Atul Kulkarni, a two-time National Award-winning actor known for power-packed performances in films such as Hey Ram (2000), Chandni Bar (2001) and Rang De Basanti (2006), is back with The Raikar Case, a murder mystery streaming on Voot Select. He talks to Giridhar Jha about his latest web show, his journey as an actor and his charitable trust. Excerpts:
You are known to be very particular about the scripts you choose. What made you sign The Raikar Case, a web show?
I always look for a story, whether I sign a film or a web show. I think we all go to theatres or sit in front of our laptops to watch a great story. The Raikar Case has a fantastic plot, which moves on two fronts. One the one hand, there is, a murder mystery; on the other, it is about complex relationships within a family. It is very intriguing, that is why people are binge-watching it. I am getting a lot of messages about it on social media. I think we have been successful in telling a great story.
As an actor, are you getting better scripts these days than what you used to 15-20 years ago? Are we in an era of content-rich cinema?
I think that any art should be looked at in the context of the social, educational, economical and political journey of a particular region, country or the world. In the past 15 to 20 years, we as a country have gone through a lot of changes. Art is just a reflection of all these changes. Our storytelling has changed because we as citizens or audiences have changed. It has always been like that. Films and other mediums of art are changing fast today simply because things like technology are also changing fast. For example, with the advent of web shows, writing and the way people consume these things have changed. It is a dynamic period we are living in.
Do you think that big OTT players will change the way we have traditionally watched cinema?
We don’t know yet. I think what we can do is observe closely as to what is going to happen next. With technology changing by the day, we just have to be vigilant and pragmatic. We need to check on what is going to happen and be prepared to respond to the change.
From theatre to movies to web shows, you have done them all. Do you also have to change yourself as an actor in keeping with the requirements of different mediums?
There are certain things that change, but not much. We have to change because the writing changes with every medium. I have done 120-130-minute-long films and now, I am doing web shows which are 250 minutes long. As an actor, you have to adjust to the need of different mediums, but the basics remain the same. Theatre, of course, is completely different, with challenges of its own.
How do you look back at your journey as an actor?
I am not the kind of a person who looks back and thinks, or for that matter, tries to judge how things went. The fact is that I am still living with the help of a profession I chose. That matters to me as of now. I have never really thought about where I am.
You have been associated with a charitable trust working on education. Tell us about it?
We have been running an NGO called QUEST (Quality Education Support Trust) for the past 13-14 years. We have 60-65 employees and have reached 95,000 children with the help of about 3,000 teachers in 22 districts of Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. We cater to primary education. I believe that education is at the root of any social cause you take up. If you have the right education system, you produce good citizens. That is why I chose the field of education to work in.
Are you able to devote enough time towards your cause despite your professional commitments as an actor?
I have always believed that my profession is not my life. The other things I do are also part of my life. My profession is important, but it is a small part of my life. It is not that I have to take time out as such for causes that are important to me. I give time to all things.
What are you doing during the lockdown?
I am in my village in Maharashtra, from where my NGO runs. I have a house here, so I keep coming almost every week. Whenever I am not shooting, you can find me here. So, not much has changed for me.