Dulquer Salmaan on ‘King of Kotha’ and why he became a movie producer

Dulquer Salmaan talks about his upcoming big-budget film, breaking the ‘romance hero’ tag, and more

Updated - August 22, 2023 04:31 pm IST

Published - August 22, 2023 04:07 pm IST

Dulquer Salmaan in a still from ‘King of Kotha’

Dulquer Salmaan in a still from ‘King of Kotha’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Actor Dulquer Salmaan’s choice of films is delectably aberrant. At a time when established actors are releasing their films in multiple languages to make them ‘pan-Indian’, Dulquer takes the road not taken by many. Last year, he had four releases; each in a different language. This year, his innings started a tad late but in style; he made his streaming debut with Guns & Gulaabs. Now, he’s awaiting the release of what’s arguably the biggest film of his career — King of Kotha (KOK) — that’s releasing this Onam.

In KOK, Dulquer plays Raju, who the actor calls an “exact opposite” of him. “He’s loud, impulsive and violent. But, like all the characters in the film, he has shades of grey and his own conflicts to deal with. I’ve done grey shades before but this time, we’ve gone all out,” says Dulquer.

“This story is set in a fictional town that’s lawless. The film has a very interesting story with many characters who, individually, take the film forward in their own ways. It’s got a lot of human drama, relationships, friendship and family elements which affect the story and we’ve mounted it on a big scale. It’s a big film for me, as an actor, as well for our production house.”

Dulquer Salmaan and Aishwarya Lekshmi in a still from ‘King of Kotha’

Dulquer Salmaan and Aishwarya Lekshmi in a still from ‘King of Kotha’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Even when Aishwarya (Lekshmi) got on board, I remember her saying how she likes the story, but can’t visualise it given the scale. It was challenging, but that’s the beauty of filmmaking,” says Dulquer who adds how the idea of the fictional town lends itself to the possibility of the film releasing in multiple languages. “I think we are among the first film crew to come up with a huge set in Karaikudi. Even Appa (actor Mammootty), asked me why I’d do that (laughs). But it aided us in covering the general landscape. Kotha can be in any state, and with cast members from various industries, we’re sure the film won’t look unfamiliar to people.”

Ask him why he’s bankrolling such a huge project on his own, and Dulquer says, “I turned producer because I wanted to protect my films. There was a film of mine that the Tamil media supported — because of which it grew — despite it not being released well by the producer.” Those experiences, he says, convinced him to turn producer. “When I listen to a script, I understand what this is going to cost, what it needs, how much we can put in to get the best out of it, and the marketing. It was never made with the idea of making profits. It comes down to making sure the money spent is visible on the screen.”

The actor, who has made a mark for himself in several film industries across the country, isn’t particularly chuffed with the idea of being tagged a ‘romantic hero.’ “Wherever I go, that tag of being a chocolate boy follows. For the first ten years, it feels nice but after a while it gets boring to both you and I. I have to surprise both of us by doing different genres and characters. If I do another romance, it should be a memorable one,” says the actor who is also delighted with the variety of scripts he is receiving. “I also make sure I line up my releases in such a way that the same genres aren’t repeated; I don’t want you to predict what’s up next.”

Dulquer Salmaan in a still from ‘King of Kotha’

Dulquer Salmaan in a still from ‘King of Kotha’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Speaking about juggling films in different languages, Dulquer jokes, “I’m an actor by day and moonlight as a dubbing artist! Irrespective of what the original language is, if we dub the right film, we can get it to reach the audience.”

He adds that he attempts every film with the same amount of zeal. “I knew a film like Salute wouldn’t work in other regions, but a Sita Ramam would — because it’s an Indian story. But if I attempt to do that with every film, it will take time. In fact, Sita Ramam took 14 months to be made... so I feel that the film decides where it wants to go.”

Circling back to KOK, Dulquer shares that the success of his films in the last four years have given him the bandwidth to attempt such a project: “During the early parts of my career, I would be scared when someone approached me for a big-budget film as I take it personally when a producer loses money. It’s taken my ten years to reach this stage.”

“I wanted to grow organically and earn the love and respect of people. The films will give me the direction to travel and I don’t want to limit myself. I don’t think we can plan ahead too far; what I have today isn’t something I chased for, but something I found on the way.”

King of Kotha is scheduled to release on August 24

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