Dulquer Salmaan, who is processing all the love that his latest release Sita Ramam is receiving, is also gearing up for his upcoming Hindi release, Chup, directed by R. Balki. The actor, who has worked in films in different languages, talks about Sita Ramam, Chup, Guru Dutt songs, his choices in films, and the power of cinema.
How do you feel about the audience’s response to Sita Ramam?
Dulquer: I’m delighted. When I heard the script, it sounded like a classic, epic love story. But a lot of times, you’re scared whether it will become what you hope it will become. It’s a film that we worked really hard on. We shot in Kashmir and Spiti Valley in the most terrifyingly cold times. It was -22 degrees Celsius. There was no running water. Everything was frozen. We had ambulances on standby during the shoot. I think the reason why everyone put in so much energy and effort was because all of us felt like we were making something special.
There are so many things that I don’t sign up for as an actor. I go with the script. I don’t know what my final cast is. The film might not even have a title or I wouldn’t know who the technicians would be or what the music is going to be like. These are bonuses that we don’t see when we sign the film. I think all of these came together wonderfully in this film. I have a weird belief when a film’s going to be special, or it’s going to be a huge success, receive a lot of love. Something magical happens where everything comes in favour of that film. Every film has its destiny. And the love (for Sita Ramam) hasn’t stopped pouring even after 40 days of its release.
Do you think Sita Ramam has expanded your fan base?
Dulquer: Yeah. I genuinely believe that we don’t truly understand the power of great cinema. We don’t believe the reach and travel of great cinema. I have seen it when I have had a great film. My second film Ustad Hotel travelled much more than I had imagined. I went to Hyderabad for the first time in my life for some awards where I met kids who said that they liked Ustad Hotel. I asked them how did they watch Ustad Hotel. They said that they were Googling the best films of the year and Ustad Hotel was on one of such lists. So, what I am saying is that people who love cinema will seek it out.
Similarly, I remember a distributor telling me that Charlie had a big market in Japan. There was a phase in my life where I would get constant messages from Turkey. It’s strange how cinema travels. And yes, with Sita Ramam a whole bunch of new viewers are viewing my filmography. This is what I have always been seeking. I have always been a passionate lover of cinema even before I became an actor. I have always been seeking to be a part of great cinema. I have never chased Box Office. I am not even that actor who’s choosing films for my roles. At different stages of my career, I have been slotted in a particular kind of a role. But I have only been a hero in my films. Maybe not seeking this kind of success is finding me.
But how do you look at Indian cinema getting divided into Hindi versus South?
Dulquer: I have never understood these tags. I kind of like that people know me just as my name. I love it when films are known by their names. Your parents have given you names but today, your name stands for who you are. I don’t understand terms like pan-India. Maybe we’re trying to create different categories just to simplify. Because we love to simplify. I get these inquiries often that, “Sir, we have a pan-Indian script for you.” And I’m like, “No, you don’t.” You can’t decide if it’s pan-India.
Chup is tag-lined as Revenge of an artist. So, are you the artist? And are you familiar with Guru Dutt’s works?
Dulquer: The reveal of the artist will be done in the film. I have grown up on a very good diet of Guru Dutt Sir’s music. Because my parents often listened to classic Hindi songs. And we did many road trips. My dad loved to drive so we moved from Kerala to Chennai. For some reason, he never took us there via a plane or train. He’d say, “Let’s drive”. And during our drive, we’d listen to songs. So, I knew Guru Dutt Sir’s music. But I hadn’t visited his movies so much. I’ve grown up consuming cinema from everywhere. But through Chup, I visited Kagaz Ke Phool, because there are so many references of that film within our film. There’s also a shot of me watching Kagaz Ke Phool in the film. I want to revisit the entire filmography. Once you become an actor, it becomes difficult to watch a lot of movies.
How relevant do you think film criticism or reviews are?
Dulquer: It should be more relevant now. Because anyone with a phone can be a film reviewer. I think cinema is the easiest art form to criticise. You don’t have to do a film appreciation class. It’s easy to consume because it’s visual and oral communication. But the same people won’t be able to review a painting or poetry because that needs proper study to understand. It is important for our critics and reviewers to give genuine reviews, balanced reviews, with love for cinema, with kindness to help us all improve.
A viewer can have any opinion. He/she can have a personal like or dislike. A viewer may not like me for whatever reason. But that doesn’t mean that my film deserves hate.