Be it as Siddharth Tayabji in ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’, Vishnu Nagre in ‘Sarkar’, Shilpa Shetty’s chauvinist husband in ‘Life…In A Metro’ or Khurram Meer in ‘Haider’, Kay Kay Menon is one of those rare actors in tinsel town, who is respected for his sheer talent and understanding of the craft and there is just no one like him.
He might not be your conventional hero, but he is someone who challenges the idea of it and has given some powerful performances over the years that one can never forget. He is not someone who bothers about validation in form of awards but would do anything to play an exigent character on-screen.
© Dharma Productions
Unlike many, he follows his own approach when it comes to choosing a film and looks at the world of cinema with a different perspective. Over a cup of hot coffee, the actor spoke exclusively to MensXP about validation, current scenarios of Indian cinema, his ‘unofficial guru’ Naseeruddin Shah, his views on parallel cinema, the ‘100 crore’ film club and a lot more.
Q. How did acting happen to you?
Menon: I think I happened to act, like I don’t know. Since the age of nine, I used be on stage. My first act was that of a sunflower. Since then I have enjoyed acting. For me acting happened at a very, very young age perhaps. But to recognise the fact that I had some mettle in it, took some time. Because I went into education like MBA, BSE Physics I did digress a bit and then got into acting. But I am glad I completed my education.
Q. What are the deciding factors for you when you choose a project?
Menon: There is no formula; there are no criteria as such. Apart from the fact that it is something undefined and attracts you to life, it’s the same with the script. It’s something like love perhaps, in which you have no reason to love somebody. So when you read the script, you feel attracted towards the screenplay, the person you are going to portray and that’s it. It’s more on a subconscious level and the criteria one needs to understand is the money should be okay and of course, good people working in the film. These are some empirical factors but liking a script is a very subconscious and gut feeling.
Q. Are you happy with the current scenario of Indian cinema? What needs to change?
Menon: My happiness doesn’t really count but I shall keep my point of view. I think what needs to change is the area of integrity, it needs a lot of work. We are in the business of emotion, I understand business is important but if you concentrate only on that, the creativity goes for a toss. So what needs to change is the fact that we should passionately and with a lot of integrity make films and promote them as well. It should be balanced, if it is lopsided then you have a problem with creating good cinema.
An act watched widely in other mediums but hardly any crowd at the theatres!! ðŸ˜„ðŸ˜„#shaurya #bollywood #film #actorslife #shootlife #throwbackthursday #photooftheday
Q. Does validation in the form of awards matter to you?
Menon: I have come to a situation where rewards matter and awards don’t. I have gone to award functions and done my bit. Initially, I avoided them, I used to get nominated for all the films since the time of ‘Sarkar’ but I used to never go and hence I never used to get an award. The criteria is to go there and then only you get an award, not for your work but for your presence perhaps. So when I got an award for ‘Haider’, I went for IIFA and Filmfare, so I have done my bit. Nothing really happened after that, things were the same, so I think I have switched to rewards than awards.
Q. What are you like off-screen and what do you like apart from acting?
Menon: This is something you should ask people around me. So I shall quote Shakespeare here which I often do, “The eye sees not itself. But by reflection, by some other things.” So I can see myself through the reflection of other people. Apart from acting, I like sports and then I like acting. So for me, sports is first on my list then acting. So I am pursuing my second love.
It took all my acting prowess to hide the joy that the Biggest Legend is holding me! Happy B’day Amitji! @amitabhbachchan #happybirthday #AmitabhBachchan #legend #actor #HindiFilm #Deewaar #Sarkar #coactors #actorslife #shootlife
Q. One skill that today’s generation actors need to learn?
Menon: I haven’t analysed anyone so commenting on it would be premature on my part to give unsolicited advice. But in general, the skills that you need to learn are to be a voracious reader, passionately rehearse and after you have done good work just let go.
Q. Tell us about your mentor Naseeruddin Shah
Menon: Naseer is the person from whom I learned the entire stagecraft from. We performed together on stage and I learned a lot from the way he approaches stagecraft that was my initial training. One of our theatre groups used to say, “Acting can never be taught, it can be learned.” It’s a kind of an oxymoron but that’s the kind of thing that happened to me. I just watched and learned from him, so he is my unofficial guru.
Q. Do you think parallel cinema will ever get its real identity among the viewers?
Menon: The moment we call something parallel cinema, how can we expect it to get an identity? The idea is to call it nothing else but just cinema. When you call it cinema then it has some parity, it has some chance of a level playing field. The moment you categorise something…it’s like calling someone a Dalit, its wrong! The moment you remove the nomenclature, then your identification doesn’t remain compartmentalised to calling somebody something. So let’s call it cinema, let us start from there. Let’s completely bury the term parallel cinema and automatically it would be the first step and rest would follow.
Q. When your own personal cinema aesthetic is higher than the films you are acting in, what do you do?
Menon: There is something called adjustment which I use. Because nothing in this world is exactly like you want it to be. Your own idea of cinema is something you need to find, adapt to the space given and the work you are doing and that’s the only way to peacefully exist. To think that everything would be completely ideal would be a utopian concept and it doesn’t happen in reality. So I adjust and use creativity along with that, you never know the moment you start adjusting you can come up with something much more brilliant than something you thought of, so let’s give that a chance.
Unusual Suspects! #Firrkie #Shootlife #London #Coactors #actorslife #photooftheday
Q. What kinds of cinema you feel deteriorates the filmmaking industry and which is the last commercial film you totally enjoyed and why?
Menon: See, whatever is the condition of cinema today, it is because of our own making, so there is no point complaining about it. I think there are a number of mainstream films that are wonderful like those of Raju Hirani, Shoojit Sircar and Aamir Khan’s films which are wonderful. Let’s not generalise, there are films that are really good, there are films that are really bad and we should appreciate the good.
Q. Do you think a film’s success should be all about the ‘100 crore’ club? Where does the real success of a film lie?
Menon: I think the parameter of success is already defined, so that doesn’t require any elaboration. As far as the ‘100 crore’ club is concerned, I am sure they would have a nice tennis court and I would like to play tennis there.