I want to play an unapologetic villain: Dulquer Salmaan
The actor talks to CE on how getting to play the hero in each of the four stories in Solo is a great opportunity for an actor
If Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo works at all, despite its flaws, it’s on account of the charisma of its lead actor, Dulquer Salmaan. He gets not one but four stories – and consequently, four diferent looks – in which to showcase his acting ability. Dulquer considers the film to be an experiment. "I wanted to do the film because I was game for experimenting. The idea of an anthology excited me. I do four or five films every year; so I think it’s okay to try something new, even if it comes with risks!"
Solo has four storylines that don’t have a common thread.
That got me more curious, and made me want to do the film. Initially, when Bejoy approached me with the script, I could not give him the dates, but eventually, I managed somehow. It isn’t every day that I get to work on anthologies. I didn't know then that I would be the lead in all four stories. For an actor, that’s a huge advantage.
Were you worried that an anthology film may not work at the box office?
You don't know till you try. As artistes, we can only work hard and hope for the best. I’ve never believed in making a film just for thebox office. I am also my own audience. If I have fun doing a role, viewers will like it.
I strongly believe Solo is a commercial film. At least, I can say we have made it commercially. But some people criticise everything. When I do a masala film, they ask me why. When I do an artsy film, they ask me the same question. I’m simply trying to achieve a balance. Also, I am trying to get people to the theatres. Any film that does that is a good film.
You’ve even played a negative character in the film.
Trilok, we felt, had a lot of depth. I don’t think we have seen such a character in Tamil cinema in a while. Audiences want interesting elements in films. Filmmakers need to think out-of-the-box and engage them with new ideas.
Was it hard to switch between the four characters you play, Rudra, Siva, Shekhar, and Trilok?
Bejoy and I treated each segment as a separate film. We finished shooting one story and moved on to the next. That way, it was easy for me to understand how Bejoy conceived each role. The film has eleven music directors and three cinematographers. Every time we had a new crew member coming in, it felt like a fresh product. Even for its trailer, we put in a lot of effort. If you noticed, one trailer has me narrating, "Now, welcome to the World of Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Shekhar!" It denotes that the character stammers.
There have been anthology films in Malayalam but not one in which the same actor has played the lead role in all stories. I played each of my four characters with complete honesty. I was able to relate to every character slightly.
In less than five years, you’ve become a top actor in Malayalam cinema and have a substantial fan base in Tamil Nadu.
I don't think about all that. I just do films that come my way. I am blessed with whatever I have now and am grateful for that. I've been a part of amazing films and only that matters. The audience expects quality cinema from me. I think no actor is bigger than their film. I keep this in mind to stay grounded.
You are always switching genres. After an OK Kanmani, you do a Charlie. After a Kali, you do a Kammatipaadam.
I don’t plan these things. It’s not a strategy I’ve come up with to make my films work. I like directors who want to make different films.
Think about producing films?
Definitely. Malayalam cinema is where my core audience is. I hope to eventually produce small-budgeted, content-oriented films there.
Though you’ve worked with directors of the stature of Mani Ratnam, you don’t seem to have any qualms working with new directors like Ra Karthik (for an upcoming travelogue bilingual).
I was also a newcomer once and someone believed in me. If I hadn't got that chance, I'd not be here. I try not to be judgemental when directors approach me.
On the sets, do you go over and above your acting responsibilities?
(Smiles) I am not insecure. When there's a good rapport between me and the director, I give inputs. That happened with Bejoy. Some directors encourage it and others don't. But once we begin the film, I don't interfere. I don't encourage major changes once the script has been finalised. At the end of the day, I believe there has to be one voice and one vision—the director’s.
Given that you played a character with grey shades in Solo, should we expect to see you as a villain maybe?
I have always wanted to play an unapologetic villain. I got to do that in Solo, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't mind playing the villain at all. I have no ego issues, but having said that, I’m a greedy actor. Take my role in Mahanati (the Savitri biopic), for instance. It’s the story of Savitri, not Gemini Ganesan. Yet, I am a part of that film. I never judge a role by its length. I prefer to view it in terms of impact. I haven’t tried to mimic Gemini Ganesan’s body language in the film. I’m playing it in my way. The audience will believe that I’m Gemini Ganesan. Ultimately, that’s what’s acting, right?