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Most people find it difficult to pronounce his name, but it's isn't hard for Dulquer Salmaan to leave you awestruck with his magnetic personality and impressive acting chops. Well for those who ain't aware, Dulquer's name has a reference to Alexander, The Great. And it won't be wrong to call him a conqueror of hearts on the celluloid as well.
After spreading the DQ magic down south, the Malayalam heartthrob is now all set to make his presence in Bollywood felt with Irrfan Khan starrer Karwaan.
In conversation with Filmibeat, the coolest newcomer in Bollywood gets candid about why he isn't keen on doing remakes, success and failures, and of course, his much-awaited Hindi movie debut Karwaan.
'I Don't Want To Do Remakes'
Q. Dulquer, this (Karwaan) must not have been the first Bollywood film which was offered to you?
A. Yes. I had heard some stuff in the past. But I think I wasn't looking actively as a debut as such. I just wanted to do something I really connected with and something that resonates with my sensibilities with the kind of films which I have done.
Q. Were you planning to foray into Hindi cinema at any point?
A. Well, it's not something that I actively thought about or pursued or planned. Same applies for Tamil and Telugu. But, I think every film which you do opens more doors for you. Some of my Malayalam films caught the attention of Tamil filmmakers. I am sure Mani Sir's film (OK Kanmani) caught the attention of makers here because everybody watches his films. Also, I have been a part of some really amazing Malayalam films which have been watched by everybody even up north. I feel because they have seen these movies, I have had inquiries in that sense; sometimes to remake my own films. But then remakes is something which I don't want to do. But yes, it was completely unplanned for here where I debuted both, in Telugu and Hindi in the same year. I shot both the films back to back.
Q. Speaking about remakes, there are people here who must have missed out on some of your amazing work in Malayalam cinema..
A. True. But I don't think I would be doing anything new in remakes. I would only be speaking in a different language. But as an actor for me, that's not something which I will be excited about and I don't want to do films mechanically.
Q. Considering Karwaan is your debut film, you are quite fluent in Hindi. How did you get your grip on the language because that's a common failing point for most South actors?
A. I think that's possibly got to do with my schooling. But then maybe because I have a knack for languages. I have always been exposed to Hindi. It was my second language in school. We had to speak it in the class where we had a lot of kids belonging to North Indian families in my school. Also, my college had a huge Indian student body which comprised kids from everywhere- Punjab, Gujarat, Mumbai, Delhi. I picked up a ear to know the difference between the languages.
Q. You have worked in four different languages which means you have been introduced four times. Any plans of making your fifth debut?
A. (smiles) I will have to learn a new language. It's a privilege to be introduced four times. I don't think that many people get this privilege. So, I genuinely feel lucky because it's not just me being like, 'Hey, I want to do Hindi cinema' and then that will happen. It also has to happen from them. I have to get a film offered and then somebody has to back the film because there's money involved.
'Right From A Young Age, I Have Liked Fairly Relatable, Realistic Cinema'
Q. You said you were offered Hindi films before, but you decided to pick up a film which resonated with you. What made you take up Karwaan?
A. There's no particular checklist or signs behind how I select my films. When the films work, it means my selections are good. But then if they stop working, then there's something wrong. As every other actor, I go with my gut and instincts. Right from a young age, I have liked fairly relatable, realistic cinema. I didn't connect to sci-fi or Star Wars or Star Treks so much. I always needed a sort of belief. Like, I could believe Batman and Iron Man but not some of the other superheroes.
I always feel like I need to have some sense of relatability and the script of Karwaan in that sense, seems very real. I thought the premise was very interesting. I loved Irrfan Khan's character Shaukat, my character Avinash and Mithila's character Tanya. All three of them are poles apart. One is a super eccentric, judgemental and inappropriate workshop owner, which is Irrfan's character. I am this happy, number-cruncher who works in an IT firm and Mithila's Tanya is a high school girl. The film revolves around all these three people in a van with a dead body. The premise is unique and the whole film has a lot of heart.
'I Have To Work Hard To Make The Right Choices'
Q. You have always maintained that you are yet to come to terms with stardom. Instead, you consider yourself as a movie buff who acts and enjoys films. What keeps you so grounded despite all the success and fan-following?
