Dulquer Salmaan and Shreya Dhanwanthary, the stars of 'Chup: Revenge: Of The Artist'
Dulquer Salmaan and Shreya Dhanwanthary, the stars of 'Chup: Revenge: Of The Artist' Image Credit: Supplied

Dulquer Salmaan is keenly aware that he comes from a gilded world of privilege and that describing himself as a ‘tortured artist’ wouldn’t sit well with anyone, but R. Balki -- the director of his latest thriller ‘Chup: Revenge of the Artist’ -- has no such reservations.

“I don’t think I am allowed the luxury of claiming any kind of torture. I have been brought up with great privilege. And even a small complaint from me will stir up a hornet’s nest … I am not the right person to comment about being a tortured artist,” said Salmaan in an interview with Gulf News along with director R Balki.

Salmaan, who has been on a career high with hits like ‘Sita Ramam’, is the son of iconic Malayalam superstar Mammootty. Born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, Salmaan enjoyed immense goodwill and adoration long before he even made his acting plunge. But his rise in cinema can only be attributed to his talent and creative gambles that paid off.

“More than just becoming a star, I just want to be an artist! I want to satisfy my own creative needs and wants. A lot of the times, the criticisms and the attacks I face is from a different beast altogether,” said Salmaan.

In R Balki’s new film ‘Chup: Revenge of the Artist’, out in UAE cinemas on September 23, Salmaan plays a forgettable ‘average Joe’ in a city marred by serial killings.

While Salmaan can’t claim to be a tortured artist, his director isn’t under any such compulsions and revels in the agony attached to being a filmmaker. 

“As much as I love films and I love writing them, there’s nothing more torturous in the universe than making one. Putting a film out there and convincing so many people to invest and watch is pure torture … I don’t want to call it torture, I call it harassment,” said Balki, adding that he hates promoting and talking up films ahead of its release.

Check out the review of 'Chup: Revenge Of The Artist'

“It tires you out and you wonder how such an innocent simple thing like making a movie can turn into something so tiring,” said Balki. But even though they said those word and Balki’s silver hair bird’s nest seemed to show signs of struggle, the actors were game to talk up their film.

The movie is also a dream vehicle for Shreya Dhanwanthary, who grew up in Dubai. She plays Nila Menon, an entertainment journalist, in this film.

“Life has come full circle … Coming for a special screening of ‘Chup’ in Dubai is a dream come true,” said Dhanwanthary in a separate interview. Excerpts from our interview with the talents …

Dulquer Salmaan and Shreya Dhanwanthary in 'Chup: Revenge Of The Artist' Image Credit: Supplied

‘Chup: Revenge of the Artist’ puts a target on a film critic’s back … Should I be worried while reviewing this film?

R Balki: It’s quite nice to be careful about any film …In any profession, there are good and bad people and film criticism is no different. But one thing that’s missing is the accountability factor. For instance, if I am not happy with the verdict given by a Sessions Court and I am accused wrongly, I can appeal to a higher court. In a film, when I put myself out there I am accountable to the public, the critics …. And I just find it fascinating that somebody can have a job without any accountability. A review can finish careers and hard work. And, I don’t believe in this fashionable statement that people make that critics don’t matter and it’s the audience who finally decides with critics having no role. There’s always a role for a film critic and they have to be a champion of cinema. I am not saying you need to praise everything in the world. But even when you criticise, there needs to be a positive to learn from it. Perhaps, a critical piece can make the audience or the filmmaker learn something new … A good politician will always see his job as not one of power. It’s not merely a powerful job, it’s a responsible one. A good policeman will also think on the same line … Many critics mistake responsibility towards their job for power. And that has fascinated me. I was depressed with that thought for many years, but it turned into fascination and that’s when I told Dulquer the idea about this film.

Dulquer Salmaan: I agree with him about critics having no accountability. There have been moments in my career where I felt more than critiquing my film, they were making generalised statements like ‘I was wrongly cast for this film and that another actor was a popular choice’. I remember calling up a journalist friend about who wrote the piece, but I kept getting bounced around. There’s a lack of accountability, especially when facts are stated wrong. A film coming my way from Balki sir was a momentous occasion for me. And when he pitched this idea, I reacted instantly and wanted to be a part of this film. But this isn’t a critic bashing film. It has a sensitive story to it. It speaks of the characters, their lives, their stories, and how certain episodes influenced them to act a certain way. The trailer might give some people the notion that it carries some message. But there’s more to it … Personally, it’s important to have responsible critiquing while you rate films. Everybody with a phone and a camera is now a film critic. Come on, and what’s this with the live reporting from the theatre itself. This concept of first-half review, second-half review and how the hero made his entry is a bit excessive. Who’s asking for it?

Dulquer Salmaan and Shreya Dhanwanthary in 'Chup: Revenge Of The Artist' Image Credit: Supplied

Some of them are fun caricatures and are meant not to be taken seriously …

Salmaan: Yes, it’s not something that any of us can ever control because anybody with a social media handle can write what they want … To be a film critic, there’s isn’t any study of film appreciation recommended or required. But here’s hoping that the ones who critic film would have a genuine for cinema and feel responsible for it. Just treat us with a little care and guide us. Even if we make mistakes, help us improve.

Balki: Since you love to read the minute-by-minute review of a hero’s entry, how about we do the same when you all review a film and we size up your first line or the first paragraph with comments like the opening sentence needs to be shorter … So the big question is where’s the critic’s critic? Where’s the person who says that this guy deserves three stars for his review or that guy deserves five stars for the review he did.

Salmaan: Even when you stay at a hotel, you have the option to rate them. But we don’t when it comes to reviews.

An interesting thought that should be considered by us … So, Dulquer what’s your role like?

Salmaan: I cannot reveal a lot about my role before its release. But I play this average Joe who’s quite forgettable. You might see him on a train or a bus, but you don’t really pay attention to him. Even in my school, there were so many students in my class who probably felt a little invisible. They may not have been excellent in studies or sports, and their personality never stood out. My character in this film belongs to that set. And this film was shot entirely in Bandra and though I have spent a lot of time in Bombay, it’s the first time I got to know it so well. We shot this film during the monsoons and it was just beautiful.

Balki: And just to add, this is not a critic-bashing film. It’s a very romantic film where everything seems normal. Bombay is beautiful and we are not showing the underworld of Bombay or its slums. It’s a ‘whydunit’ and not a ‘whodunit’. It’s not about who’s doing it, but why he’s doing it. It’s a fun thriller.

Don’t miss it!

‘Chup: The Revenge of the Artist’ is out in UAE cinemas on September 23.