Interviewed by - Anita Raghuraman
Designed by - Ameenudeen
PRO - Hemananth
Web Team - Sakthi and Laxman
Photograpy - Jeevakaran

I don’t ever see a risk in being a part of a Mani Ratnam film.

A pleasant, bodacious, handsome and a warm personality who is charming not just on-screen but also off-screen. Currently, Dulquer Salmaan is synonymous to being the heartthrob of the South Indian film industry. He is an actor who made heads turn with films like Second Show and Ustad Hotel in the Malayalam industry. While Vaayai Moodi Pesavum gave him the break in the Tamil industry, his Bangalore Days was recognised nationally. With a poised attitude and composed thoughts, Dulquer Salmaan takes time out amidst his busy schedule to have a chat with Anita Raghuraman...

Within a span of three years in your film career, you have worked in 15 films and it has been a resounding success for you. Isn’t this success slightly a burden for you?

There have been phases when my dad Mammootty thought he was finished.

When my film does well, I usually feel relieved. But when my films don’t do well I genuinely feel upset about it. I feel like something terrible has happened. That’s because writers have put in about two years writing that script, we as actors would have invested a lot of time and finally when the outcome is not great and when people dismiss it in just one word, it is always difficult to see that. Even in my house if my film does well, the air is nice and everyone feels happy and upbeat about it. Sometimes, there is even special Biriyani made during that time. But when there is a series of successes; it leads to pressure, it raises expectations, messes with your judgment a little bit and sometimes you start to become complacent.  When these things back fire, you come back to normal and become the same old person.

On the other hand I have always seen this kind of a raise and a fall situation as my father (Mammootty) has gone through this so many times. There have been phases in his life when he has thought he is finished. So we have all grown up with those insecurities where none of us know how strong our futures are going to be. It sure looks very glamorous at the outset for the public as we wear fancy clothes and we travel to different places, but it is not a very secure industry. I have always seen success as close to failure.

Also Tamil media has been very kind to me till now but the Malayalam media has been pretty open. Because when there is a bad performance they make sure I am aware of it and they remind me of my failure.  It helps me stay grounded.

We hear that you take a lot of time choosing each of your script, and that you have also rejected many films. When Mani Ratnam came to you with an offer, did you hear the script or did you just agree due to his brand name?

Despite doing just 24 films till now, you can state all of Mani sir’s films, even the ones that have not worked.

Honestly, I did listen to the script. But what I personally feel about his films is that nothing bad can come from it. Even if a film doesn’t work, being a part of his films will only make you gain a lot! The maximum number of people would see your film and you would have gone to this amazing school of film making. Despite doing just 24 films till now, you can state all his films even the ones that have not worked. Usually if a film fails, you wouldn’t even remember it but his films can never make you forget what they were. I don’t ever see a risk in being a part of a Mani Ratnam film. But being the professional that he is, he did discuss his ideas with me, he did narrate the story to me and gave me the opportunity to decide if I want to do it or not. This film is an idea that I thought must be made into a film.

What kind of films have always interested you?

I think I have always liked a-slice-of-life kind of films. I can’t relate to an extremely futuristic cinema like Hollywood. Even my superheros, I like them to be believable. I like Iron Man and Batman where they are rich and they end up having powers. It is still believable. But I don’t know how to believe a superpower. So when a script is grounded to reality and it is telling a story about real people and relationships, that excites me. OK Kanmani is about that.

Doing 15 films quickly in Malayalam might be a normal affair but that number is no mean feat in the Tamil industry. How do you look at the number of films you act, every year?

There was a year when my dad acted in 13 films. Regarding both my Tamil films; for the first one (VMP) I shot for close to 37 days and the entire movie’s shooting got over in 53 days. The next film, I completed in 42 days. I juggle my dates like that. I can commit to only 2 to 3 movies at a time. I also think it is good to do maximum number of films, as going ahead it helps you to stay grounded. You are constantly working and your mind is occupied. When I made my first film, all I could think of was to crack that film well. But then it was a big question after that film. Am very glad that midway through my first film I got an offer for Ustad Hotel and I could have never said No to that film. And then the next film happened. I never really had a plan in my mind to work in so many number of films. There have been times when I have really not wanted to do a film but I had to. But very surprisingly they have done well and then I realized it was not a bad decision. So by the large number of films you make per year, you learn.

