Happy Birthday Dulquer Salmaan: Five Films Of The Superstar That One Should Watch, And The One We’ll Never Get To

On the occasion of Dulquer Salmaan's birthday, Subhash K Jha lists what he feels are five films of the superstar one should watch, and that one film we'll never get to. Read on!

2360 Reads |  

Happy Birthday Dulquer Salmaan: Five Films Of The Superstar That One Should Watch, And The One We’ll Never Get To
Dulquer Salmaan has chosen a career path very different from his father - the iconic Mammoothy. I asked him if that was deliberate. “It had to be different from his. I couldn’t possibly do what he had already done. He has a larger-than-life image. It made no sense to walk in his footsteps. There is a nothing like a ‘born actor’. It’s all about honing the skills.Duplication never works for anybody. Why would it have worked for me? I chose my own path because that was the only way to go. At the same time I’ve to admit there was an advantage in being my fathers’s son. The debut film came much easier to me than it would have if I was an outsider.”

So would he like to do a film with his father? “The thought has crossed the minds of many filmmakers. We’ve had quite a few offers to work together. But no.I don’t think that’s a good idea. The comparisons would be unacceptable to me. So unless it is something that offers a truly special challenge for us to come together it is unlikely that we will work together.”

While it is unlikely that we will see Dulquer and his illustrious father together, here are his five films worth checking out:

SOLO: Four stories about bereavement and loss combined together, Solo with its supremely impassioned plea to fob off isolation is a shout-out for comfort and warmth in a world gone completely cold. In the frigid frozen environment of isolated hearts and broken promises, a light is lit. Solo is ample proof of Bejoy Nambiar’s mastery over the desi noire genre which so far Anurag Kashyap thought he owned. It is also a lucid testimony to Dulquer Salmaan’s virtuosity. He has rapidly emerged as one of India’s most exciting contemporary actors. Nambiar’s characters find love and then lose it in the most bizarre ways. In the first and my favourite story Shekhar with the speech impairment loves and marries the seductive dancer Radhika (the very fetching Sai Dhansika) who can see better than those with vision. Their ravishing romance, more Mani Ratnam than Karan Johar, reaches an awful dilemma then slides into a tragedy with such resonance that I was rendered teary eyed and speechless in no time at all.

Nambiar gives us no room to grieve for lost love. The next story which is cleverly and stylishly noire-ish (Kashyap and Ramu on one of their more inspired outings) has chameleon-like Dulquer transforming into a vendetta-seeking widower. I found this story way too devious and self-congratulatory to be spontaneous. The storytelling here lacks the grace of the first story. Bejoy is way too eager to push all the right de Palma-Hitchcock buttons.

The morality tale is just about gripping though never gloriously memorable. The third story, a dark violent saga of persecution and retribution again soars to tremendous heights of lucidity. Here Dulquer, playing the gun-toting killer from a broken violent home, uses his silences to express screaming disdain for social codes. Among the four stories this one has the optimum velocity and an ability to be an independent full-length feature film on its own.The gangsters (these include the very wonderful Dinesh Prabhakar, seen in the week’s other release Chef) are constantly fighting over MGR-Sivaji Ganesan songs. The brutal hits are staged in grotesquely ironical circumstances - for instance, a Tamil melodrama plays on television while the man of the house is being roughed up outside. Or a businessman who is vital to the plot is attacked while he performs Ganpati puja in Mumbai. This story is partly set in Mumbai and conveys a lot of the city’s gangster-patois with a relish that Nambiar had displayed in his stunning debut film Shaitaan. There are images and shots in this story that I’d rate as among the best in the gangster genre in Indian cinema.

Like the first two stories, this one too has an unexpected twist in the tale that leaves one of the protagonists bereaved and alone….solo! Dulquer plays the child-man in the fourth and least satisfying story about a volatile armyman and his forbidden love for his neighbour’s daughter (Neha Sharma). The incestuous undertones in this story left me somewhat underwhelmed, though not in any permanently damaging way.

MAHANITI: Dulquer Salmaan’s Gemini Ganesan is a masterly portrayal of the male ego swathed in superficial compassion. Again, like Keerthy, Dulquer steers the performance away from being imitative. Bravely, the film doesn’t gloss over the unpleasant aspects of Savitri’s life. The marriage to the much-married Tamil matinee idol Gemini Ganesan (played with an endearing vigour by Dulquer Salmaan) and the subsequent clash of egos, her lapse into alcoholism and her eventual plunge into penury are all dealt with a certain beguiling blend of melodrama and poignancy. The mix can be infuriatingly overblown for the uninitiated but highly satisfying for those who are familiar with the drama of deceit depression and descent that governs many success stories of the entertainment world.

O KADHAL KALMANI: I was reminded of Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee, and the life that they tried to make together in Saathiya after marrying under trying circumstances. In Mani’s new delightful disarming drama of love without commitment Aditya (Dulquer Salmaan) and Tara (Nithya Menon) don’t just shy away from marriage and the accompanying obligations, the splendidly scripted drama makes a valid case for the Mumbai couple to stay unmarried and enjoy a kind of freedom that is an obligation of a kind different from what we think of as marital duties. Ratnam’s lovers ooze a poised charm without getting overly cute. Salmaan and Menon are so compatible together you wonder what’s keeping them from taking the plunge. They look so made for each other, it isn’t funny. As in his past romantic yarn, Mani Ratnam remains the master of vignettes. He weaves precious little scenes of distending drama that exude a portable passion.

The romance is vast in scope but not immeasurably ‘epic’. The young actors know their job and does it with a flair that tenders a deep empathy for their characters. We can’t help falling in love with the love that Aditya and Tara feel for one another. Railway tracks and compartments crowded with impatient commuters serve as a meeting ground for Mani Ratnam’s young lovers in O Kadhal Kanmani.

KARWAAN: Irfaan and Dulquer together is reason enough to sink your teeth into this tale of a weird yatra.In a sequence that would have been profoundly amusing if it were not so tragic a beautiful lady (Amala Akinneni, if you must know) looks at two coffins and tells Dulquer, “The right one is your father.” Sighs Dulquer, “So far the right one was the wrong one for me.”Excavating humour from the innards of mortality is never easy.

Writer-Director Akarsh Khurana attempts the near-impossible and comes up with a film that never offends, even when it poses some serious problems of pacing. You know that the film is looking for ways to keep the journey going when there are unnecessary detours on the way. And why not?! Dulquer’s Avinash is a repressed unhappy 10-5 geek who hates his bullying boss (Akarsh  Khurana) and wants nothing more, nothing less, than to break out of his executive dungeon and …well, just shoot pictures with an actual camera, not its digital doppelgangers.

Karwaan has much that is wrong with it. But it also has plenty that pleases, a warmth and an empathy for the misfits that makes it a very endearing road trip, albeit with irrelevant deviations.

THE ZOYA FACTOR: Dulquer Salmaan as the captain of the cricket team which “adopts” ‘Zoya’ Sonam Kapoor as their lucky mascot is the only saving grace in this vapid adaptation of an interesting novel. Dulquer’s reined-in performance works to pan out Sonam’s excessively exuberant portrayal of a girl who is so hellbent on creating a stir she ends up courting chaos. So far, Dulquer has not been lucky in his choice of roles in Hindi. That needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.

Image source: IMDb