A. Film industry is a very fickle place where you are only as good as your last Friday. I don't want to start believing in or it's doesn't mean that I have some kind of guarantee that if I churn out a bad film, that will still make some money. That kind of stardom happens very rarely and that too over a period of time. I have to work hard to make the right choices. When you make a film, it's a combined team effort. If the film is good and everybody is working hard towards it, then even my performance or character will be considered good. But if the movie is bad then how much ever I perform or whatever efforts I put into that, it will go unnoticed. So, I genuinely think the films are the hero. I love cinema and I want every film choice of mine to be a reflection of that.
'I Don't Dwell On Success Or Failure In My Head Beyond A Monday'
Q. Then how do you deal with your failures?
A. I don't dwell on success or failure in my head beyond a Monday. If my film is a hit, I am relieved for more than anything. I might enjoy the success in my head on Saturday and Sunday. But by Monday, I need to come back to earth and be like, 'Hey, if this Friday went okay, you are relieved but now next Friday is yet to come, it better go well.' I can't afford to dwell on even big failures beyond a Monday because I have to get back to shoot. If I am depressed and sad but have to enact a happy scene, you can't dwell on anything too much. That also helps in keeping me grounded.
Q. Was Hindi cinema a part of your childhood and growing years?
A. For sure. I have always loved Hindi cinema and have been a Hindi cinema buff. You can say I am a movie buff. I watch everything- whether it's English, Hindi. Tamil or Malayalam. If I can understand it or if someone recommends it to me, I will watch it. I grew up with my mother and my sister. Definitely if my sister was excited to watch a 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun', I used to be there with her in the theatre and I would watch Hindi songs with my mother. I loved a lot of travel films or a film like Anjaam with a negative character.
Q. There were reports that you were also approached for Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyan.
A. There is a lot of discussions and exchanges involved for a film to happen. I feel every film has its own destiny. I have never spoken about the films which were being discussed. I prefer to talk about my films which are confirmed and on the floors or awaiting release. That makes more sense. There are too many variables until you start shooting.
Q. Irrfan recently watched Karwaan in London. Does that kind of make you feel better now?
A. Irrfan Sir earlier watched one version in February and now recently, he watched the final cut. It's always nice to have his take and opinion on it. He is definitely one of the key reasons why I got on board for this film. You know someone like Irrfan Sir or Ronnie Sir have always had their names associated with good movies. For me, it felt like if they have already done their homework, it makes half my work easier. It becomes an easy pick for me. A major percentage of the audience will watch the film because Irrfan Sir is in it. I had always maintained that if I ever was to do a Hindi film, I would prefer to do one where I play an interesting role and everybody watches it as opposed to me playing a lead and nobody watching it.
Q. How was your personal bonding with him?
A. Amazing. He's genuinely such a warm and funny person. He's curious and supremely well-read and well-informed. He can discuss any topic with you. At the same time, he wants to know everything as well; whether its Malayalam cinema or politics.
Q. You have a lot of female fan-following...
A. I find it very sweet and don't think too much about it.
Q. Are you open to the idea of doing biopics?
A. I did Mahanati. Well, I am open to it. It's not like I would say I wouldn't do a biopic. I think a lot of times, what's crucial in a biopic is having dates for that long because you have multiple looks and schedules. Also, you should also be in a position to give that much time. I think a couple of my films in Malayalam are a kind of biopics (laughs). What's tricky for me is to allot dates for that long. Right now, I am juggling between multiple opportunities in multiple industries. So, I try to see if I can limit it or at least the films are tighter films. That way, I can explore more.
Q. One Bollywood actor which you would love to play on-screen?
A. No, no. I don't like to play anybody. Not an actor for sure. I can't ever think like that. I can't be like 'I want to do this so let's make a movie on that'.
Q. Would you like to write or direct a film someday?
A. For sure. I think writing requires a certain kind of discipline. I tried writing during my college days. I have had ideas and full-fleshed out scripts in my head. But right now, there's so many opportunities in terms of acting, I don't know if I can afford to take the time out.
'I Am Not Entitled To Anything Because I Am Mammootty's Son'
Q. You never used the name 'Mammootty' in your name. One reason was that your father never wanted it..
A. For sure. He was very clear about it. Even in school, I didn't have his last name. I think I am not entitled to anything because I am his son. Dulquer and Salmaan are derived from two warriors. My dad studied Islamic history. So, he liked these two names and he combined them.