A Meeting with Kay Kay Menon
On the 12th morning I got a call from my friend who was supposed to hook me up with Kay Kay for an interview. To my disbelief, the meeting date had been pre-poned from Saturday, the 14th evening to the 12th evening. Nervous and still in my sleep, I had no option but to agree.
It's only later on after couple of mugs of coffee down my throat did I realise what I had got myself into. I know, it sounds no biggie deal but the fact here is that this was to be my very first interview and that too with a sensible Bollywood celebrity and then this is not the reason for my daily bread & butter....it felt like venturing on a route, completely un-prepared and inexperienced, not sure where it would actually lead me.
So I reach Prithvi theatre by 8.40 in the evening, the proposed meeting time was 9.00. So I spent the early bird time with my friend, the guy responsible for the meeting and his girl friend. I showed them the question list, with which they were impressed and assured me that Kay Kay would enjoy answering them though I felt they said so, just to calm my nerves.
Mr. Kay Kay arrived dot on time. And who doesn't like a man who is punctual?! I was won over 50% already. Dressed in black shirt and jeans, I found him better looking personally than on the screen. Maybe that's because of the mostly rugged characters he plays. And here he was clean shaven and looking as neat and dynamic as one can. As soon as he sat, my friend did the formal introduction bit and then excused himself and his gal and left us two alone at the table. I notice few eyes practically staring at us, while others couldn't be bothered. I remove my dairy and pen and try my best to act cool, after all I am a Mumbai girl and we don't go ballistic over seeing our favorite star, even if they are sitting right in our face.
He calls for the waiter and like a thorough gentlemen, asks for my choice of beverage, which I politely decline. With a slight twitch on his face, he goes on to order a coffee for himself.
I start off with a brief introduction on the profile of the people I am taking the interview for and where it would be published. Basically, explaining the whole blog concept and its importance as an alternate form to main-stream media. And then without wasting much time, we get on with the questions.
He could see that I was slightly struggling with the sheet of paper and pen in hand, so he takes the question sheet from my hand and leaves me to work on my pen and diary. All I could manage at that point was a small but highly embarrassed sort of smile.
Finally we start.....
ACTING AND BOLLYWOOD
1. Given your breadth of acting experience, what do you think of the generic approach to acting and plot in Bollywood? Do you think it will ever become truly original?
According to me there are two types of approaches taken by actors in Bollywood. The ones who want to 'impress the camera' and the others who don't believe in doing so. I fall in the latter category, which barely comprises of 10% of actors. What I mean by 'impressing the camera' is that when I do a part, for me that character is much bigger than KK himself. Where in commercial cinema, you will find most actors over-shadow the character they are playing. For example, when in movie 'Deewar' for me it was that character Sohail vs. character Ranvir and not Kay Kay staring in Amitabh Bachchan eyes.
I believe everything is original, as long as it is not plagiarized or cheap. On the other hand you have the Mahesh Bhatt approach, who believes 'nothing is original'. It depends on the sort of individual you are and I choose to believe that as long as you have put in something from your end, maybe however small...it is original.
2. What were your thoughts portraying Verma in 'Bhopal Express'? Do you believe the Bhopal issue has been lost to the mists of tragic history?
Sadly, it turned out to be more of a social movie and a movie itself. I don't think the director completely intended to do so. It was primarily a love story with the backdrop of the Bhopal tragedy; however here the event itself overtook the entire concept of the movie.
The reason I took the role of Verma, frankly, was because it was the first movie offered to me. Plus it had my close friend Naseeruddin Shah in it. The decision had nothing to do with the Bhopal issue.
3. Do you find it frustrating to be type cast as a more serious and intense actor because of the roles you have done lately?
See, I take my work seriously and not myself. According to me typecasting is not a sin, however it does at times tend to limit an actor's approach to roles being offered. For me it's not a problem as long as I am not being labeled as bad actor.
4. Being a relative outsider in the film industry, do you find any challenges? Are you offered only outre roles?
I accepted the fact and worked with it, since there was no other choice. Obviously there were challenges, but there are many who go through the same.
