Two-time National Film Award Winning actor and writer Girish Kulkarni is known for his nuanced roles in films such as Deool (2011), Valu (2008) and Vihir (2009) in Marathi and Dangal (2016) in Hindi. In Thankam, which marks his debut in the Malayalam film industry, he plays a Maharashtrian man who travels to Tamil Nadu regarding a police case. While Kulkarni doesn’t want to reveal anything more about the film’s plot, he tells us that Thankam is more of a crime drama than a thriller and delves into the value system and philosophy of the characters that make the movie.
“Thankam is a character-driven film, but you can’t box it within a specific genre. While the film is a crime drama, it is a riveting one that brings out the thriller element. So, the film is more about the dramatic value,” says the actor. Speaking of the opportunity to work in the industry, he adds that he has been a big fan of movies made by Bhavana studios and Fahad Faasil and Friends, the producers of Thankam. “Malayalam cinema chose me. I was very happy when I got a call from this industry, especially from Syam Pushkaran. I have watched all their films during the lockdown and Kumbalangi Nights remains my all-time favourite.”
Kulkarni was inspired by Pushkaran’s writing and the way he managed the whole set. “Pushkaran steps it up with his actors, cinematographer and others on set, and tweaks things around. There is of course a story, structure and dialogues in place, but there is no boundary. The actors are asked to play with it in their own ways, and that is beautiful. Throughout the entire process, I felt like I was doing something new and good,” says Kulkarni, who adds that such a process helps actors go past their usual methods and explore new avenues.
Kulkarni also looks at Malayalam cinema as an industry that is rich in content. He observes that commercial successes are rare in Marathi cinema because people mostly get access to Hindi cinema in theatres and that culturally, they (Marathi audiences) are drawn more towards natak (theatre) than cinema.
But Kulkarni finds a commonality in both the Marathi and Malayalam film industries. “The work culture in both industries is similar and people are passionate and sincere about the art they are creating. I think when a team wants to make a film, they go in with a work culture that is very different from a team that wants to make a project. Here, the artwork is being constructed and everyone is contributing. You don’t get to see such kinds of things nowadays because people have become very professional and deliver only whatever is required. But here, people were trying to go beyond and cross the boundaries. And a film needs that,” notes the actor.