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    With O Kadhal Kanmani releasing today, its leading man recalls how Mani Ratnam was once his calling card on campus

    It may still be early days for Dulquer Salmaan in the Tamil film industry, but he can already check off a name from his directors wish list, which has won him a lot of envy—Mani Ratnam’s. The hero of O Kadhal Kanmani says he still can’t believe his luck. “I grew up watching Thalapathi. In fact, that was the only DVD I took with me when I went to university in the US and the one film I showed all my foreign friends,” begins the 28-year-old, who debuted in Tamil last year with Balaji Mohan’s Vaayai Moodi Pesavum. Though the film didn’t do well, Salmaan hasn’t let that colour his expectations from his latest release.
    Speaking about the breezy love story—that reportedly turns the spotlight on the relevance of marriage today—the actor says, “The first day was a little hard, seeing seniors like Mani Ratnam and (cinematographer) PC Sreeram on set. But with their experience, they knew what must be going through Nithya (Menen) and my heads, so they eased us into it by shooting a song, Aye Sinamika. From then on it got better. I barely remember going back to my vanity van; I was always on set, enjoying the infectious energy,” says Salmaan, who admits that all through the 42-day shoot he made sure he was punctual and knew all his lines so that he didn’t waste anyone’s time.

    Learning curve
    Working with the ace director was also an opportunity for the actor, who has dreams of making a film someday, to pick up pointers. “I observe all my directors’ craft. Mani Ratnam’s eye for detail is incredible. He creates these extremely believable spaces that just sweep you into the world he is building,” he says. However, questions of when he’ll wield the microphone are met with a laugh. “I have scripts in my head, but I am very bad at putting them down on paper,” says Salmaan, adding that when he finally occupies the director’s chair, he wants to tell “real, honest stories”.

    Big plans
    Talking about comparisons between O Kadhal Kanmani and Alaipayuthey, he feels it’s because the director hasn’t done too many love stories. “In most of his films, the romance is a parallel track to something more powerful. And when he does do a love story, it is rooted in the everyday, with people travelling in buses and trains.” Having expressed a wish to work in at least one Tamil movie every year, Salmaan has been following the work of directors like AR Murugadoss and S Shankar. “I don’t know if I’d suit big budget films, but I’d love to do them,” he says, adding that he doesn’t want to put anything out there though—he’d rather directors approach him because they think he’s worth it.

    According to Vairamuthu
    When director Mani Ratnam, composer A R Rahman and lyricist Vairamuthu team up, expect magic. With the music of O Kadhal Kanmani already topping the charts, the lyricist tells us, ‘‘It was great working with the maestro (A R Rahman). We worked a lot on Naane Varugiren. Rahman and I would alter our timings to work with each other and finish most of the recordings by evening. ’’ As for the story of the film, the 61-year-old tells us, ‘‘It is about the changing lifestyle, attitude and values of youngsters. Globalisation and technology has changed our lives and in a very short span. Go watch the movie.’’

    An outside take
    R Madhavan, the star of Alaipayuthey, observes that the similarities between the 2000 release and OKK are deliberate. “Mani Ratnam told me this is Alaipayuthey 2. I think there was a conscious attempt to make it look alike. But knowing him, there will be a surprise thrown in,” he says. Speaking about Salmaan, he hopes the actor will become a bigger rage than he himself was post Alaipayuthey and promises us we’ll see his best performance yet. “Mani Ratnam won’t let an  actor go wrong as a performer; he’ll coax  the best out of you,” he states.

    Surya Praphulla Kumar

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