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Kay Kay Menon still looks for a new element to work on in every project, something that debut directors are usually good at. So the actor in him, he tells Angela Paljor, is well-fed
Be it in theatre, television or cinema, Kay Kay Menon — the unusually tall actor — has made a mark for himself regardless of the returns. In that sense, he is a selfless artiste. His acting is not limited to certain directors, rather he is known for his abilities to venture into the unknown waters quite often. “I love working with new faces, something that I have been doing from the very begining — including Paanch, which was Anurag Kashyap’s debut movie. Fresher minds always bring a new element to the table — something we have never thought of or has slipped out of our mind. Also, for an actor who is always hungry for something new, what could be better than to work with fresh ideas,” said Menon who was in town for the promotion of his film, Vodka Diaries — a film set in today’s Manali. The story revolves around a club called Vodka Diaries, where few murders have happened and ACP Ashwini Dixit portrayed by Menon, is investigating them.
As a creative person, Menon stays away from labelling films. “There is space for all genres provided one is good at storytelling. I don’t categorise the films — romantic or thriller — as they are a factive predicate. Also if one tries to predict the genre of a film beforehand, that would be restricting yourself and the ideas that might have developed during the process of production. Let the cinema pundits do the analysis. So the moment you are working in a good project — one which has substantial content and creative storytelling techniques — one should forget everything else and go for it,” said Menon, who feels that good cinema has been a part of the industry ever since its inception but has been recognised rarely. “With the audience becoming more aware, the reactive appreciation has become louder and that is prodding the frequency of what we call content-oriented films. I hope it continues so that there is a prominent change,” said Menon.
Having started his career in theatre productions, where he met Nivedita Bhattacharya, whom he married, his first theatre break was opposite Naseeruddin Shah in Feroz Abbas Khan’s Mahatma vs Gandhi. In the early years of his career, Menon worked on television, with roles in telefilms like Zebra 2 and Last Train To Mahakali. He made his big screen debut with a small role in Naseem (1995), followed by the lead role in Bhopal Express in 1999, a film that went mostly unnoticed. This was the first in a series of initial setbacks in Menon’s career. In the early 2000s, he starred as a wicked rock musician in Paanch, which struggled with censorship and has remained unreleased till date. His two other meaningful projects, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Black Friday, had to wait many years for a release date too. Meanwhile, his commercial films Deewaar - Let’s Bring Our Heroes Home (starring Amitabh Bachchan) and Silsilay (with Shahrukh Khan) flopped at the box office. It was only in 2005, with the eventual release of the critically acclaimed Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi that he came into the limelight. However, it was with Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar that Menon proved his mettle and got noticed. It earned him a nomination for the Best Performance in a Negative Role at the Filmfare Awards.
But how does someone like him decide which film to work in? “There are different ways of looking at a script. At times it’s like love, when you read a script, you get attracted to something — a part or a character. Then I have an interaction with the director — is he trying to manipulate you or is he sincere about his work?” Menon’s varied filmography — Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Black Friday, Sarkar, Life in a Metro, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Sankat City, Haider, Shaurya, Gulaal and The Ghazi Attack, showcases not only his versatility but holds true to his ideologies. But who doesn’t want to see an actor of such a stature play the protagonist? Menon, though, is not insecure and is quite sure about himself. “I am perfectly capable — I have got very broad and strong shoulders to carry a film. It’s just that whatever is offered, if I feel that it is interesting then I go ahead and do it. I don’t have any criteria.”
In an industry dominated by stars, actors are often sidelined and not given the due credit. Said Menon: “I don’t think about it, because if you ponder on such issues, you will eventually be frustrated. Rather than cribbing about the situation, I look forward to leaving a legacy of my own.”
The 51-year-old actor has a way of preparing himself for his character. “I read the script numerous times so that rather than acting the lines and emotions become a reflex. But time is a limitation. So there are times, especially in mainstream cinema, when I prepare for the role a little differently.” However, he makes it clear that he never play roles but characters. “Roles are finite in nature. They can be that of a cop, a teacher, a professor or whatever. But what makes them memorable is the human aspect you invest them with. People are infinite, roles are finite. If I am playing Rakesh Maria (Black Friday) and Ashwini Dixit (Vodka Diaries), they will automatically be different.”
Menon is one of the pioneers of the online platform as most of his films have been watched here, be it Shaurya or Gulaal. Unfortunately these films don’t get the deserved viewership in theatres. “The core aspect of digital medium is that it does not require stars, it requires actors.” For Menon all parallel media are a way of improving the current stature of the Indian cinema, provided we don’t adulterate and ruin it like television. “It’s good that the youth is looking for more content-oriented films than a collage of everything put together.”
Vodka Diaries, directed by Kushal Srivastava, and also featuring Raima Sen and Mandira Bedi, hits the theatres on January 19.
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