Actor-filmmaker Pratap Pothen passes away
While his onscreen persona was well-documented, what really added charm to the actor-filmmaker's aura was his social media image
Pratap was a true maverick, known for his distinct choices, both as a director and an actor. Revelling in the eccentricity and enjoyable nature of his choices, Pratap was part of some of the most unique and landmark films in Tamil and Malayalam. Having acted in over 100 films in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Hindi, Pratap was famous for bringing both a sartorial elegance and sinister sleekness to his mostly urban roles.
Pratap made his acting debut with the 1978 Malayalam film Aaravam, and in the next two years, he amassed a stellar filmography that includes Thakara (1979), Lorry (1980) and Chamaram (1980) in Malayalam, and Azhiyadha Kolangal (1979), Moodu Pani, Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu and Nenjathai Killadhe (1980). The ease he showed in oscillating between a benevolent husband, an unemployed youth, an understanding teacher, and a serial killer made Pratap synonymous with compelling performances. Even as he was making steady progress with his acting career that saw him frequently collaborating with filmmakers like K Balachander (Thillu Mullu), Visu (Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam and Penmani Aval Kanmani), Bharathan (Thakara and Lorry), and Padmarajan (Novemberinte Nashtam) and Bharathiraja (Pudhumai Penn and Sindhu Bhairavi), Pratap made his directorial debut in 1985.
With Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai, a new chapter in Pratap’s career opened up, which put him on the path that ushered him into the annals of cinematic greats. Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai won him the National Award for Best Debut Film, and also a romantic relationship with his co-star Radikaa Sarathkumar that culminated in a rather short-lived marriage. His directorial projects were an eclectic mix of genres. If the Malayalam film, Daisy (1988), was about a coming-of-age romance, he followed it up with a gripping thriller like Jeeva in the same year in Tamil. A similar shift in genres was seen when Pratap directed Kamal Haasan and Prabhu in Vetri Vizha (1989), a Bourne-inspired spy thriller, and My Dear Marthandan, a Coming to America-inspired film with Prabhu in the lead. His only Telugu directorial, Chaitanya, starred Nagarjuna in the lead. Pratap has the unique distinction of being the only filmmaker to direct the legendary Sivaji Ganesan and Mohanlal in Oru Yathramozhi (1997).
It came as a surprise to many when Pratap took a sabbatical from films after 1997, as he began to concentrate on his ad agency, a move that saw him direct advertisements featuring the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. It was only in 2005 that he returned to the movies with a bunch of films in Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu.
His acting sojourn over the past 15+ years reintroduced Pratap Pothen to a new audience. He played a fun father in Padikadhavan (2009), a despicable sexual predator in 22 Female Kottayam (2012), an inspiring mentor in Ayaalum Naanum Thammil (2012), a lonely expatriate in Idukki Gold (2013), and a grieving, yet doting father in Bangalore Days (2014). It is during this time that he also mentored aspiring filmmakers in the hit reality TV show, Naalaya Iyakkunar, which gave rise to some of our most important filmmakers like Karthik Subbaraj and Alphonse Puthren.
While his onscreen persona was well-documented, what really added charm to the actor-filmmaker's aura was his social media image. Known for his acerbic wit and sardonic humour, Pratap never let go of an opportunity where he could have the last word. It also led to a few controversies over the years, but he developed a fan following for his persona.
News of his demise has shocked his friends, fans, and peers, who have expressed their condolences on social media. Many celebrities, including Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan have paid their respects in person. Survived by his daughter Keya Pothen, from his marriage to Amala Sathyanath, the demise of Pratap brings the curtains on a career that might not have been given its due respect, but as Pratap himself once said, “Why should I care what other people think of me? I am who I am. And who I wanna be.”