The great Mammootty’s son Dulquer Salmaan has established a unique and enviable place of his own in Malayalam cinema. With his latest film Sita Ramam doing terrific business, Dulquer takes time off for an exclusive interview.
Sita Ramam is your most conventional film to date?
I felt like doing a pure love story. It’s been a while since I did something like that.When I heard the script I loved it. It felt it was a pure vintage romance,something I hadn’t done before. As I heard the narration I couldn’t tell where it was going. I loved the period flavour , music, the conflict. I think all of us in the team believed in it. All of us pushed ourselves.
You shot Sita Ramam through the pandemic?
We shot the Kashmir portions in March 2021.After that our entire schedule got pushed to November 2021. That was excruciating. But all of us believed in it.I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t believe in it.
It’s amazing how boyish you look in the film when you are actually 36?
I know. But I am ready now to play my age. I’ve occupied that boy zone for ten years now. I feel I need to man up now.
You did a goofy love story very recently Hey Sinamika. What did you think of it?
(Laughs) I did it for the director. This was choreographer Brinda’s directorial debut and I simply had to be part of it. She has made a large contribution to my career. My image as a romantic hero owes a lot to her dance steps. Besides, I liked my character. He was unlike anything I had done before.
Your choice of roles is fascinating.Kurup where you played a real-life conman , I had issues with?
I also had some issues . But my director Srinath Rajendran was attempting a big film, and that too after a long gap.But I enjoyed doing the role. I feel actors my generation need to crane our necks out. If we keep doing the same thing the audience would get bored.
In no other part of India,or for that matter the world, are actors doing such original and pathbreaking work as in Malayalam cinema?
I think it is our audience that keeps us constantly on our toes. There is no way that they would accept any repetition from us. I can’t say, I did good work in 2018 or 2019…that would be no excuse for me to get complacent. The audience here constantly needs to be surprised.And I also need to surprise myself with every role.All of us actors of our generation in Malayalam cinema are doing interesting work.We have no choice. None of us can rest on our past laurels.
Yes, I saw Fahadh Faasil’s new film last night. It was unbelievably authentic?
Yes , Malyankunju. Floods and landslides are common in certain parts of Kerala. It is important for us to make and be in films that are rooted to reality.
You did four Malayalam films during the last two years: Kurup, Hey Sinamika, Salute and Sita Ramam. And you have R Baliki’s Chup coming up. What is your criteria for selection of roles?
If it is something that feels already done, then I am not drawn to it. As an actor I give more importance to the script than my role. Now I’ve reached a stage where I want to challenge myself more and more in the roles I play.Going forward, I want to continue to challenge myself. New content is what makes me happy.I avoid remakes and sequels and anything unoriginal which I may accidently end up doing if it comes from cinema that I am not familiar with. I don’t want to wake up and not look forward to my work. Now there is so much variety in the choice of roles. I am working in Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi. Sita Ramam is my second Telugu film .I had earlier done Mahaniti in Telugu with the same producers.
In Hindi your films haven’t really worked out. I feel Balki’s Chup will?
I hope so. It is something very different from anything attempted before.And I wonder how or why he thought of me for this film. Shooting with Balki is fun. He is not worried about what works and what doesn’t. I really enjoyed myself.
Chup is deeply affiliated to the cinema of Guru Dutt. Were you familiar with Guru Dutt?
I actually learnt about Guru Dutt while shooting Chup. I was familiar with the music of Guru Dutt and knew about him. But thanks to this film, I got my first genuine exposure to the genius of Guru Dutt. I am grateful for that. Today more and more cinema that breaks boundaries and rules are happening.When I was growing up in the 1980s I was exposed to my father’s cinema.
Yes, the great Mammootty. Even he took a lot of risks in his career?
Absolutely. They wouldn’t allow him to do only conventional roles. In Kerala actors’ careers are moulded according to the audiences’ expectations. The more they expect, the harder we push the envelope. They don’t like us to get lax.
Do you at all take your father’s advice on scripts?
It is very difficult..As it is, narrations take time. To then find the time to discuss it…But nowadays we do exchange ideas, although we are both busy he more than me. We are both such different actors , so there is so much share. Actually no two actors are the same in Kerala.
Neither you nor your father has ever been scared of failing?
We all are scared. But taking risks comes naturally to us.
Did you think Sita Ramam would be a success?
In my head I felt we were creating an epic. During the narration I could feel how beautiful it would be. But I didn’t expect this kind of acceptance. I thought a love story like this would perhaps work on a smaller budget. But I am glad we struck to our vision.Also I think Mrunal Thakur brought in a freshness to the whole love story. When you are doing a pure romance the element of freshness is most important.