Imagine a scenario where Shah Rukh Khan's son makes a debut in a festival-friendly film instead of a typical big budget entertainer. His influential father keeps mum and doesn't go tom-toming around town about his son's fabulous debut. Sounds highly improbable, right? But something similar happened recently in Kerala. Mammootty's son Dulquar Salmaan made his debut in a film titled Second Show.
Led by a clutch of unknowns, this 20-something debutante chose an unconventional route to break into the silver screen, and showed no visible signs of being struck by the infamous star-kid syndrome (symptoms include rubbing their so-called privileged background in our faces and incessant name-dropping of their powerful clan).
"I was shying away from acting for the longest time — because of having such big shoes to fill. But I thought I was going to regret it later if I don't try now," said Salmaan in an interview with tabloid! over the phone from Kerala. Before taking the plunge in showbiz, the management graduate was busy building a business empire with operations in India and beyond.
"I was working… doing regular business. But somewhere I felt there was a void and a curiosity to do something creative." His instincts seem to have paid off. Despite not riding piggyback on his father's clout, his debut feature, in which he plays an uncouth hustler, is running to packed houses and has earned good reviews.
"I didn't want to use my father's name. I don't think I will ever want to use his influence… Never have I gone around asking people — do you know who I am? … Even if it's to cut a line at the airport." And he claims that the idea of his father orchestrating a launch vehicle — as is the norm in Indian showbiz — did not even crop up.
"That would be like using my dad's influence to get into a good college. I can't imagine him making a few calls to someone so that they make a movie for me. I couldn't relate to doing something like that." Instead, like every actor hopeful out there, he embarked on an impromptu three-month course at an acting institute in Mumbai.
"You can't learn acting through any classes. But it was good to be with two three dozen kids and get thrown in the deep end. No matter how bad or ridiculous, it was a good training to get out of the conditioning. I learnt you need to be fearless and uninhibited." Enter Second Show — a youth-centric drama about making quick money — in which he plays a dark, brooding and unscrupulous small town criminal.
"I have mostly lived in big cities and am quite conscious about always doing the right thing. But this role — the guy had no scruples and I knew playing that convincingly would be a challenge. Because again, if I play a role where I am something like a metrosexual with a cosmopolitan outlook, then it would be the obvious choice I would have made as an actor."
Fast-paced, risque films
Judging by the initial reviews, Second Show belongs to the recent crop of films that's invading the Kerala cinemascape such as Chappa Kurush, Apoorvaraagam, Traffic and Cocktail. These fast-paced, risque films are usually shorn of big stars and rely on edgy storytelling style.
"When Second Show came my way, I really liked the writing. It thought it was witty and tongue-in-cheek. I liked the fact that the film didn't take it too seriously… Even in the reviews some say that the story is as old as the Himalayas but we all knew that from the start — but it is the earnest treatment that we liked."
That fact that Malayalam moviegoers were opening up to new ideas helped. Earlier, it was only veterans such as Mammootty and Mohanlal who could guarantee box-office success. Today even obscure dramas are money spinners.
"In the last one year and a half audience tastes are changing. I think it could be because our Indian economy is booming and there's so much access to information. People are a lot more informed and tastes are changing. It's a definitely a good time for experimenting with new thoughts and ideas." Experiment he did — now he has the go-ahead from the viewers as well as his father.
"My family has seen the movie — naturally every parent will be proud that I have put the effort. My mum is slightly biased and feels everything I do is wonderful but Dad was like ‘you should go ahead boldly and I think you should do more films.' To me that was some kind of acceptance."
Being Mammootty's son: "He is my only idol and it's like ‘my daddy strongest' attitude. I have watched every film of his. He has been my biggest influence — whether it was in my personal or my professional life. For me, he sets my every standard."
Acting tips from his father: "Lot of people ask him whether he's giving me any tips or teaching me anything. And he's always like: ‘I had no one to teach me and he has a great benefit of getting a chance to act in movies — that is a huge blessing."