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Modern Love Chennai: Kishore on working with Bharathiraja, being a romantic & more

OTTplay caught up with the talented actor to discuss his upcoming anthology project Modern Love Chennai, his idea of love and romance and so much more

Modern Love Chennai: Kishore on working with Bharathiraja, being a romantic & more
Kishore in Modern Love Chennai

Last Updated: 11.36 AM, May 24, 2023


There's no denying that every time actor Kishore Kumar G, widely recognized as Kishore, shows up on the screen, one cannot help but amp up their expectations. It could be the sheer control that he executes as an actor or the simple & highly assuring fact that his mere presence will elevate the scene (and possibly the whole film) from its current dramatic point. There's also that element of intrigue, that strange blend of stoicism and awareness, that he brings to the table and perhaps this is why none of his performances feel repetitive despite the 'serious' nature of his roles. 

But there's nothing serious about his role in the upcoming anthology series Modern Love Chennai, wherein he plays the lead in the segment which also stars Ramya Nambessan, Vijayalakshmi and Delhi Ganesh. Love permeates this six-part exploration set in the vibrant city of Chennai and as the trailer suggests, Kishore plays a middle-aged man who is in the thick of a quest for love and romance. With the maestro Ilaiyaraaja lending his soulful tunes and the legendary Bharathiraja endearingly guiding him through this journey, Kishore seems quite glad and relaxed in his exquisite company. So, no wonder that he is quite kicked about presenting this story to the rest of the world on May 18 and when OTTplay caught up with him ahead of the worldwide premiere, Kishore was more than willing for a heartful tête-à-tête. Here are the edited excerpts from this engaging conversation:

Right off the bat, would you say that this character is quite close to what you are (as a person) in real life? In terms of, say, the demeanour, the calmness, etc.

In a way, yes, but I have been attracting a few roles of this kind of late. I played a similar character in the Kannada anthology Katha Sangama (2019) if you remember - very simple and beautifully written. Here [Modern Love Chennai], too, my contribution to the story might not be huge but since I play the central character of the segment, you see everything transpiring around him. So, that's what makes things interesting and quite different. A journalist recently asked me about all my gangster roles, wondering how I would fit into a role that feels so simple and real. I told him that I still feel like a gangster but it's just that the setting is different for him! (laughs). Actually, it's all left to the director and the writer to conceive the world and you just execute their vision.

I'm sure this is a stale question but do you look forward to playing roles that are 'simple' and 'ordinary'?

Definitely, but the quest for an actor is always Variety. Every role you play is almost like assuming a new life, a new identity and that's what makes things exciting. Else, I wouldn't be doing this for so long. There's also the aspect of boredom so, you look for newer experiences and perspectives. Plus, the opportunity to work with new teams is extremely pleasing.

But if someone approaches with a love story today, do you get excited because you don't get to do that often?

It really depends on how someone's perceived it. And by that I mean the uniqueness of those stories. If it's a 'typical' love or romance story, I cannot be part of it because I won't fit in - in fact, I will look ludicrous. So, if a filmmaker wishes to make a love story with actors of my kind, then it is definitely exciting because you know that their vision is different.

What was your initial reaction when this particular segment of Modern Love Chennai was offered to you?

The first reason was the opportunity to work with Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who is an integral part of the creative team. I was meant to be part of his debut film Aaranya Kaandam but things did not materialize back then due to several factors. So, I was very keen on making it happen this time around. After that, Bharathiraja sir would be associated with it and Ilaiyaraaja sir, too, came on board. And being a part of this company is definitely a blessing and a rare opportunity - Bharathiraja sir and Ilaiyaraaja sir haven't collaborated in years and if they are coming together finally, of course, you would feel lucky to be a member of that team.

Now, I want to know a little about your take on the title of this anthology. When someone says 'modern love', what do you think the term modern implies? How do you look at or assess the modernity of love?

