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Kay Kay Menon: Cinema literacy, need of the hour

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Kay Kay Menon says unless audience appreciates experimentative work, quality cinema will not survive

Acclaimed actor Kay Kay Menon says there is a need to increase the cinema literacy among youngsters to find a sustainable audience for experimental films in India in the near future. The actor, who has worked with filmmakers like Sudhir Mishra, Ram Gopal Varma, Madhur Bhandarkar and Nishikant Kamat, believes though there are some filmmakers who are constantly trying to experiment with subjects, unless a steady audience is appreciating such work, quality cinema will not survive commercially.

Kay Kay said, “The cinema literacy in India is almost negligible among commoners. And since there is no cinema literacy, they fail to appreciate the art of cinema. We shouldn’t blame them because year after year, they are watching films that are sub-standard in content. Only after a certain age, they are getting exposed to good cinema. So as a young mind, if you are not learning how to appreciate good content-driven films, later in life, you only can find comfort watching those ‘commercial films’. No, I am not against it, but there is a need for mind conditioning.”


He feels schools can play an important role. “I think from the school level, kids should learn the art of watching a film, so that over a period of time, our content-driven films can find a sustainable audience,” said the actor, who has delivered some of his finest performance in films like “Haider”, “Mumbai Meri Jaan”, “Sarkar”, “Life in a… Metro”, “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” amd “Shaurya”.

In his latest release, Kay Kay is seen as a police officer. He has a policeman in his earlier films like “Black Friday”, “Tera Kya Hoga Johnny” and “Rahasya”.

Asked how differently did he treat this character from the rest, Kay Kay said: “I am an impressionist actor. I do not play characters based on their profession. I try to humanize them to capture the nuance of the individual. “There could be thousands of police officers. But as an individual, each of them is different. As an actor, I always try to bring that out in my performance,” he said.

Starting his career in 1995 with the film “Naseem”, Kay Kay struggled to find a ground with his quality work. What keeps him going? “I strongly believe that my work should outlive me. We human beings will come and go but it should be our work that we are doing in the lifetime, with an archival value. Since I am very clear in my head with this thought, it always keeps me going. So far, in my career span, there are 15 performances that will outlive me and I know that. We know that as a performing artist, we cannot count every single performance as the best one. But there should be a substantial body of work one should have in the career. I managed to have that. So I am finding a balance between those substantial roles, along with some of the films like ‘Singh is Bliing’ to pay my bills,” he said.

2017 was one of the years when some of the small budget content-driven films did well at the box office. “Hindi Medium”, “Bareily Ki Barfi” and “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” are cases in point.

How does he look at the change? “Yes, content-driven films are finding favour these days, which is a positive sign. But this is not the right time to certify that as ‘change’. To certify this transition as a change, it has to be consistent. I think we should wait for five more years to observe if these content-driven films are finding a space continuously. Then and only then we can say that the Indian cinema has changed for better and that good stories have found a space.”