Yes, I get offered outré roles, but I don't let it disappoint me. For me the only competition I see is with myself. At the end of my career, I want to see that I have made a significant contribution to Indian cinema and this is my main focus.
5. What do you think about the censor board's stand on the movie 'Paanch'?
I believe that there should be nothing like a censor board. It would be better to have a rating system on movies, just the way they have overseas. Here the censor board plays along the lines of evading the actual issue; instead they should filter the audience entering the cinema hall. If they believe the movie is too violent or obscene than they should rate the movie accordingly and see that the authorities of cinema halls follow the set age-bracket. But what they tend to do is chop off certain parts of the film; with their shoddy patchwork....which inturn destroys the actual purpose of the film.
6. Would you consider yourself as a Director's actor or you like to create a backstory and the mannerisms of the character by yourself?
Cinema is a collective art form and everybody puts in an equal contribution right from the director to the dubbing artiste. I don't know what is a Director's actor, only a dumb actor is likely to fall in this category. The difference between man and animal is that man can think. And I do the same. However I do no research work or anything of that sort unless and until I am playing a historic character. For me the script and narration is enough.
7. Would you be comfortable in doing comic roles or light-hearted roles? Have you been approached with such offers?
I would prefer to be humorous rather than funny. I don't think I will be good at making faces and doing funny actions, I don't think it would suit me.
So you are not a big Jim Carrey fan?
No, as a matter of fact I am. He, Govinda and other actors like them are an extension of stand-up comedy. These guys are simply too good. They are mostly impromptu actors who come up with an outstanding performance at any given time. Whereas I am more of an improvised actor and I need a script.
Sadly, till date I have not been approached with out-an-out comic roles but would surely love to do them in the future.
8. Would you consider doing an out-and-out commercial masala flick with the song and dance routine et al. And if yes, do you have any reservations? If no, then what is his personal take on this kind of cinema?
I don't mind doing a complete commercial flick with whole naach gaana routine; however it would have to involve more of facial and emotional impression rather than just moving my hands and legs all over the place. For example, what actors like Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna did during their time.
However, it's mostly aerobics which forms the broad banner of dance in Hindi cinema and this is what I won't be comfortable doing. I rather go to the gym than indulge myself in such activities.
As for my take on commercial cinema, all I will say God bless them.
9. Has life changed after the success of 'Sarkar'?
Not much frankly speaking. But yes, I have received many more offers and I spend more time reading scripts.
So you have started getting offers from mostly commercial movie-makers?
I have been lucky in this aspect since I have been getting equal amount of offers from both kinds of cinemas. Movie Paanch got me acclaim within the industry whereas Sarkar made me popular among the masses, as the movie was released. So now the movie-makers and the audience know what I am capable off.
10. What is your take on 'casting couch' in Bollywood?
You are asking this question to the wrong person. I only know what casting and couch mean.
Anyways on a serious note, sexual favors existed right from the beginning and continue to exist even today and practically in every profession. So why single out Bollywood alone. I have personally never experienced any such incident.
11. Which actor and director you would like to work with in the near future?
Basically I have no such preference. I would love to work with anyone who would love to work with me.
12. Any character you wish you had done? Any of the recent movie, you wish you were part off?
I hold no false ambitions. Once a role is done, it's done and over with.
13. How would you describe your relationship with scriptwriter and director Anurag Kashyap?
Anurag and I go back a long way, right from our Prithvi days. I was his senior and would harass him while giving him lessons in acting, before he jumped into writing and direction. Today our relationship is more on personal level rather than professional. I believe that he is one film-maker to look for in the future. He will surely change the face of Hindi cinema, one day.
So you don't even bother reading the script offered by him?
I have blind faith in people like Anurag, Ram Gopal Verma and Sudhir Mishra. I completely believe in their judgment and am confident that my abilities would not be mis-used by them.
As a matter of fact, Anurag believes in me and my skills more than I do myself.
14. From these four films, which one would be closest to you, 'Black Friday', 'Paach', 'Bhopal Express' or 'Sarkar'? And why?
