the fruition of all the hard work that my Director Blessy and I have gone through for 14 years. That’s how long the project has been with me. We began work on it in 2010. It took us 14 years to get our story into theatres.”

IMAGE: Prithviraj Sukumaran in The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham).

“If I had my way, I would have done only this project until it was completed. But practically, that was not possible. We had to go back to Jordan twice to shoot the desert scenes. Once the shooting had to stop because of COVID. It hasn’t been easy. Blessy has been with this project even longer than me,” he adds.

Prithviraj went through drastic weight losses, not just once but twice.

“I had to do it twice because of the disruption in the shooting schedules. First, I had to put on weight to look how Najeeb looked when he first arrives in Saudi Arabia. Then I had to lose around 30 kilos twice to look how he looked later. My sugar levels were seriously disturbed. It was quite difficult. I don’t think I would be able to do this again.”

IMAGE: Prithviraj Sukumaran in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan.

Now, Prithviraj looks forward to his next release Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, where he plays the main antagonist. But he remains masked for half the film.

“Till intermission,” Prithviraj shares. “There is a reason why my character keeps his face covered in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Please wait for the film, I may surprise you again.”

What places Malayalam cinema so ahead of the rest of Indian cinema?

“I guess it is the stress on the writing,” he replies. “Do you know it is the norm for writers to approach an actor for a role in Malayalam cinema, not the producers or directors?”