Dulquer Salmaan's 'Chup', out in UAE theatres today, is not a critic-bashing film, says actor

Ahead of the release of his dark thriller, the actor talks about how he faces criticism and why he isn't afraid to experiment in Bollywood


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Wed 21 Sep 2022, 7:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 8:00 AM

Dulquer Salmaan has never been known to play it by the book. Right from his debut in the Malayalam film industry in 2012 with Second Show where he played a gangster to the recent Kurup, where he took on the role of real life fugitive Sukumara Kurup, Dulquer or DQ, as he is fondly known, has a knack for taking on slightly off-kilter roles.

And it is testimony to his innate talent that he has been able to infuse each one of his characters with a certain novelty and sincerity, that even when some of the films don’t end up doing too well at the box office, he has always managed to walk away with the goodwill of his fans intact.


For someone so young (he is 36) there is an uncanny sense of self-awareness and an intrinsic humbleness (the calling card of South Indian film personalities) that strikes you when you speak to him. It’s there in that casual statement of his; ‘My movies are my biggest heroes’. Or his, ‘When we do the stuff that we are afraid of, that’s when we really push ourselves.’

We caught up with the actor fresh off the box office success of his last release Sita Ramam, who is venturing once again into the glitzy world of Bollywood albeit in a non-glossy dark psychological thriller Chup; The Revenge of the Artist by R. Balki (Cheeni Kum, Paa). Dulquer, of course, has already charmed the North with Karwaan and The Zoya Factor.

Chup that releases in UAE theatres on September 23, is centred around a serial killer in Mumbai who goes on a rampage against film critics. It also stars Sunny Deol, Shreya Dhanwanthary and Pooja Bhatt. Excerpts from our interview with DQ.

Being part of the fraternity, I admit I have concerns about watching Chup that seems to take fatal potshots at film critics! Did you not have any qualms while signing on for this?

I obviously have my own concerns as an actor about the role I’m portraying or doing justice to Balki sir’s vision of what the film should be.

But Chup isn’t a critic bashing film. It’s based on the character’s life story and therefore the critics’ angle comes into it. But if it was a serial killer story about any other vocation, I don’t think it would cause so much discussion. It organically stemmed from the idea of the film. It wasn’t the reverse that, hey, we’ll take all these potshots at the critics and weave a story around that. It’s a very sensitive story about somebody who’s an artist and what he faced. I don’t think you’ll feel it is a critic bashing film.

We know you are a social media beast who loves to read all the comments and the reactions from fans. But how do you separate the trolls from the constructive feedback coming your way?

I feel like I read all of it. My immediate family, my wife, my mum, they all know by seeing my face that I have read something negative and I’ll mull over it and feel bad about it.

Sometimes I will see a review or criticism or comment and I sometimes screen shot it and send it to my wife, or my friend and ask; ‘Do you agree with it? Is this person being personal?’ I dwell on it. My phone is full of screenshots and unsent notes that I have typed out, strongly worded replies and stuff…

But I also derive a lot of my energy from it. I’m known to do a lot of work across industries. I think I derive energy and motivation to keep proving people wrong or to earn my place here and show people that I love cinema and I want to be part of great movies. And if you tell me I will only do certain things, then I want to break out of it.

At one point, they said I was only doing urban roles, so I had to do something outside of that. Now I keep hearing that I’m always doing romantic films, so I want to break out of that. But this all stems from reading all of this.

But its so necessary for people to do responsible critiquing - which is a little kind towards the medium, cinema, because we genuinely love movies. You don’t want to write off a film or the filmmakers or the actors. You want to see their best. You can be a little disappointed, maybe they let you down in some way, maybe they are not functioning at their best or they are taking you for granted.

All of that I understand, but kindness both ways. We are taking utmost care to make sure you are respected, and we genuinely care that you are entertained; we respect you. Atleast I can speak for my choices or having worked with Balki sir and the work he has done, there is genuine respect for the audience and their intelligence and also their entertainment and their time and their money.

So when we are taking so much care, it would be nice if reviewers or critics took the same kind of care towards cinema.

Dulquer with his Chup costar Shreya
Dulquer with his Chup costar Shreya

As an actor you are known to push the envelope when it comes to your roles, but what’s that one thing that made you want to sign on for Chup?

I love it when filmmakers and ideas really push the envelope. I don’t know if I have ever chosen a film just based on my character.

It’s probably my most used term, in my interviews and promotions, that my movies are my biggest heroes more than me or anything that’s part of my films.

And I’m constantly striving to find authentic content, and when its something like Chup, and from Balki sir, that itself is a momentous occasion for me. He’s one of the filmmakers I’ve always loved. I love his sensibilities, his aesthetics, his films, his writing, so even working with him is an experience I’d cherish, learn and grow from. So I’m excited about that.

Initially I was expecting like a Paa, Cheeni Kum zone of cinema, so it really surprised me that he wanted to make Chup. I was like, this is amazing, here’s a director that I love, someone I look up to so much, also veering off centre and wanting to do something hatke (different)and that stuff excites me, because that takes guts.

When we do the stuff that we are afraid of, that’s when we really push ourselves.

I wanted to do it purely because of that - I realised it scared the hell out of me. I told Balki sir that - I love it, it scares the crap out of me, but I want to do it. It was a no brainer, an instant decision from my side.

When you do a negative role like in Chup, don’t you fear harming your image or brand?

(With a smile) I’ve not claimed that I’m doing a negative portrayal in this movie…. I think all of us actors feel most alive when we are playing grey or dark or intense roles, anything where emotions and reactions are all heightened.

This everyday living that we portray on screen is probably harder, because you have to make it seem so effortless and it is not always easy.

This is the kind of stuff I’m sure most actors would love to do. But then you get bogged down by what you just said, worry of our image and the branding, wanting to be a hero at the box office and all that.

I’m working across industries. It is impossible to become a star in every industry and have a parallel career in all industries. But I’ve been floating with the wind and seeing where it takes me.

When I venture into, say, Hindi, or Telugu or Tamil, I don’t have so much of this baggage attached to me that I have in Malayalam where my opening number is a big discussion, my final number is a big discussion, number of footfalls in the Middle East is a big discussion.

A lot of time my choices have to be catering to that also, but other industries are the places where I can truly just be an actor, and not worry about stardom and box office and all of that.

So having that freedom, I can push the envelope, and do stuff that stars of those industries are not able to do or willing to do or wanting to do or whatever. And I’m a little more free and lighter on my shoulders to do that - so that’s what I’m loving.

Maybe I can be a star in one industry and maybe I can be an actor in another industry!

Chup: Revenge of The Artist is out in UAE cinemas on September 23

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