Pranav: The gypsy in love with books, travel
Who is Pranav Mohanlal? All we know is his lineage, his father, a great actor who held our imagination for decades and continues to do so till date. Like the other star prodigies, Pranav too has the star baggage, but in him one can clearly spot the unusual talent that will soon bloom into something unseen and unheard so far.
While he shrouds himself in an adorable mist of shyness just like his father, he is quite his own man in every way. A young man, as easy as a gypsy, travelling around with anonymity and away from the crowd, Pranav has his own passions. Equally comfortable at philosophy and poetry on one end and photography and rock-climbing on the other, Pranav is the man to watch out for.
I haven't seen Pranav without a book in his hand ever and his interests seemed to float around philosophy and travelogues. Once at an Ayurvedic resort he was jostling with a copy of a Jiddu Krishnamurthi's book. By then he had finished reading a good number of the author's books. Another time we met he was occupied with Paul Brunton's travelogue on India. Third time he was floating through the mystical world of the Akhoris.
It was in January during the Jaipur Litfest that I got a chance to know this young man at close quarters. At the Mumbai airport where I and Siddharth from Mathrubhumi Books was waiting for him, Pranav landed with a light backpack almost with the grace of a hiker.
Pranav was regular at the deepest philosophical discourses and discussions at the fest and the young man requested his identity be kept discreet. Walking past the crowds, almost floating among the crowds like a shadow, he was interested in observing the world yet contemplating constantly in his own universe.
An early riser, however late to bed, Pranav would be ready by 8 in the morning. He carried his precious possession of a tiny notebook wherever he went, jotting down things from time-to-time. He listened to music early morning and avoided even the requests of MP Shashi Tharoor who expressed a desire to meet him.
Pranav was the one who re-routed my culinary exploration to a Jaipuri Dhaba from a fine-dining restaurant. From that day on, everyday we went to the same dhaba for our share of Rajasthani food. While we came out of the dhaba at 12 in the night after food, he always carried a parcel packet with him and walking through the dark he would return leaving the packet near a hungry soul.
On the last day of the fest Pranav came out without his backpack. "Someone stole my bag", he said. All his books and his little notebook were inside it. When I asked him what next, he gave me the most laid back reply, "ahead is life without a bag".
On our way back to Delhi in a sleeper coach, Pranav was sitting without a shawl, freezing in the January cold. Cinema came up in the conversations very rarely, but Pranav had a very clear idea of world cinema and concepts on cinema. He also said several times that there has never been a script that attracted him enough to want to live it on reel. When I asked about his future plans, the shy young lad replied casually, "I do not have a plan for tomorrow, imagine thinking about future".
A constant traveler, Pranav loves the Himalayas, the nondescript Indian villages, Goa and Hampi among many others. He is also an accomplished rock-climber. I still remember the silent reader clutching the book on Hampi's rocks in his hands on those chilly Jaipur mornings.
When Pranav takes on the mantle from his father, it is not a generational shift in cinema that will take place - it will be the initiation of an actor who lives in a world larger than glitz and stardom. It will be the start of an era of an actor who knows his place in the world with surgical precision, for he has lonely paths that await him, silent poems humming to him and many more books and photographs that await his coming.