Prathap K. Pothan, popularly known by his first name Prathap, is an Indian actor, director, writer, producer who has acted in about 95 films. He has acted in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu as well as Hindi films. His directional ventures were in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
Born into a well-to-do business family of Thiruvananthapuram in 1952, he went to the famous boarding school, Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Ooty at the age of five, where he took up painting.
The youngest of five children, he grew up in a household where art, politics, entertainment and business co-existed, allowing him to experience a large cross-section of life from his ancestral home in Trivandrum in Kerala.
This seems to be in stark comparison to his contrasting years at The Lawrence School, Lovedale which he recalls fondly. He finished Schooling in 1968. His father died when he was 15.
Pratap gained admission to Madras Christian College (MCC), Madras. Pratap remained friends with those he went to school and MCC with. His friends helped him act in plays at college and his interest turned to acting from painting.
He left MCC with a B.A in economics in 1972. Pratap started to work as a copywriter in an ad agency in Mumbai. After a year, he joined Sistas ad agency. Later he worked for Hindustan Thomson.
During the late sixties and early seventies, armed with a posh boarding school education from Ooty and awakened by an amazing bohemian experience gained ‘chasing the wind’ during his college days at MCC in Madras, the young Prathap went about shedding his shy schoolboy skin and embracing a culture of theatre and art.
Pratap acted with The Madras Players. The late director Bharathan enjoyed Pratap`s performance in Shaw`s play Androcles and the Lion, and invited him to act in his Malayalam film Aaravam.
"Luck was definitely on my side. I won a Filmfare Award for the first film I starred in and projects and offers kept coming my way from there."
He has acted in many movies with top heroines. His family owns a huge estate in Kerala and is very famous. He belongs to the elite Madras Players and has staged shows there.
Pratap made three more films - `Thakara` , `Chamaram`-Chamaram dealt with the tumultuous affair between a student and his college lecturer and `Lorry`, which are milestones in Malayalam film history.
Films like `Nenjathai Killathe` , `Panneer Pushpangal`, `Moodupani` and `Varumayin Niram Sivappu` made Pratap famous in Tamil also. In fact, he got more chances in Tamil. His most memorable role was probably in `Varumayin Niram Sivappu`, directed by K Balachandar.
Pratap began to direct films. His first film Meendum Oru Kaathal Kathai, a story of a mentally unwell couple, won a national award. His ex wife Radhika (Raadhika Sarathkumar, now married to actor Sharath Kumar) was also in this movie.
When I asked around about veteran actor and film director Prathap Pothan, three recurring themes emerged:
* He is extremely intelligent
* He is devastatingly humorous
* He is totally eccentric
"I didn’t care about what people thought about me. I acted in the films that I wanted to act in and later made the films that I wanted to make," he says confidently.
His subtlety as an actor and a director has been his forte. In an era when loud acting and innovations were not in vogue, Pratap teamed up with Kamal Hassan in Vetri Vizha. It was the first time that steady camera was used in a Tamil film.
Pratap directed three films in Malayalam:
* Rithubetham, which tells the agony of a `bastard`
* `Daisy`, which sent a romantic wave throughout Kerala
* Oru Yathramozhi, which was about a son in search of his unknown father.
He also directed a Telugu film - `Chaithanya`. He directed the Tamil film Lucky Man and Oru Yathramozhi in Malayalam with Mohanlal.
In Tamil, he has made super hits like Seevalapperi Pandi, Jeeva, Vetrivizha, etc. A man of high potential, he has directed nearly 30 films.
In the last few years he has been fighting personal battles. After the death of his brother (Hari Pothen, a producer) he became entangled in property disputes, faced death threats and fought an illness.
He has said he came back from his death-bed. He traveled around the globe. He lived with a nephew in Europe and has attributed the internet to opening new things up to him.
A very articulate person, he is proficient in English and other languages. An aristocrat he belongs to the cream of society. Now he hardly appears on the scene probably waiting for an opportune moment to stage a come back.
But he got to a point where he found everything about the film industry a little too fast. After a while things just became too chaotic for him and over a period of time making movies he realised that he just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
So he stopped. So now that his youth and crazy days are behind him, Pratap Pothan is spending time enjoying music, books, cinema, good food and conversation with friends in-between his ongoing projects.
Society seems to always be in a hurry to label everyone. When remarkable people show many different skills and traits and many layers of substance and imperfection the common man is overwhelmed by it all and coins terms such as ‘eccentric’. Many of His young fans and followers Said, "If Pratap Pothan is an eccentric then I want to grow up to be just like him!"