Malayali audience loves to be surprised, especially by their actors. They crave novelty in films. Prithviraj Sukumaran, better known as Prithviraj, represents the quintessential leading man – a hero who gives audiences something new when they least expect it. Like when he did with the horror thriller Ezra earlier in 2017. Like he is expected to do with Tiyaan, a socio-political drama directed by Jiyen Krishnakumar that is out on June 29.

The 34-year-old actor has appeared in nearly a hundred films and has won the Kerala state best actor award twice (Vaasthavam in 2006; for both Celluloid and Ayalum Njanum Thammil in 2012). He spoke to about why Tiyaan means so much to him and his experience before the camera.

There is a great deal of hype around ‘Tiyaan’.
The film has already found a legion of fans. We are doing a couple of firsts with Tiyaan. It has live footage of the Kumbh Mela. We shot in Hardwar in 2015 with about a thousand people. It’s also the only film to have been shot for 100 days at Ramoji Rao Film City in Hyderabad. In terms of content, it’s about the social, political and spiritual issues that India is dealing with at the moment. But it’s also a complete entertainer.

Tiyaan (2017).

You are going to be making your debut as a director with Mohanlal in ‘Lucifer’. How did that come about?
I have always wanted to make a film. And I nearly did in 2010. But then Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan [with Aishwarya Rai and Vikram] came along and I got busy working on that. While working on Tiyaan, Murali Gopi [the actor and film’s writer] and I hit it off. We would talk cinema and what more we could do together. That is when the idea of Lucifer with Mohanlal came about.

Mohanlal himself was a catalyst in the process. He was quite excited about the film. He got us all together and we finalised it. It should be out in 2019.

You have acted in all genres, including the supernatural thriller (‘Ezra’), comedy (‘Pavada’), biographical drama (‘Ennu Ninte Moideen’) and action (‘Arjunan Saakshi’). What else would you like to do?
When I’m on set, I don’t even consider the genre of a film. When I look back on the categories or types of films I have done, it’s never by design. It’s never intentional. All I see is whether a script will make a good film. I don’t have a favourite genre. I’m just a lucky guy who has chosen films that have worked.

Ezra (2017).

You are going to be playing Najeeb, the protagonist in the film adaptation of Benyamin’s acclaimed novel ‘Aadu Jeevitham’ (Goat Days). How will you prepare to play the goat herder working in slave-like conditions in Saudi Arabia?
I’m an actor who strictly sticks to the script, to the word. But where I make a character my own is how I see it in my own head. The character’s conception always belongs to an actor. So I always hope that I get it right. I will have Najeeb in my head, I will speak to him. I don’t have a methodical approach as such. I go by instinct.

Do you have a fixed number of films you do every year? Or do you hear the scripts and then decide?
I do a film at a time. I always plan to take a week or 10 days off between films. But more often than not, the previous shoot ends up taking longer than originally planned. More often than not, my personal time is compromised. This year, for example, I have four films [Ezra, Tiyaan, Adam & Joan, Vimaanam). In 2018, there are two. In 2019, it will be Lucifer and Aadu Jeevitham.

I’m a restless man. But when I am with my daughter, I am incredibly patient. When I am with her, I can spend hours doing nothing.

If you hadn’t been an actor, what would you have done?
I’m an accidental actor. I did my first film Nandanam as a vacation job. I thought, oh well, I’ll make some pocket money. It took me three to four films to realise I could be an actor. And if I hadn’t been that, I would have probably done something travel related.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
What is happening with me right now, I want that to go on forever. I am in this great space as an actor. I am making good films, listening to some fantastic scripts. And I have enough clout to facilitate this process of good filmmaking. I am into production, distribution. I want things to keep evolving.

Aiyyaa (2012).

You have done three Hindi films, ‘Aiyya’ (2012), ‘Aurangzeb’ (2013) and ‘Naam Shabana’ (2017). Why don’t we see more of you in Hindi cinema?
The way Bollywood works is that once you have worked as an actor in Hindi films, you get people calling you with scripts all the time. I get offered almost a film a day. But right now I’m busy with Malayalam cinema, which is going through its best phase in a long time. Someone will have to tempt me with an incredibly brilliant script to lure me to Mumbai. As of now, I haven’t said yes to anything.