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The Common Factor

Kay Kay Menon has the uncanny ability to slip into the skin of the most ordinary character — whether he’s portraying a Naxalite or a disgruntled Bengali husband.

Written by Pooja Pillai |
February 17, 2009 11:32:11 pm

The actor on his art and why he never categorises cinema

Kay Kay Menon has the uncanny ability to slip into the skin of the most ordinary character — whether he’s portraying a Naxalite or a disgruntled Bengali husband. What stands out is that he’s not playing someone larger than life. He could be someone you’ve grown up with or live next door to. In the flesh,he is much more impressive. Tall,with longish hair,he seems almost on the defensive even before the interview starts,as he sits with his arms crossed across his chest.

We’re at the restaurant section of Firangi Paani,Andheri,Mumbai. The lounge bar has just opened for the day. As Menon settles into a chair,I mention his latest movie The Stoneman Murders. “How’s it doing?” he asks eagerly. Upon hearing that his role in the film is being appreciated and that the film itself seems to be doing well,he relaxes a little. This is the second time that the actor has essayed the role of a police officer on screen — the first being his powerful performance as senior officer Rakesh Maria in Black Friday. So what draws him to a particular role? “I have to feel an attraction to the role,” he says,after some thought and then continues,“Of course,the script matters a lot,as does the director. And obviously,the production house and money matter too,” he concludes. But some of his decisions have backfired,most notably,Drona and Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam. “If I knew how a movie is going to end and how the audience will react,I’d be god,not an actor,” he laughs.

Under the dim light,with his long hair and unshaven chin,Menon very much looks like the poster boy for art house cinema that he was once identified with,after movies like Paanch,Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Bhopal Express. But the actor makes it very clear that he dislikes categorising movies into ‘mainstream’ and ‘art house’. “What is the difference between mainstream and art cinema. I never make such categories,” says Menon,who has been acting since he was nine. He adds,“An actor is born and over time he hones his skills. You can’t make an actor. It’s like cricket,where you have to see Sachin Tendulkar to know that he was born with that talent.”

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By then,the Mumbai-bred actor has visibly relaxed and is making wide gestures as he talks about his passion for sports. “I would have been a sportsperson if I hadn’t been an actor. I was an athlete in school and even now,on my days off,I prefer relaxing at home and watching movies or sports,” he declares.

The actor’s next release is Anurag Kashyap’s take on heartland politics,Gulaal. Menon and Kashyap have had a long association,going back to their theatre days. They even worked together on television in the much-acclaimed but short-lived series Star Bestsellers. “Anurag is our most radical director today,” he says. And even though Menon has been too busy to watch any of the recent releases,he did make it a point to catch Kashyap’s Dev.D.

As the interview draws to a close and we walk out,I ask him if the ill-fated Paanch is released today,would it still make sense. He frowns in thought,before replying,“A few college students watched it recently and they couldn’t stop talking about it. So yes,I do think it would still be relevant today because we’re still talking about the same issues of discontent.”

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