For me four characters that I have played, hold a special place. Luke from Paanch, Harilal Gandhi from the stage play Mahatma vs. Gandhi, Vishnu from Sarkar and Siddharath from Hazaroon Khawishein Aise.
The reason being, all these characters extended my spectrum as an actor and made me richer as a person.
15. Being a South Indian yourself, have you been offered movies from South Indian banners? Which ones are you working on currently? What difference do you find in the working pattern?
Nothing as yet, however I would love to do them.
16. Do you find Indian television to be more creative and dynamic than Bollywood? How would you compare the working styles?
Television is very mediocre these days. Today there are many hard-working people in the television industry however their hard work is just limited to ones physical abilities and not creative. They put in late hours to finish dead lines and not because they want to make a difference creatively. Television was excellent about 10 to 8 years ago, today its way below Bollywood standards.
As for working patterns, well their functions and demands are totally different and therefore cannot be compared.
17. Can you tell us something on your new and forthcoming films? Is Any role that you are really excited about performing?
My forthcoming films are Corporate with Madhukar Bhandarkar, Gulaala with Anurag and I have recently signed a film titled Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd with Ritesh Sidhwani, where I am paired opposite Konkona Sen.
All the characters I am playing in these films are completely different from one-another and something to look forward to.
INTERNATIONAL SCENE AND RECENT TRENDS
18. What's your take on Bollywood's acceptance in the International circuit.
It's definitely good for Hindi cinema. And the best part is we are being exposed completely, where the West is witnessing our good as well as bad side. Just the way we have been over the years, when it comes to Hollywood.
19. How would you define 'crossover cinema'? Do you believe that crossover is cinema that appeals to an internationally universal audience while being rooted and true to the inherent qualities of the country of its production, or is crossover for adapting our cinema to meet the requirements of the global audience, mainly the US and UK.
For me being specific is being universal. For example, Tagore was universal. His thoughts and poems were deeply rooted in India but were famous world over. I would define crossover as crossing over to another country. The bottom line is to be rooted to the creative art to where you feel you belong and this applies to any form of art.
Creative crossover is only when the film is specific, for example the film, Life is beautiful. Everything else is just patch work.
20. Have you been approached by an International Production House?
No. Pahela nationally apne aap ko thek kar loon, phir dhekenge.
21. How much theatre in general and Prithvi theatre in particular contributed to your understanding of acting?
I have been acting since the age of nine. And I have an emotional attachment to Prithiv; since this was the place where I use to hang out...it was my adda. Theatre basically helped me get adapted to cinema, without much hassle.
22. How did you make the transition into this field?
Transition was sudden, basically I got casted in a movie and the rest is history. And once you understand the medium, you will survive till the very end.
23. Often actors go through this period of lull, where even though they are known to film-makers, they aren't offered as many roles. What does an actor do in his free time during such phases?
Most actors go on a working holiday. Work on your skills but at your leisure. One must understand that this patch is very much needed, since hard work follows later on.
24. Who was the first actor you ever idolised, maybe as a child.
God. I have un-conditional faith in him and have always idolised him, since my younger days. Everything else in the world is conditional.
25. We hear that you are a cricket fanatic, what's your take on the forthcoming India-Pak series?
Finish them all.
So you think we will beat them?
Obviously we will, you wait and watch.
26. You have also ventured into play-back singing, for the stage play 'Bali aur Shambhu', produced by the aRanya group. How did this come about?
I am no singer. There are millions out there who can sing better than me. The reason I agreed do this particular song was that it had got to do more with performance than singing itself. It was basically performance of words, which I enjoyed tremendously.
27. Any future intentions of working behind the camera, such direction or production?
Naa. I am too much of an actor. And will surely stick with it till the end.
Though the questions got over, our conversation went on. Talked about various aspect of Bollwood and at one point even bitched about couple of movie stars. Somehow it felt like I was chatting away with a friend and not Kay Kay the actor, I guess this is what happens once you hit the comfort level. One thing I have to say, he surely is one neat guy with his feet very well-rooted in the ground, a quality that seems to be missing in majority of the Bollywood population.
P.S. Did I mention that he put the ringer tone to silent on his cell-phone for the whole session, something I forgot to do?