Dulquer Salmaan isn’t one of those actors who have qualms about opening up. He speaks from his heart and he doesn’t mince words which makes interacting with him fun. With an exciting line up of films in his kitty, including Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo and the Telugu-Tamil biopic Mahanati, on the life of legendary southern actress Savitri, he explains what makes these projects exciting, why he would like to surprises audiences with his choice of films and why he’s more afraid to do out-and-out commercial films.
What drew you to Solo, which has already created quite a buzz with its teasers and music?
Bejoy was the drawing factor. But even before he pitched the idea of Solo, he wanted to work with me and I found his energy exciting. We discussed a bunch of ideas and we met a few times. We thought of this idea and it got us both excited.
I don’t see many people interested in doing an anthology with one actor and Bejoy was also excited that I was willing to give it a shot. It’s our excitement to attempt something different that brought us together.
Anthology is not something southern audiences are used to and the general perception is that it’s arthouse kind of cinema. How have you addressed that perception through this film?
From the beginning of my career, I have always tried to push content and make it as commercial as possible. It’s what that stays with you that matters when you watch a film. Even when we watch western cinema, I don’t think you watch art house as art house and the same applies to commercial films as well. What really stays with you is a good mix of both.
I have been trying to entertain audiences with memorable content. These are the kind of films that give me more courage. I’m more afraid to attempt an out-and-out commercial film. I feel it can either click or go all the way down. When you pick good content, irrespective of its box-office fate, people at least appreciate the intent, its effort or just the desire to make good cinema.
Shooting an anthology – where you play four characters – in two languages must have been a grueling experience
It definitely was taxing, physically as well as mentally. But what kept us going was that at the end of shoot every day, we feel like we’ve accomplished so much. It was a good day’s work that gave us the kick. There are shoots which are easy and you feel relaxed but at the end of the day, there’s no feeling of accomplishment. If I sleep after a tiring day of shoot, I know I’ve earned that sleep. It gives you lot of energy.
Initially, we thought we will treat it as four short films. I thought I’ll do a regular film and do a short film in between. But nothing worked out as per our plan. We shot in Kerala, Bombay, and Lonavala. We didn’t know where all the stories were taking us. We had to treat the stories differently. Except Bejoy and I, even the technical crew changed for each story. Even the assistant directors changed. The cameramen were different. As an actor, I felt like doing four different films, four different ideas and four different experiences.
The film has been made as a bilingual. Why didn’t you think of making it in Hindi as well when Bejoy is already a well established name in Bollywood?
We needed the story to be told on a big canvas and it was only possible if we could cater to a bigger market. I don’t like doing bilinguals and I’m against the idea. However, now is an interesting time to make bilinguals because of the acceptance of such films among audiences. People are willing to oversee the language and see the story of a film.
The story of Solo is very universal but culturally, it’s more rooted in south. Hence, we didn’t want make it in Hindi. Our idea from the beginning was that it has to resonate both to Tamil and Telugu audiences. We had to culturally adapt it for each story. I’m talking about very small details to ensure the audiences didn’t feel alienated. It’s as simple as the sub cast we changed. Even the costumes of the junior artists in the crowd had to be changed to suit the sensibility of the industry.
Solo will be your third straight Tamil outing. How do you think the audiences will accept this film?
I think audiences come to watch cinema for an experience. My desire has always been to entertain and give them a great film. The first two films – Vaaya Moodi Pesavum and Ok Kanmani – have registered me in their minds. I do want to surprise audiences with different kinds of films and I think Solo is one such project