'Pan-India' has come to be a trendy catchword, and films that get dubbed in multiple languages and actors who work across two-three languages are now thought worthy of the label. However, in the case of Dulquer Salmaan and Aditi Rao Hydari, who have carved a niche for themselves across the country, it's quite apt.
In Hey Sinamika, the directorial debut of National Award-winning choreographer Brinda, Dulquer and Aditi play a married couple. The film marks the first collaboration of these actors who have starred in their share of romantic relationship dramas, especially in Tamil.
Aditi reveals that such stories attract her and she enjoys doing them. "Relationship dramas usually have a lot of layers and offer scope for performance. It also helps that writers these days are experimenting a lot within the genre. The same love story can be told in different ways. It also helps that no two people's stories are the same," she says.
It is interesting how Dulquer, who has experimented with genres in Malayalam (Kurup, Kali, Kammattipadam) and Telugu (Mahanati, Lieutenant Ram), has largely stuck to being a 'boy-next-door' (or should we say, 'boyfriend-next-door') in Tamil.
Dulquer clarifies that this is not by design. "I'm not a person to reject a good script just because I might have done something similar already. Ideally, I want all my films to be different but that's not easy because, at the end of the day, we can only choose projects from what we are offered," he says.
The breezy Dulquer-Aditi romance in becomes a complicated triangular love story after the entry of Kajal Aggarwal's Malarvizhi, a relationship counselor. In most of our films, the entry of the 'other woman' is either villainised or ridiculed.
However, Hey Sinamika does away with this stereotype, and Aditi is glad it does. "In Hey Sinamika, there is a certain dignity with how each of the three characters is treated. There is a complete arc for all of them. The film is not just a typical triangular love story. It is a mix of complicated relationships, roller-coaster emotions, immaturity, and a lot of bad decisions," says Aditi.
Incidentally, Hey Sinamika is one of those rare films with a predominantly female crew. While Brinda is the director, the film is shot by Preetha Jayaraman and edited by Radha Sridhar. The film brings in a nuanced examination of romance, and while Dulquer believes the film isn’t envisioned from a specific gaze, he is grateful to have worked with such a talented crew.
"I love the fact that Hey Sinamika is made by a bunch of wonderfully talented women technicians and actors, but I also don’t want to put a gender-based label on the film. It is scripted by Madhan Karky, whose writing is relevant and meaningful without painting any character in broad strokes. My character in the film gets to address many relevant topics as an RJ, which all attributes to the depth in his writing," he says.
Since the release, the film has been suggested by some as containing influences from Mani Ratnam’s work. Right from the catchy title that is borrowed from a popular song in his film, OK Kanmani, to the characters, their worlds, dialogues, and even certain visuals...
Both Dulquer and Aditi assert that the influence, if any, might have only been subconscious. "The comparisons might be due to the film’s genre or title or the fact that some of us have worked with Mani sir before. I don't think there was any conscious attempt to recreate what he does. Anyone who has ever worked with Mani sir gets influenced by him, be it the actors, his assistants, or technicians," says Dulquer.
With the pandemic putting many well-laid plans in Indian cinema to rest, actors have had to face the unfortunate prospect of their projects being shelved. Aditi is no different, and she shares about the “horrible” feeling that comes with such a development.
"I finished almost all my portions in the Dhanush directorial, and it was shaping up well. However, I’ve no idea what’s happening with that film now. In fact, it was through media that I came to know about its status," says a dejected Aditi, who is consoled by Dulquer who adds, "I can’t imagine how hard it must have been. I’m glad none of my projects have had a similar fate so far."
Considering their pan-Indian status and the projects they are part of, it isn't easy at all for both Dulquer and Aditi to schedule their call sheets. While Aditi has a couple of films coming up in Hindi, Dulquer has multiple projects lined up in Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, and Tamil. He is also making his digital debut with Raj and DK's upcoming Netflix series.
"Scheduling is a nightmare. You can’t really plan these things. People complain about me not doing enough films in their language, but I see it as an advantage. I am not bombarding them with films, and the audience will always have the element of surprise when watching me in their language. As we earlier spoke, I’m aware that most of my Tamil films are all in the romantic-hero space, but people might be forgiving of it because I’m not doing films regularly," says Dulquer.
Aditi, though, is happy when people ask her about her upcoming films because it means she is in their collective conscience. "It's better than people getting tired of me," says Aditi with her characteristic laugh, adding, "If the script is good and I believe in the director, then the language doesn’t really matter. It could be Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, French, or even Spanish for that matter."