Conversation About the Man –
Prashant was born in Kerala but was brought up in Delhi, he finished college in Delhi too. In Delhi, he was part of a theater group called Act 1, which featured stalwarts like Ashish Vidyarthi, Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao.
He moved to Mumbai in 1991, with plans to start an AD agency but destiny moved him towards films. His first acting break was in the 2002 Hansal Mehta film ‘Chhal’ and hasn’t looked back since. He has acted in several Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu films and in 2012, was awarded the ‘Screen Award for Best Actor in a Negative Role’!
Here’s my conversation with Prashant…..
Me : Hello Prashant, Thank you for sparing the time for this conversation. So, are these lockdown days frustrating you or energizing any dormant side in you?
PN : The lockdown has actually given a totally new perspective with the chaos that had been going around all this while. Sitting back and thinking about all the missed opportunities, thanking god for all the opportunities that you missed getting into and obviously planning on better things which you would genuinely be proud of being a part of than being in a project which is finally just a business for all the main people involved.
Apart from being an actor I am also a musician who writes and composes songs. I had a self project of making 50 new songs which I just completed day before yesterday. I finished writing a short stories book, comprising of 12 stories set in different months called Till Until Then. Now I am working on a colouring book called Same Difference which I will be completing very soon with around 50 doodles in it.
So am working right now on the presentation and designing of both these books , apart from the fact that I am looking out for a publishing house for both of these books. So I guess you could say that I have been keeping myself occupied. My terrace garden also is looking fabulous as they are getting all the pampering and my dogs and cats are also very happy with this lockdown
Me : Very true…Next, you’ve played state level badminton and done theater too, did you never want to pursue a career in badminton?
PN : I have always been inclined to sports but maybe I never had the passion to sustain the rigor and the hard work associated with it. It also requires a great sense of responsibility and patience which I don’t think I ever had. Theatre has always been a total time pass for me even when I was doing it in Delhi or Mumbai, though I totally enjoyed the process of rehearsals and the show and the accolades.
And it’s all bullshit that if you have done lots of theatre you will turn out to be a good actor. Either you are or you are not. Deal with it. I have very rarely seen actors who are good on stage to be good in front of the camera too
Me : Right…You moved to Mumbai to start an AD agency, but then films happened, why this transition?
PN : I came to Mumbai to be a producer who would be in charge of all the creative and production decisions. And to have a know how of all the departments, I have worked with Samir Chanda, one of the most talented art directors that our country has produced, as his assistant. He is the one who convinced me to come to Mumbai.
Then I was the costume assistant to Salim Arif, another very competent designer and then I was an assistant director with Ketan Mehta for some time. I never wanted to act, but by that time I was directing plays at Prithvi theatre. One of my actors at that time Anurag Kashyap managed to get an audition with Bharat Rungachary for a very high profile tv show on Zee called Parivartan.
I had gone along with them and left after introducing my actors to the director. But as luck would have it Bharat was more interested in meeting me and after a long chase, finally he got me to sit with him where he narrated one of the main roles to me and I was genuinely interested in doing that. And that was the beginning of the so called Parivartan. I did prime television work for around 8 years and then Chhal happened to be my first film.
Me : Alright, now which is your favorite movie of all time? What do you particularly like about it?
PN : Asking me which of my films is the most favourite one is like asking a mother who her favourite child is. I have no favourites because it is with the same sincerity and passion that I approach any film which I have agreed to do. Of course the presentation of every film differs with the director and creator, but it does not affect my involvement in the project. It could be whomsoever, and I still would give my best.
But on a general note of name dropping, I could name Chhal, Waisa Bhi Hota Hai-2, Shadows of Time, Nedunchalai, Fredrick, Mai Anna Nahi Hoon, The White Elephant, Mr.Singh/Mrs.Mehta, Murder 2, I could actually go on and write all the films that I have done because frankly speaking I am proud of all of them.
Me : Ok, so you are an equally proud parent of all your movies! Great… Next…You have quite a few negative roles, been appreciated for them and even won awards, how difficult is it to get into the skin of an evil person?
PN : Getting into the skin of a character is a very method acting way of creating a role. I am not into all that shit. I simply listen to the director, understand the shot and frame that he has set up and work according to the pitch that he wants the actors to perform in.
My experience behind the camera on sets and being a musician helps me being comfortable in front of the camera and it manifests into the required results without the director and producer tearing their hair in frustration.
I have heard of some actors who keep doing retakes till they are satisfied. I find them extremely stupid and I hope to God that I don’t have to work with such dumb humans.
Me : Hmmm, that’s a pretty interesting take…How important is self-marketing in the Indian Film Industry to establish oneself?
PN : Self marketing is for un-talented people who will require all that to convince people of their capacities. I have always asked people to see my work and I don’t believe that talking about it yourself is a decent thing to do.
It may help you in a couple of projects but it’s not something which will make a difference in the long run.
Me : Well yes, but there are some who would disagree with that… Anyway, on to the next one – While essaying your character of Ravi in Shadows of Time, you had to learn Bengali – how difficult was it and do you think discomfort in speaking a language affects your performance?
PN : Ravi was a very difficult role and the language issue was the least of the problems. Florian was a taskmaster who liked to rehearse and plan out things properly. After all he was making his first feature in a language that he did not speak and the pressures were immense on him.
And it was a difficult love story. I had a tutor and we were given the shooting script much in advance. So the lines were not too much of an issue. And a performance is all about being in that moment with honesty.
But when it’s not your language the scope of improvising with lines get minimised. I guess that’s the only negative that you have at that time.
Me : Interesting… Next one now, how critical is it to have a Godfather in Bollywood?
PN : It would have been fantastic if someone like me had a godfather here. Mediocre people having godfathers is of no use. The main point in any industry is to gain respect and that is impossible to attain if you are genuinely not good. No f*****g godfather can buy that for you
Me : Absolutely Prashant! On a lighter note, if one were to ask your wife, Shona, to describe you in 5 words, what would be her answer?
PN : Extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile is what she would have wanted to say but she feels that I am a little less Ted Bundy and more Crocodile Dundee ! Lol. Can’t get lighter than that.
Me : Lastly, where will we see you next?
PN : There are some interesting films which are completed and we are looking at some OTT platforms to show it to. So soon I guess.