I don't feel underrated, but under-utilised. I am looking forward to bigger opportunities: Kunal Kemmu

Seema Sinha
·6-min read

Kunal Kemmu's previous films €" Kalank and Malang, both released in 2019 €" may have gotten lukewarm response at the box office but the actor is elated with the appreciation for his performance in Lootcase, a crime-comedy that released a few days back on Disney+ Hostar.

Lootcase also features Vijay Raaz, Gajraj Rao, Ranvir Shorey and Rasika Duggal among others, and follows the story of a middle-class man whose life turns upside down when he finds an unclaimed suitcase filled with Rs 2,000 currency notes. "It was a fulfilling experience being part of this film. I was sharing screen space with some of the finest talent we have. We were like-minded people on the set and we would often have conversations other than the scenes that we were playing. There was a lot of banter between the director and myself and the other actors," says Kemmu.

Kemmu has often felt that he's been typecast as a comic actor and is perhaps drawn to darker, intense roles as a result. But ultimately, it's the character and performance that matters, not the genre. "When you are doing comedy, you are in a good mood, you are high on energy. Lot of physical energy goes into doing comedy, acting and reacting. But I like to perform and enjoy being in front of the camera playing different characters, be it any genre. I am happy doing films like Kalank, Malang, or Abhay (web series) that have many layers and shades to them. I enjoy being on stage also," he says, adding "An actor's job is so interesting because this is the only profession where you get to play so many different professions. You can be a cop one day, you can be working in a printing press, or you can be an eccentric loud guy 'Laxman' from Golmaal, or 'Hardik' from Go Goa Gone who is different in so many ways. I enjoy the whole process."

Lootcase came very close to release last October but was pushed due to many big releases and was finally slated for a theatrical release in April this year. But it got pushed once again due to the coronavirus pandemic and was finally released on an OTT platform. "Of course, I missed the big screen. Not to compare mediums of release but this film was made with a certain mindset. When you watch a comedy in a theatre packed with an audience it is a different experience all together. I love walking into a theatre and watching that honest reaction of people. People have been sending me videos of theirs, or their family and friends' reactions over jokes and I love that. But I don't know what the future of this film would have been at the box office. Maybe it would have been a sleeper hit. Who knows? I am very happy that lot of people have been able to watch the film because of the situation that we are in and it has definitely got lot of love," says Kemmu, who firmly believes that the emergence of streaming platforms will stop the "unhealthy' practise of comparing box office numbers and in the process bring a kind of security among the actors and the makers.

When asked if he sees a change in the power structure, the star system and how the industry functions, Kemmu says, "It is too early to comment on this. Yes, but the winds are changing. Streaming platforms are leading to healthy competition. You will be happy about the others also because now it is not going to be defined by numbers. Streaming platforms work on the basis of merit and content. It is not a box office-driven business. It has already given opportunity to so many films and filmmakers that wouldn't have happened otherwise. With a lot of interesting things happening in the web and the OTT space, it has also given actors a way to experiment, venture out of their comfort zone. Digital has opened a lot of doors for a lot of people to have different experiences."

However, it looks like the discrimination between 'big' and 'small' films continue in the industry considering that Lootcase and Vidyut Jammwal's Khuda Haafiz were 'snubbed' at the virtual meet of the big announcement on an OTT platform which was attended by Akshay Kumar, Alia Bhatt, Abhishek Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, and was hosted by Varun Dhawan. Kemmu took Twitter to express his disappointment and wrote that love and respect should be earned and not asked for, "Izzat aur pyaar maanga nahi kamaya jaata hai. Koi na de toh usse hum chhote nahi hote. Bas maidaan khelne ke liye barabar de do chhalaang hum bhi oonchi laga sakte hai (sic)," his tweet read.

"I have spoken enough on that. I tweeted the same in so many words. I feel that OTT is something that is very content driven. If Lootcase is a small film according to some people then it needs more love and a slightly bigger push, whereas, other big films have big names. They are all bigger films. It is unfortunate what happened and I hope it never happens again in the future. I am just happy that it is the past, and present is good news for the film," he clarifies.

For the actor who has seen a lot of ups and downs in his career what keeps him going is the appreciation from the audiences. "At the end of the day, it is appreciation that means so much to an actor. Today, I don't feel underrated but under-utilised and I can only say that I am looking forward to getting bigger and better opportunities. An actor's life is unpredictable. Sometimes you have to wait much longer for the kind of job that you really want to do. That struggle will always be there. I am very happy and content in my personal space and that makes me more strong and stable. That helps me deal with this uncertain business and profession. This is the only medium where you can evoke an emotion in the audience that you don't even know. And that means the world to me," he concludes.

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