'Dulquer Salmaan is a joy to work with; like all good actors, he spoils you': Solo director Bejoy Nambiar
Solo, which marks Bejoy Nambiar's foray into the Malayalam film industry, is an anthology of four stories connected by four different elements: water, earth, fire and wind. "There is a fifth element too in the story, which I don’t want to reveal now. I want audiences to watch it on screen. Dulquer (Salmaan) is playing four different avatars of Lord Shiva. The four stories delve into the extremities of rage and love; two stories of extreme rage and two stories of love. Each story was chalked out and had a graph to it, but we kept the core emotions of rage and love constant throughout. Within that, we tried to change whatever we could in Dulquer’s characteristics," said Bejoy.
Solo was not Bejoy's first attempt at a bilingual since he made David earlier — in Tamil and Hindi — which, unfortunately, didn't connect with audiences. "David was not a proper bilingual," says Bejoy. "Half of it was dubbed, and half of it was shot. That’s where the mistake happened. I’ve corrected it in Solo."
While Solo has been certified 'U' in Malayalam, the regional certification board in Tamil Nadu has granted a 'U/A' to the film. "Since you don’t have a universal certification system, it clearly shows the mindset of the board. It will always vary from people to people. I don’t blame them in any way. A movie is very subjective. Everyone will interpret it in their own way. I was actually very apprehensive that I should not get an ‘A’ certificate. So, when I received ‘U/A’, I was quite happy. And I was surprised when I got a ‘U’ for the Malayalam version... The film doesn’t have any kind of profanity. I want everyone to watch it,” Bejoy said.
The OST of Solo has earned rave reviews from both audiences and critics alike for its eclectic medley of songs. Bejoy roped in 11 different composers including Prashant Pillai to provide a diverse soundtrack for the film.
Bejoy says his preference for independent musicians stems from his love for music. "I listen to all kinds of music. My composer friend Prashant Pillai, who was the sole musician for my debut film Shaitaan, was the one who guided me and pushed me into this direction. He said that this movie requires a diverse soundtrack and I should be working with different composers. He kind of opened my eyes to that. Prashant being such a good musician himself but still suggesting this idea to me and thinking ‘for’ the film... that's unheard of. He kickstarted the choices I make today. I’m thankful to him that I was able to meet and collaborate with different musicians today. So whatever I do, I’ll make sure that he’s the first one I go to when I start (a) project."
Bejoy says his process of working with musicians starts from the scripting stage itself. "When I start writing, I also begin jamming with composers to create sounds for the film. While I’m writing, I need to get the sound in place. Sometimes, even before the funding arrives, I start brainstorming with musicians because it helps me design the soundscape of the film. For Solo, I began working with musicians at a very early stage. Each story has a diverse sound, and within the story also, we have collaborated with multiple musicians. And everything has complemented the film really well.”
Bejoy said it was Dulquer who suggested the idea of making Solo as a bi-lingual since the plot would resonate with Tamil audiences too. Dulquer plays four different characters in the film: Shekhar (who has a stutter), Shiva (a gangster), Rudra (an Army man) and Trilok (a regular guy).
Showering praise on Dulquer as a committed actor, Bejoy said, "It was challenging for Dulquer to slip in and slip out (of the four roles), especially during the last story since he was shooting for the stammering ‘Shekhar’ character in the third story. He was stuttering on the first two days of the shooting of the fourth story. I didn’t have to goad him or coach him about differentiating between characters. He is inherently so articulate in the way he goes about his roles. He effortlessly slips into each part. It’s a joy to work with good actors because they spoil you. And you start to expect the same from everyone [laughs].”
Bejoy, who is known for using 'silence' as an effective story-telling tool in his films, says he is a big fan of it. "I love the correct use of silence in movies. From my first short film itself, I used to push that aspect of storytelling. In Solo also, I’ve used silence almost like a character. It’s a strong device I use in one of my stories. I’m now curious to see how audiences would respond to that."
Although 'anthology' as a concept is not often explored in Indian films, Bejoy never had any apprehensions about it. "I was very sure that this is what I want to make. Since I’m making my debut in Malayalam and coming back to Tamil after David, I wanted to make sure that I do something different than what’s being made around. So, I was never worried about the anthology concept. I only had apprehensions when I was trying to get financinh for the project.”
Jointly produced by Refex Entertainment and Get Away Films, Solo also stars Neha Sharma, Sruthi Hariharan, Sai Dhanshika, and Arthi Venkatesh. The movie is scheduled to hit theatres worldwide on 5 October in both Tamil and Malayalam.