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Polandine Patti Episode 7

Last updated on May 25, 2022

Today we start a series of episodes on star kids. We’re looking at nepotism, power structures, and connections (family or otherwise) in the Malayalam film industry, starting with Prithviraj, Kunchacko Boban, and Vineeth Sreenivasan. A reminder that, as always, there are spoilers!

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[00:00:26 ]  Introduction of the new theme for the next few episodes:  “Nepotism in Malayalam Cinema”

[00:01:30]  Film is a family business

[00:02:29]  How do different industries view their nepotism/power structures?

[00:03:05] – Malayalam cinema is a small industry and doesn’t have a big number of movie stars who went on to become politicians (as is the case in other industries in India), and we now have a generation looking to build some kind of legacy for the next generation.

[00:03:50]  Mammootty has said (about himself and Sreenivasan) that they insisted their kids get engineering degrees, because the arts is a risky place to try to make a living. And that might be the reason they’ve had a bit of hand’s off approach to their sons’ careers

[00:04:45]  Why Katherine prefers “power structures” to “nepotism”.

[00:05:25]  When is nepotism good?  When is it bad?

[00:05:45]  Malayalam cinema hasn’t had the same kind of nepotism that exists in, say, Bollywood.

[00:06:25]  Class and caste based connections in joining the industry.

[00:07:15]  Inserting yourself into social networks in Kerala with respect to the film industry.

[00:08:10]  Malayalam cinema does a good job of picking out talents who have no connection (or minimal connection) to the film industry.

[00:09:20]  The reality is, though, that if you’re coming to the industry with no connections, you’re still going to be coming from a family that’s fairly well off financially so you can have family support while you’re struggling to work in cinema.

[00:10:00]  Katherine notes that whereas star kids in Bollywood may end up getting endless chances, in the Malayalam industry that’s not necessarily the case.

[00:10:25]  The first group of actors we’re going to talk about had to work hard with the chances their family connections gave them, especially considering they weren’t taken seriously at all, especially by society at large.

[00:11:15]  Today:  the “pre-new-gen” generation of actors:  Kunchacko Boban, Prithviraj, and Vineeth Sreenivasan.

[00:12:35]  Prithviraj perceived as a kind of arrogant outsider, but also someone who refused to conform to the pre-set mould the industry seemed to be working with.

[00:13:05]  Prithviraj pushed the boundaries of what a Malayalam film hero could be.

[00:14:20]  Prithviraj faced a lot of negativity early in his career, but where was it coming from?  Prithviraj was a threat on many fronts.

[00:15:35]  A little background on Prithviraj:  who he is, where he comes from.

[00:17:30]  Prithviraj’s admiration for his mother Mallika Sukumaran (who is still a working actress in the industry)

[00:18:10]  Prithviraj was cast in Ranjith’s Nandanam while he was finishing school in Australia.  This is also the first film Katherine ever saw him in.

[00:19:36]  Please note:   Nandanam is not really Prithviraj’s film.  It’s centred very much around its female star, Navya Nair.  No one really knew if Prithviraj was really going to have a career.

[00:20:02]  Katherine found Prithviraj likeable, but was much more invested in Navya Nair.  And then she watched Stop Violence.  (Request:  does anyone know about subtitles for this movie?)

[00:22:10]  Stop Violence is a very negative role.  And Prithviraj was only nineteen, so there was a surprise that he went for a very violent role, when he could have easily had a traditional career track like that of Kunchacko Boban.

[00:25:35]  Prithviraj had to defend the choice he made to be in Stop Violence.  Having to defend his choices became a constant theme in his career.

[00:26:23]  Harsha confesses that she doesn’t find Prithviraj captivating on screen.

[00:27:00]  Prithviraj’s brother, Indrajith, is a much warmer presence on screen, probably why Katherine prefers him (go watch his films!)

[00:18:00]  Katherine has always thought of Prithviraj as always thirty, and forgets sometimes how young some people started.

[00:28:40]  A sidebar into Prithviraj’s directorial debut, Lucifer, starring Mohanlal.

[00:29:10]  Harsha feels that in recent years Prithviraj has become disappointingly unadventurous – he’s settled into stardom.

[00:29:55]  We shift gears and turn to Kunchacko Boban, starting with a brief look at the family he comes from.

[00:30:40] Kunchacko Boban’s links to the industry are more distant – thinking especially of his grandfather.

[00:30:50]  Kunchacko Boban was a *sensation* when he debuted, and Harsha shares a family story about his first film, Aniyathipraavu.