Now, what did you think before signing Bangalore Days? You thought it would work and be recognised nationally?

I knew the film would work but I was skeptical about how such a wide cast could come together and make it look complete. It is a multi-starrer and everyone has done well in their respective films. I didn’t know how Anjali would define each character as it is easy to get lost in the crowd. I had a discussion with Anjali about this and she had so much clarity in her script. If it were anyone else, I don’t think I would have done a multi-starrer. With her you just know that this is going to be recognized and people would enjoy it as much as we did while shooting. In all honesty, I did have those worries but only good things have come out of that film for all of us, as I am sure everyone had their own doubts. Even the girls in the film were wondering, because such a subject is almost unheard of.

Where do you draw a line to all your doubts?

Well, I think it is only till you say a ‘Yes’ to the film. All these doubts and concerns are only till that. When we went on floors, we all had a ball of a time. Bangalore days was worth every bit of a memory because the bond we created over the movie is still there. We all still text each other, watch each other’s movies and keep in touch. There is something magical about that film.

You wanted to get into acting only after understanding films well enough. You took a short course in a film school before you made the first film. How involved are you in a film apart from just acting?

I don’t like to meddle with people’s creations. Of course if there is any new director I will always voice my views and tell them my concerns. There would probably be some films of mine that wouldn’t have worked with a completely new director because of X reasons. Like, the casting would have been bad or editing would have gone wrong or some things like these. Since I know these are the probable issues, I make sure I voice it to them. Beyond a point, filmmaking is such a huge process that involves too many people working and the bad things can’t be completely forced upon one person. I don’t believe that I as an actor alone can influence so many minds working on the project.

All I do is I observe a lot. I need that for my own peace because after all I should know if the film is turning out well or not. Things like if the film-makers’ intentions are good and if the efforts are genuine must be known to me.

Having worked with varied directors and in different kind of films, how unique was working in a Mani Ratnam film?

The way every scene is constructed is very live and dynamic. For instance, if you and I are talking in a room, in a normal film it will just be us talking. But for Mani sir that can never be enough. There has to be something else going behind you. There will be more movement and the scene will look live. His pattern of working itself is very different and it will be a collaborative work. Everyone would have contributed something to the scene for it to look like what it is. For me that has been very fresh where it was just not about going with the flow.

In the current scenario is it a necessity or a demand for an actor to be socially active?

Facebook for me is a platform where I connect individually in a closed circle, so I don’t get into the regular Q&A chats in that zone. I like Twitter as it is open to public and I can connect one on one with people. Twitter is very handy because there are only limited characters, so it is easy to read all the questions and everyone can only say so much to each other. While I talk to the media, I would also like to talk to people in a one on one basis. It also clears the air. I might have said something that could have been misconstrued by the media. Here, it is me and always my words. You can even quote me from my Twitter handle. So for me it is neither a necessity nor a demand but my own liking towards reaching out to people in a less complicated way.

You have always had a back-up, be it in films or otherwise, as you are a director of a dental company and so on. Your life looks picture perfect. Do you ever take any risk at all in your life?

For any actor, to-be-forgotten is the biggest fear.

Right! There is always a worry when things go too well. The reason why I take a lot of time to decide on a film is because now, I don’t think anyone would appreciate me if I make a lackluster film. Audience have their own expectations from me. People know that I am a second generation actor and I can’t act in films just for the money. Whether I do need money or not (as I would never take any money from my parents), I don’t think it is fair on my part to act in a film just for money and I can’t say ‘Oh I just worked on that film because I needed some money’. I think I have that responsibility as an actor.

Well my investments and businesses are for long-term benefits. There are major lock-down periods for each of the investments. I don’t get any money from those on a daily or a monthly basis. They are all just good ‘plans’ if I don’t survive long enough here.

Frozen thoughts...

You are very active in Twitter…

As you would have noticed, that’s only close to releases (laughs).

A get-away that you can always fall back on..

I love to travel. I would just keep going…

Your acting career is set…

No way.. It can never be set as you are good only as long as you are there

Once an actor, always an actor..

There are many actors who have worked in films and have just gone away. No one remembers them anymore.

An insecurity that pulls you behind..

For any actor, to-be-forgotten is the biggest insecurity..

All the attention as a celebrity..

I am usually a very private person but as long as you have the attention enjoy it because the day when people don’t recognise you, it’s going to be very bad..