There was one actor I loved to hate. It was Prithviraj.

His debut movie was good. We all loved him in that. I particularly could relate well, Nandanam was a classic. It had everything in it what I coveted for in a movie – Sweet songs, a simple heroine, and God. I loved it more, because it was the story that my girlfriend narrated to me during our first meeting, the first time we travelled in a bus together.

I saw the movie a bit later, with a few of my college friends when we went on a trip to Ernakulam, but the way she narrated the story was far better than seeing it on screen. (Ah… that’s my love story popping its head here too….why?)

Back to Prithvi… my girlfriend had made a star out of him in her narration of the story, and watching the movie made me feel that too. It was a decade ago, and even then what I felt was that Mammotty and Mohanlal were old. And I was happy that someone my age was coming up on the screen.

Not long, he slipped into a series of not so good movies. Some of them, I cannot even remember the name. Add to that, a steady rise of arrogance (as it felt to the multitude) in his way of talk, life and attitude. Add a few sprinkling of Tamil and other language films in between, he the intensity of odium for him was getting bigger and bigger.

Add to that, in February 2011, one of my friends whose family was close to Prithvi’s, had narrated a story of this boy, of how suddenly, after the release of Nandanam, till then was just the boy next door, suddenly became arrogant and conceited, and would sit cross-legged and talk, while his brother Indrajith, who at the same time was relatively less successful than Prithviraj in his film career, was still very unpretentious.

Watching all those non-consequential movies (not naming them here), I stopped going to watch his movies in theatre. Well, there was a Classmates and Chocolate in between, but watched it more for Laljose and Shafi, the directors, than anybody else.

Then came Puthiya Mugham, the one movie, which I really loved him again. After that Urumi was there, and that was one time where I gave him an appreciation from my heart. He touched a topic that was dear to me, 16th century Malabar, Portuguese traders and Kolathunad.

Same year, he got married. Nothing wrong in that, but what let all hell loose was that one interview he gave to Asianet. It cut loose a lethal attack on him everywhere, Facebook, Chat rooms, tea shops, barber shops, everywhere. He was suddenly the hate figure number one. “South Indiayil english samsaarikkan ariyaavunna oree oru nadan”, was the butt of the joke. And after that, who could forget the video that went viral on YouTube, comparing him to Saroj Kumar, the arrogant superstar from the Udayananu Taaram. Soon, Tejabhai and Familycame rolling, and then he took the numero uno position as the most hated person in Kerala. (Almost, can compare it to the hate levels for Narendra Modi among some sections of the media)

Today, two movies of his have changed my entire outlook towards Prithviraj. Not only me, most of others who detested him. Celluloid and Mumbai Police. The former was a role which he did full justice to the story and character. He did not act, he lived as J.C. Daniel. The character in Mumbai Police is one that he, and only he, could have taken the risk of doing. No lead actor in Malayalam cinema, or for that matter, in Indian cinema, has dared to do such a role, or will do. He did a first, and will be Prithvi only who will be remembered for that one daring act.

Now, even his interviews have changed. What made me write this piece was the interview I watched today on Mathrubhumi News, where the old arrogance, overconfidence and conceit were missing. It was just a normal interface. Some people do learn, and learn well from failure, experience and hard times, and I feel, Prithvi has come out with cent percent score through those testing times.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn” – C. S. Lewis