Atul Kulkarni on his new look for Delhi 6 and the cinema of substance...
After the cult Rang de Basanti, you must be really excited about Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's next, Delhi 6?
Yes, I am. In fact, I've even shaved off my trademark moustache for the role. It feels a bit strange without it because the mooch has been a part of my life for years.
The film's been stuck for a while because of casting problems.
The film's taken off now. We're having script reading sessions.. we should start shooting by mid-December. Rakeysh is one of the best filmmaking minds in the country.
Didn't Ranbir Kapoor walk out of the film recently?
I don't know about Ranbir, but I can rattle off the names of those who have been finalised Abhishek Bachchan, Deepak Dobriyal, Om Puri, Waheeda Rahman.. (laughs) and Atul Kulkarni.
Isn't the film autobiographical in parts?
Arrey no.. its scripted by Raykesh but it's not his story. Just because he has lived in Delhi and he's now making a film based on the city it doesn't mean it's autobiographical.
<b1>Let's move on to your upcoming film Gauri. Why are you promoting it so aggressively?
I'd aggressively canvassed for my last film - Rang de Basanti too. It's important to market a film in the right way. I'm glad the media has always been supportive. Apparently Gauri is a supernatural thriller. It is but you'll leave the theatre with moist eyes and not just a shiver down your spine.
But how many people will go to see the film in the theatres?
The lines between art and commercial, good and evil, commercial and non-commercial.. have blurred. The audience just wants to see a good film, irrespective of the stars. Some years ago, heroes wouldn't touch a negative role. Aaj kal to sab har tarah ka role kar rahein hai.
Today, Hrithik Roshan can afford to do a negative role (in Dhoom 2) and still be loved. That's because the audience wants value-for-money. If you ask me, I'd prefer a good film without a hero than a bad film with one.
It is said that you reserve your best for Madhur Bhandarkar.. Chandni Bar, Satta and Page 3. True?
(Laughs) Untrue. Agreed Madhur is a fabulous director and his films are hard-hitting. But it would be wrong to draw such a conclusion. Some of my most important films have been made by other directors - like Raj Kumar Santoshi (Khakee), E Niwas (Dum) and Rakeysh (Rang de Basanti).
Encounter Shankar is one of my favourite characters.. even today people remember Dum for that performance. Take Ansari out and Khakee would have fallen apart.
You've won two National awards so far. Do you crave for more?
An award is like an accessory in a car. But you drive because you like driving and not because you like the accessories. I was made to be an actor. My father wanted me to be an engineer or a doctor, but I chose to act. It's been years of struggle.. but then no pain, no gain, right?