From Hey Ram (2000) and Chandni Bar (2001) to Rang De Basanti (2006) and The Attacks of 26/11, Atul Kulkarni has essayed some intense roles in his Bollywood films. Coming up is the Zanjeer (1973) remake, but before that, the actor will be seen in a Marathi film, Popat (releasing on Aug 23), in a comedy role.
In this interview, Atul discusses the Marathi film (Popat), his career and more.
You are known for serious roles. So why comedy now?
In our film industry, the first film that you do or the one that gets noticed leaves an impression. As filmmakers are nervous while casting, they naturally tend to sign actors depending on what they've seen before. When I started doing plays, I began with comedy. But, with Hey Ram and Chandni Bar, I got into the serious zone. As an actor, you always want to try something you haven't done before. For me, the uncomfortable zone is the one to enter.
Is comedy easier?
No genre is easy. For an actor, it's a serious business even when he's essaying a funny character. In fact, comedy is more difficult.
Do you think regional cinema suffers because of Hindi cinema?
I don't think so. For example, the film culture is so strong in Tamil Nadu that it has no threat from Hindi cinema whatsoever. When we talk about regional cinema here, it's largely Marathi, Bhojpuri and Gujarati. In Maharashtra, films are not as big as theatre. I think theatre is deeply rooted in this state's culture.
Do you yearn for Bollywood stardom?
Who wouldn't want it? I would have loved to be in that position, but I'm not sad about not being there. There are certain demands to be able to fit those positions, and not every person can fulfil them. I would have loved to be an Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan. But if I do a reality check, I realise that I did my first film when I was 35 years old, so how can I expect to rise to that level?
Who are your friends in Bollywood?
I have been fortunate to work with talented people like Kamal Haasan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Rakeysh (Omprakash Mehra) and Madhur (Bhandarkar). I meet Aamir, Rakeysh and Kunal Kapoor frequently.
What are your upcoming ventures?
There's Zanjeer. I am also doing a film called Dirty Politics with KC Bokadia that features Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Om Puri. Also, my first Hollywood film, Singularity, is releasing on October 1.