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‘‘Casting me in this film was a risk that paid off’’

Manav Kaul has been receiving rave reviews for his performance alongside Vidya Balan in the endearing movie Tumhari Sulu. Kaul, who says he is overwhelmed by the feedback he’s been receiving, tells Suranjana Biswas all about his journey with this movie

What was your instinctive reaction when you were offered the role?

I did not audition for this role. I know Nandini Shrikent, one of the finest casting directors we have. I got a call from Nandini and I went for the audition and met Suresh, our director. We had a look-test etc. It was a long process and took 20 days. After that, I was sitting in an ice-cream parlour when I received a call from Suresh, saying I had been selected. I immediately ordered another ice-cream! It was a lot of fun, I loved the film. I still remember, I read the script, I called Suresh, and I said, ‘I don’t know how you have written the script, but it is fantastic!’ I just wanted to be a part of this film after that.


In some of your recent films, you have played characters that have shades of grey. But in Tumhari Sulu, your character is very different from those in your earlier films. Can you comment on this transformation?

It always feels like you can do it. You have seen your mother and drawn inspiration from your family. Other than that, I have done a lot of funny plays, with a lot of comedy elements. I know that, as an actor, I can do it. Of course, an actor seeks help and it is always about the other person looking at you while you perform.

I am very grateful to Atul Kasbekar and Suresh Triveni for risking it because everyone has always seen me playing a villain and this character was the opposite of my earlier characters. He is a very lovable character. At one point, I did wonder whether I could pull it off. So, from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to Atul and Suresh for taking the risk and believing in me.


You have been associated with theatre for a long time. Has that helped you gain acting experience apart from shaping your career?

I am what I am because of my theatre group aRANYA. I am what I am because of theatre, whether in Bhopal or Bombay, with my entire group. I believe that if I hadn’t been a part of the theatre scene, I wouldn’t be here. In times of failure, I would write and read, and theatre was the only medium that helped me survive. So, yeah, it is an important part of my life.


There is a lot of romance in Tumhari Sulu. What is Manav’s idea of romance?

I think, what you see in …Sulu, is my idea of romance as well. It is absolutely juvenile, naughty, having fun with someone you love and spending time with her. I find happiness in small things. I don’t go to posh hotels, and I don’t feel the need to go out of the country with my loved one; it is just the small things that you do for each other that matter in a mundane life. And that is what the film is about.


What is the feedback like from the audience? How does it feel to be appreciated?

When I watched the film, I was pretty confident about it doing well because these are the kinds of films people are proud of. I knew the reaction was going to be positive but I never dreamt I would get so much appreciation for my performance. I have got a lot of text messages from various people, who thought it was a pleasure watching this film. It is very overwhelming to hear things like that. I am not used to receiving so much love and don’t know how to react right now. I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me so much love. It’s not only friends and family but also people I haven’t met in the last 12 years who are calling and messaging me.


The content of the film is real and fresh. Do you think this is one of the main reasons the audience will relate to it?

The audience is watching the film because of its content. Everyone who has seen the film is saying two things – that it is real and it is fresh. Everyone has said that! In fact, some feel …Sulu is too real. It is a simple story of a husband and wife, and we haven’t seen something like this for the longest time.


Vidya Balan is regarded as one of the finest actors we have. What was it like to work with her?

I thought I would be intimidated; rather, I was star-struck after I realised I would be performing with Vidya. But if you meet Vidya, you will know she is one of the most real human beings ever. In two minutes, she communicates with you like she is your best friend, and she makes you feel like you have known her for years. When we started rehearsing, we started laughing, and from the second day onwards, we started discussing acting and our performances. While we were shooting, I realised that she is such a giver. I believe that if your co-actor is cooperative, it complements your performance. It is kind of Ram milayi jodi.


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