The Dulquer interview: Why the heartthrob who doesn’t call himself a star was afraid of acting

Ahead of the release of 'Solo', Dulquer Salmaan speaks to TNM on films, fatherhood, and being a star son.
The Dulquer interview: Why the heartthrob who doesn’t call himself a star was afraid of acting
The Dulquer interview: Why the heartthrob who doesn’t call himself a star was afraid of acting
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Catching Dulquer Salmaan for a chat is a hard task. Waltzing between shoots, film promos and his beloved daughter, the star, by his own admission, has never been so busy.

With his career's biggest film Solo set to release on Thursday, Dulquer finally found some time to speak to TNM - about his films, fatherhood, and the secret of Mammootty's youth. 

You're playing four characters in Solo. How difficult was it to get under the skin of each one?

We treated each part to be a different movie. We had different crew, different DoPs...except Bejoy and me, we kept changing everything else. So we kept approaching each part like it was a different movie. The guy with the stutter, Shekar's character (the one with Dhansika), he has long hair, he looks bigger than the others. He walks differently. The stammer and the hair itself made me go with a different body language.

Shiva, the one who seems violent, is a little more internal...all his processes are internal. He's very silent. He has a lot of anger issues. Bejoy designed the stories in different ways. Each of the protagonists feels different. We would brainstorm before each film, how to differentiate this the time we got to the final character, we'd done the first three parts. 

We had to think about how to really differentiate him from others. So, we decided that he'd be a guy who is not easily likable. He enters a room and he pisses everybody off. He's aggressive by default. I'm hoping all of this is translated to the screen and I'm waiting for all of you to watch the film and tell me if it did!

Didn't you play a guy with anger issues in Kali as well?

Yeah, but that's something he didn't have control over. In the sense, he personally doesn't want to be angry. The temper issue is out of his control. Solo is not like that.

You were there for less than 30 minutes in your last film Parava. We don't see big stars from other industries in the south taking up such roles. What made you say ‘yes’?

Honestly, I don't think we see ourselves as stars. That's what the media tags us as. I personally don't think too much about it. Parava in my head was always a film about children. And I was like, if I can be part of the film and help promote it in some way or the other, I'd be very happy. I also did Ann Maria because it was a story about kids.

The problem is when you make a film with kids, you may not have known faces for it to reach as many people. Only the hardcore movie lovers and enthusiasts will go and watch it. I think every other known cast member of Parava was delighted that someone was attempting to make a film like this. I didn't care what my screen time in it was, honestly. 

I always think I want to be part of the best films of the year and that vision is always there. I don't do films for my stardom. I'm always open to stuff like this. The film is the hero and the script is the hero. If the film is good, everyone wins. If the film is bad, we all take a hit. If I'm a part of Parava and it has done well, I'm also benefiting from it. It's not like I'm helping them, they are helping me. 

Speaking of children, how are you enjoying fatherhood in the middle of this hectic schedule?

Hectic is what it is. I'm always in and out. I'm trying to balance it when I'm there. Here and there, I try to do what I can. This is the busiest time of my career. From the time she (Maryam) was born, I've been busy. Thankfully, Karwaan, my Hindi film, is being shot entirely in Kerala, so I'm around quite a bit. Every day I'm back at a certain time and get to be with her. 

We see you promoting Mammootty's films on your social media pages often but he doesn't put up anything about your films. Does that have to do with your wish to break out of being a star son?

I've always been a fan of my father's films. I'm crazy about my father and his movies. If I promote his movies it's because of this. I don't think much about it. I don't know what he does with his social media pages...I don't expect him or anyone to promote my films for that matter. I post what I want. There's no understanding or plan in the house about this (laughs).

Rajinikanth has given his blessings for Solo, we heard. Are you a Thalaivar fan?

Oh I'm a huge huge Rajini fan. His movies are like a festival every time they come out. It's always so exciting and happy and so cool. His movies have so much style. The stories are always very inspiring. And for me, it's a way to get away from all my problems by watching one of his movies. They're just great. I love Rajinikanth's movies...I'm a huge fan. Unabashedly so. 

You've spoken about getting into acting before direction because you wanted to face your fears about being a star son. Is that something which still weighs on you?

I used to make short films even as a kid. I used to have a camera and play around with it. So, I was always interested in the process and telling stories. I've always wanted to direct. 

Acting was something I was afraid of because of the comparisons to my father. And I think that's what I wanted to overcome. I still want to direct a film but the main goal right now is to be part of as many great films as possible. That is keeping me very busy as an actor. So, I don't know if I can afford to take time off and direct a film. Because if I want to do that, I want to do it completely immersed in it. I want to spend time on pre-production...everything. 

Right now, that doesn't look possible. I haven't holidayed in 1.5 years or something because I'm always shooting somewhere. So, I don't know when but I will. I definitely want to. I've been in the industry for six years now, so I hope there will be a time when I can do it. But right now, I'm doing so many movies and I don't want to miss out on doing good films.

You are doing films in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. Are you consciously looking to do films in other industries?

Not at all. I've always kind of gone with the flow. All these languages have come to me in the past also - Telugu, Hindi, Tamil...Tamil, in fact, the offer came to me before Malayalam. I've been going with what I want to do.

Somehow this year, I've ended up doing all these films. But it's not something I planned for. If it was just about doing different languages, I'd have done it much before if I wanted to. I was waiting for the right ideas before doing it. 

Your upcoming film on Sukumara Kurup, it's based on a real-life criminal. Do you have any apprehensions about playing such a character?

It's too early to talk about that right now. The film will go on the floors sometime next year. We're still fleshing things out. I don't think we're going to glorify him or say that he did something right or wrong. We'll tell it in a stylized way for sure but we won't glorify him or make him seem like a good man. 

Among all the characters you've played, which one would you say is closest to your heart? 

Right now, it's Solo for sure. I've really, really worked hard for this film. I've given it my whole heart and soul. I hope the next will be Mahanati and then the next movie after that. I feel like we have to approach it that way as actors. We have to get attached and get into it, get immersed it. 

Last and very important question. A lot of people want to know what's the secret of Mammooka's youth. 

I wish he would tell me because then I'd follow it also! It's in the genes but also a very strict and disciplined lifestyle. Exercise and diet!

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