Dulquer’s X factor

Dulquer Salmaan’s not one to grab something that comes easy. Working out of his comfort zone gives him a high, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Dulquer Salmaan

He’s always been the cool, refreshing dude who knows exactly what he is doing. The smile never leaves Dulquer Salmaan’s face as we talk for over 15
minutes. And it’s genuine, not put-on, coming deep from within his expressive eyes.

He is resigned to the typical Mumbai craze of a zillion print, channel and electronic interviews, all on one (rainy) day. And as we begin our conversation
(with some artistes it is always a conversation, not an interview), he takes time off for two minutes to eat a banana. To our obvious first question about the Mumbai
madness, he emphatically says that he has the luxury of “just not doing this” back home.

He goes on with a chuckle, “Actually, I am quite embarrassed to say that I don’t do it at all. Now there is pressure because I am also doing Hindi films, things
are changing, and other people are doing it.” His first Hindi film, Karwaan, did not exactly draw in the crowds, but he acquired many new pan-Indian fans, who have even begun watching his South Indian films. However, he says, “In my head, Karwaan worked. It was not a film for all, and was made and pitched right. I had had such films in Malayalam, and historically, many of these films have worked later. So I do not know if they are ahead of their time. And my biggest takeaway was that, even down South, they did not find me speaking Hindi with an accent. That was a nice compliment, and is also one thing I want to challenge myself. I don’t want you to place me as coming from a particular region, and I don’t want to play South Indian characters in my Hindi films. If I do a Tamil film, I should sound like a Tamilian.”

The right mix

About how he chooses his Hindi films, he says, “ I have done every kind of film back home — mainstream, non-mainstream, with a newcomer — the same was Karwaan here and then with an established star like Sonam Kapoor, like in this film, and I am familiar with all those kinds of dynamics. I was sold quite quickly on the quirky Karwaan and when I found that I had a strong role with the right mix in The Zoya Factor, which was also made by good people, I knew I had to do it.”

Dulquer admits that he has always had the luxury of being “choosy”, maybe because he comes from a film family. “I was not a complete newcomer, who has to
take up all the work that comes his way for financial reasons. I could really focus on quality cinema, and that will remain so even in Hindi. I would like every film of
mine to surprise you, and make you see a different character.”

Dulquer has a definite take on choosing films. “If I don’t like a script, and I still sign the film because it has a great team or the director is famous, or because
it’s a big commercial movie, then I would be worried, because such films can cut both ways. But when I do a film for the right reasons, then I am okay, because no
one, except maybe Aamir Khan or Salman Khan, has the algorithm or recipe to figure out what will work with the audience. I am very happy if I do a good film
with honesty, that’s all.”

Now that he mentions Hindi cinema’s market toppers, would he do a Hindi film with them or any other big male star? “Of course, if everything else is right. In
fact, in my head, I did that with Karwaan itself. It was Irrfan’s film and I had a distinct role in it. For that matter, even in The Zoya Factor, it is Sonam Kapoor
who has the title role.”

How interested is he in cricket, on which the film is based? “In India, I don’t think you can stay away from it,” he grins. “I would not have so many of my good friends if I was not interested in cricket. But I watch only the important matches. I am not one who will sit in front of the television to watch just anything on cricket.”

In this film, he admits that he was coached by very good people to make the playing technique look convincing. “I had ADs (assistant directors) who were cricket fanatics and asked for ‘one more shot, sir,’ as something was not correct, like maybe my swing,” he chuckles. “They were so passionate.” This film is about luck and superstition, and this was what especially attracted Dulquer to it, as he is not superstitious at all. “My character is like me, self-made, who does not believe in these things, but the whole team is arraigned against me, the captain.”

Something special

Dulquer describes himself as a “slightly obsessive personality, who, if I like something, will obsessively get into it,” and that, very interestingly, prevented him from getting into the luck or superstition zone. “So if I start getting superstitious, there would have been no end to it,” he laughs. He narrates an interesting tale: “I always listen to narrations in the lobby of a hotel near my house in Chennai. I liked two scripts sitting on the same table. I can sign five films that will keep me busy for a year, but that will leave no gap for any extraordinary film that might come my way. So after signing two films, I decided not to sit on that particular table as I might sign many films and not have room left
for something special.”

However, he admits that he is religious. “Religion is a big part of my family, even my extended family. And my wife is more religious than anyone else. But it’s
very personal. My parents are progressive and not fanatics and just lead by example. And I like the beauty of India where all my friends are home for Eid
lunch, and we are at their house for their festivals. We all know each other’s culture and we are one in thinking.”

Dulquer is pretty chilled out about the interchange of actors and technicians happening between diverse Indian cinemas, and refuses to term it a “current
phenomenon.” “There have always been crossovers, like there are DOPs from Malayalam cinema who are never available for our films because they are busy
doing Hindi or Telugu films,” he points out.

Dulquer adds, “But now, what is happening is that Indians in general are now getting around. Like Malayalis are marrying everywhere.” He has
acquired fans from every part of India because someone’s girlfriend, spouse, roommate or friend there is a Malayali and has thus been exposed to his films.
The actor would not mind remakes of his Malayalam films but will not like to star in them. “I would not be doing anything new, and would be wasting an
opportunity to do something new!” he says. “I am very flattered if my films are remade, but not with me!”

As we conclude, he is asked by some waiting reporters for autographs. He smiles and says that he misses those times now. “Nowadays, it is more about
selfies,” he quips.

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