Dulquer Salmaan appears as Karthik in Alagappan’s Pattam Pole releasing this Friday. He says that the role challenged the actor in him.

Fame, success and his weighty legacy sit lightly on Dulquer Salmaan’s broad shoulders. As you phone him for an interview, a text message from him explains why it will have to be done in the evening. “I am travelling,” says the message.

Now, many young Malayalam stars don’t always respond like that – they keep you waiting; they rarely take their own calls, they keep you guessing if the interview will come through or not, they can only talk about themselves and their career or, worse, not talk at all….

But, thankfully, there are no clichés about Dulquer. He is as down to earth as is possible for a film star. He does not confine his remarks to his characters or his impressive run in Mollywood. Instead, it touches upon his reading, his clothes, the kind of person he is, his admiration for his father… well, it is almost like talking to any other well-read, articulate professional.

We begin talking about his character in his latest movie Pattam Pole, which reaches cinemas on Friday. Veteran cinematographer Alagappan’s directorial debut, Pattam Pole has Dulquer playing Karthik, a studious Brahmin youngster, a role very different from his screen avatars as the confused non-resident Indian finding his feet in India, characters that he effortlessly essayed on the silver screen. “But I am not an NRI,” he points out. Point noted. Yes, he is not one but then he did such a good job that most of us could be forgiven if we thought he really was a confused desi!

“I like roles that challenge me and this was certainly very different from what I had done before. One has to move from one’s comfort zone to challenge oneself. But I know guys like Karthik, so he was not someone I was completely unfamiliar with. This is the first love story I am acting in. The romance is the main theme and it is not tagged to a bigger storyline or subject,” says Dulquer.

He is paired with debutante Malavika Mohan who plays Riya. Was he able to help her to be at ease in front of the camera? “She is a thorough professional. I don’t like interfering too much in a person’s work but, yes, it is team work. I think she has done a great job,” he says.

To interpret his character, Dulquer says he has to understand why he behaves in a certain way, how did he become like that, where does he come from….

Dulquer elaborates: “I have to understand him and his choices. It is when I am convinced about my character that I can do justice to that role.” Given his ability to acquit himself remarkably well in characters such as Harilal (Second Show), Harsha Vardhan (Theevaram), Faizal Abdul Razak (Ustad Hotel), Johns (ABCD) and Kasi (Neelakasham…), it is evident that he was adept at gauging and breathing life into some interesting roles within a short span of time.

A voracious reader, Dulquer says he goes through different phases when he is hooked to a certain genre of books. So, at one time, he was into biographies, then he was into historical works. He has just finished reading Across the Nightingale Floor by Gillian Rubinstein and Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes and is mid-way through Orphan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. “Murakami’s was special. Some day, I would like to turn those short stories into a film. But now, I seem to be buying a lot of books and waiting to read them later,” he adds candidly.

Music and movies are not far behind his list of likes. His tastes in music, like his reading, are wide and varied. Taking that interest in music a bit further, Dulquer also sang in ABCD. His foot-tapping number hit the charts and ‘Johnny mone…’, his song, was soon blaring from every street corner during the Onam celebrations.

“Oh! Gopi [Sundar] has the ability to make any one sing. In fact, he believes that all of us can sing. It was a fun number and I enjoyed singing it. But I never thought it would become such a big hit,” he says.

Coming back to movies, he says that he only accepts films that he can relate to as a viewer and actor. “And I do watch movies of my contemporaries in other languages. I have watched films of Ranbir Kapoor, Ram Charan, Dhanush. It is funny, but now, when I should be watching more of films, I hardly get the time to watch as many movies as I should be watching. But it is necessary to have your ear to the ground to know what is happening.”

Admitting that he is open to offers from other regional languages, he says that he has only listened to some scripts. And direction? “The passion for cinema is there but, at present, I am learning and absorbing all I can about filmmaking and acting,” he says.

ON HIS OWN PATH

Like any other film goer, there is a great deal of admiration and adulation for his father, Mammootty. “At one point, I wanted to dress like him, walk like him, talk him…. I think that is a phase lots of children go through. But to be honest, I have never wanted to do any of the iconic roles he has done in films. It would be stupid to try and do that and I am sensible enough to understand that.

IN STYLE

“I enjoy clothes. My mother tells me how even as a kid, I used to choose my own clothes. I have a feel for it and I do the costume coordination for my photo shoots as well. Many a time, even my characters wear the clothes I choose.”

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