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INT: Dulquer Salmaan says 'Pan-India is an overused label'; Talks about burden of expectations, Sita Ramam

As Dulquer Salmaan has completed a decade in the industry, the actor looked back on his journey so far. In an exclusive chat, ahead of his film Sita Ramam's release, DQ said that every chance he took has changed direction in the course of his career. Dulquer, sounding super confident and excited for his next, opened up about his upcoming projects, completing 10 years in the industry, and more.

 If you are able to predict what I'm doing, then I'm clearly not doing something right.

                                                  Dulquer Salmaan


Excerpts from the interview:

On completing a decade in the industry

It's been the most amazing journey, if somebody told me that I'll be doing all this ten years ago I would have probably laughed at them. That I would foray into this many languages and I'll be doing a film of the size of Sita Ramam primarily in Telugu. I would have never believed something like that to be possible, but it's been organic, and every film has opened new doors. Every chance that I took, and every chance somebody took on me as well as every bet director made with me, changed direction in the course of my career. So, I don't even think it's in, it's in my hands. I feel like my career kind of, has its own destiny, its own journey, its own decisions that it is making, so I'm kind of just flowing with the wind.

Do you feel the pressure or burden of expectations ahead of your film's release or even as an actor?

More than expectations, I think now people expect a certain quality from my films. It can be any subject, can be any genre. I think they are expecting me to give them quality content. If a film doesn't deliver, that is the only time I feel like they are disappointed, if it's a quality film and there's you know, the opinions are subjective on if they like the film or not, that's different, but I feel like that quality drops somewhere is when I would be worried. So with films like Sita Ramam, I wouldn't worry as much because I feel like what we have is something of the best outcomes of quality you can imagine.

What was the most challenging part while prepping for the role of Lieutenant Ram in Sita Ramam?

The most challenging part is probably shooting the film, mostly the locations and the time of the year we shot in those locations. But I don't think prepping for it was challenging because I could figure out Ram and I also feel Hanu (director) had absolute clarity on what Ram was going to be and the rest is as we shot as we enacted certain scenes, I would then know that would Ram do this or say it like this. Those things I think I don't know how to express, but I think it's something you know or you sense as an actor When you hear a character.

It was your first time ever in Kashmir. How do you describe the overall experience of shooting there for Sita Ramam?

My absolute first time in Kashmir and I always believed that a film would take me there, and I'm glad I waited because something of this magnitude, this size in the period was truly a great experience, and worth the wait. Kashmir was even more beautiful, even more pristine, and even more, untouched in the 60s that we represented in the film. The most wonderful people, the most wonderful communities everywhere, including the police force that helped us with shoots. They kept inviting us back, to spread the word that Kashmir is a great place to shoot. And we'll support you in every way and I love that it was such an experience for me and it is such an important part of our country and it's the people that always need to be given love.

How do you look at the Pan-India label?

I think it's a very overused label, I think an actor who can make a film work across India and turn into a huge hit, maybe that's apparently an actor. I'm just somebody who works in multiple industries, so I don't think it applies to me. 

You have an interesting lineup of films in the South and also a Hindi film, Chup. Again, the expectations are high! 

I want to keep surprising you guys with every first look, with every first trailer or if there's music in the film then song, I want you to be surprised. I want you to be like, 'Wait, wait a minute, DQ'! you wouldn't expect this, if I can keep doing that then I'm doing the right films, making the right decisions. If you are able to predict what I'm doing, then I'm clearly not doing something right.

How do you describe yourself as a producer and what's in store with the Wayfarer film production?

As a producer, I want to say run the best production house in Malayalam cinema. I don't usually make such bold claims, but I'm genuinely very proud of my company and my team. I have the best guys who are my best friends, who run this company with me, and it's run with a lot of passion and love for cinema. It's got great systems in place. We have a good vision of how to run production. I've had the good fortune of working with some of the best production houses in the country, of which my favourite would be Vyjayanthi Films and I'm so close to all of them... I see how they operate, so I kind of bring back all of these experiences and create the culture of my company. We are ambitious. We want to do cinema outside of my films, venture into cinema outside of Kerala, and the web space, there are a lot of things that are underway that I will reveal shortly when the time is right.