[00:32:10]  Kunchacko and Shalini were such a classic pairing. Harsha had seen all of his early films, and he felt so much more accessible than the bigger stars, Mohanlal and Mammootty.

[00:33:45]  Katherine confesses that she uses Kunchacko Boban’s films as comfort films in tough times. 

[00:34:40]  The Break – Kunchacko Boban took one, and we talk about the reasons for it.

[00:35:15]  After the Break – we see a shift in his career, particularly in the last year or so, and he came back just at the absolute perfect time in Malayalam cinema (see especially:  Traffic.)

[00:37:35]  Traffic was a signal that Kunchacko Boban was coming back to be a little something different than what he had been, especially to dispel the “chocolate boy” image that he was growing out of.

[00:38:40]  Kunchacko Boban made a choice to do a negative role in Manju Warrier’s comeback film, How Old Are You?, a film where there were threats made to those who were in the film.

[00:39:45]  Kunchacko Boban is a gentleman; Katherine notes that she’s not into celebrity gossip, but she felt happy when he and his wife announced they were having a baby.

[00:41:00]  We move to the next star kid under discussion, Vineeth Sreenivasan.  Harsha gives us, once again, some background about him and his family – and his father Sreenivasan was responsible for writing the first film Katherine every watched (and set her on a journey with Malayalam cinema).

[00:42:25]  The importance of Mappila in launching Vineeth Sreeivasan’s career, and he was expected to be a singer (note that he was a playback singer for the first six years of his career).

[00:44:15]  Being a playback singer allowed him to differentiate himself from his father, and garnered a lot of affection for him before he ever became an actor and a director.

[00:45:25]  He’s really so much more than a playback singer now.

[00:45:50] Katherine talks a bit about one of Vineeth’s early films, Cycle.

[00:46:35]  Harsha was surprised when he was cast in a lead role, but there’s also a tightness in his performances that prevented him from becoming the kind of side-kick characters that someone like Aju Varghese has become known for.

[00:47:25]  Malarvaadi Arts Club – the first film for Vineeth Sreenivasan as a director.  You could see he had some talent.

[00:47:40]  Thattathin Marayathu -Vineeth Sreenivasan’s second film –set Kerala on fire with its cast.  It was a HUGE sensation.

[00:48:30]  Katherine notes that Vineeth Sreenivasan also took a break, and instead of coming back as an actor, he came back writing/directing Malarvaadi Arts Club.

[00:49:00]  For whatever his shortcomings as an actor, Vineeth Sreenivasan comes across as a very likeable person, and it often works to his favour (especially in a film like Traffic).

[00:49:30]  Harsha’s favourite Vineeth Sreenivasan role is Chaappa Kurishu, where he played a very beaten down character.

[00:50:15]  Katherine agrees with that, and feels that Vineeth Sreenivasan makes more of an impact in that film than his co-star, Fahadh Faasil (!)

[00:51:05]  Harsha notes that there’s such a contrast between Thattathin Marayathu, and Thira, the film he followed it with as a director. 

[00:51:35]  Vineeth Sreenivasan brought back Shobana to the industry, and it’s the only time she’s ever dubbed for herself.

[00:51:53]  Thira also introduced Dhyan Sreenivasan, Vineeth’s brother and Sreenivasan’s son.

[00:52:15]  Katherine doesn’t think Dhyan will have the kind of career that his brother or his father has had.

[00:53:00]  Vineeth Sreenivasan’s casts are full of immensely talented actors, and he has such a talent for finding these people.

[00:53: 35]  Katherine notes that there are lots of groups/connections, ie  the Maharajah group, various friend groups that work with each other.

[00:54:40]  Katherine hopes that what we see over the course of several episodes is that in terms of star kids and nepotism, it’s not always a negative to have connections.  Do you agree with her that if you don’t have the talent, you just won’t get the work (or you’ll get work in smaller, supporting roles)?

[00:56:35]  Vineeth Sreenivasan’s eye for choosing actors is undefeated.

[00:57:00]  Katherine notes that the next film he’s directing is Hridayam, with Pranav Mohanlal and Kaliyani Priyadarshan (there are some star kids for you!)

[00:57:20]  We both have a lot of things to say about Pranav Mohanlal.

[00:58:55]  We close by noting that in our next episode we’ll look at some of the more obvious examples of nepotism in the industry with Dulquer Salmaan, Pranav Mohanlal, and Fahadh Faasil.

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