Cinema literacy in India almost negligible: Kay Kay Menon
The actor says there is a need to increase cinema literacy among youngsters to find a sustainable audience for experimental films in India in the near future
Kay Kay Menon, who has worked with filmmakers like Sudhir Mishra, Ram Gopal Varma, Madhur Bhandarkar and Nishikant Kamat, believes that, though there are some filmmakers who are constantly trying to experiment with subjects, unless there's an audience for such work, quality cinema will not survive commercially.
"The cinema literacy in India is almost negligible among commoners. And since there is no cinema literacy, they fail to appreciate the art of cinema. We shouldn't blame them because year after year, they are watching films that are sub-standard in content," he says, adding, "Only after a certain age, are they exposed to good cinema. So, as a young mind, if you do not learn how to appreciate good content-driven films, later in life, you only can find comfort watching those 'commercial films'."
He feels schools can play an important role. "I think from the school level, kids should learn the art of watching a film, so that over a period of time, our content-driven films can find a sustainable audience," says the actor, who has delivered some of his finest performances in films like Haider, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Sarkar, Life in a... Metro, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Shaurya.
In his latest release, Kay Kay is seen as a police officer. He has played a cop in his earlier films like Black Friday, Tera Kya Hoga Johnny and Rahasya. So how did he treat this character differently from the rest? "I am an impressionist actor. I do not play characters based on their profession. I try to humanise them to capture the nuance of the individual. There are thousands of police officers, but individually each one of them is different. As an actor, I always try to bring that out in my performance."
Starting his career in 1995 with the film Naseem, Kay Kay struggled to find a space for his quality work. What kept him going? "I strongly believe that my work should outlive me. We human beings will come and go, but our work should have an archival value. Since I am very clear in my head with this thought, it's always kept me going."
He goes on to say, "In my career so far, there are 15 performances that will outlive me and I know that. As a performing artist, we cannot count every single performance as the best one, but there should be a substantial body of work one can be proud of in one's career. I've managed to have that. So I now strike a balance between those substantial roles with some films like Singh is Bliing to pay my bills."
2017 was a year when some small-budget, content-driven films did well at the box office. Hindi Medium, Bareily Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan being cases in point. How does he look at the change? "Yes, content-driven films are finding favour these days, which is a positive sign. But this is not the right time to certify that as 'change'. To certify this transition as a change, it has to be consistent. I think we should wait for five more years to observe if these content-driven films still find space continuously. Then and only then we can say that the Indian cinema has changed for better and that good stories have found a space."