It can be looked at from so many different angles, but the general understanding is that whatever falls outside the realm of tradition, naturally becomes modern. And whatever's modern today, might feel outdated or traditional tomorrow, and whatever was modern yesterday could well come back and become modern again - that's the way it goes. And as someone who hails from Karnataka, I have been exposed to a lot of progressive literature from quite early on. My mother was a voracious reader and I have grown up reading the stuff that she collected over the years. And based on that, I genuinely feel that people subscribe to creative individuals - be they artists, dancers, musicians, poets, novelists or even filmmakers - because of their progressive mindset and that penchant for always nudging forward the boundaries of modernity. They push truth and acceptance beyond the existing realms and when you truly imbibe their ethos, you end up being what one might term as 'ahead of time'. In fact, there's a line in our film that quotes Sigmund Freud as "Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me".


Projects like Modern Love are also opportunities for writers and directors to explore slightly unconventional themes such as same-sex relationships or homosexuality, consent and so much more. How much do you suppose you have evolved as a person over the years? Especially in these aspects.

You do end up evolving, don't you? Yes, that might not be the truth in everyone's case - some of us do grow with time and some of us remain in the same place forever. It just comes down to the exposure and the experiences you encounter through time. And that's what artists, thinkers or writers utilize to draw their critiques - there is that constant interaction that they have with the outside world but there is also that dialogue they have with themselves, always trying to introspect, question and unravel the truth/essence of every relationship. It needn't be just interpersonal relationships but also the ones that we share with society, the politics around us. You must use your experiences to evolve and only a dynamic society can survive. Exposure is the operative word because you could be exposed to both good and bad things, but it's your responsibility to move beyond all that.

Do you end up having these conversations with your young children? About love, relationships, etc.

Aah, I don't think my elder one is willing to fully open up just as yet. But he has chosen his own outlets - he goes to a Jiddu Krishnamurthy school and I trust that institution to address and discuss these kinds of concerns. But, yeah, once in a while we do speak about love, sex and so much more. Cinema, of course, is a great tool to expose them to reality and potentially lend them a few progressive thoughts. Of course, it is important to create that positive environment to discuss these topics and although my children do not voluntarily bring them up, they do certainly feel free to be themselves and share any kind of opinion.

"You must start sensitizing people from a young age. Because once they step into the real world, they realize that there is a lot of discrimination, so many taboos and a majority of these issues are never addressed. We have retained our archaic social structure which is marred by patriarchy and all kinds of biases - if you do not start the conversation around these aspects at home, kids will end up taking in what the majority believes in"

Kishore with Delhi Ganesh in Modern Love Chennai
Kishore with Delhi Ganesh in Modern Love Chennai

Let's talk about your idea of romance - first of all, would you say you are a "romantic" person at heart?

Aren't we all romantic in some way or the other? But to answer your question, yes. I do think that I am quite romantic as a person. That's a common trait I feel exists in most people who have an inclination for the arts - most of them like to live in a bubble, in a world of imagination. They are not all that practical about life and tend to lean more towards the emotional side of things. And as actors, we are meant to be sensitive towards everything around us - be it the people, society, the planet or life, in general. 

So, when you claim that you are a romantic at heart, you don't necessarily mean the Yash Chopra kind of romance, right? It's more about having a sensitive gaze towards life.

Yeah, you could definitely say that. Sensitivity, for me, is love.

Yours is what qualifies today as 'love marriage'. How do you think the romance in your life has shaped out over the years?

We just found ourselves thinking alike about a lot of aspects. We met in college and initially, there were a lot of rifts over issues and prevalent topics. But once we got together, we realized that we shared the same opinions about almost everything. And then you spot the flaws in one another and you start accepting them as well, making adjustments and moving on. This has to be the pattern in an institution like marriage. But I am probably speaking for the older generations because things have certainly changed now. Individual identities have become more important and that element of 'adjusting' to one other's limitations is slowly diminishing, I feel.

Since you refer to marriage as an institution, how much faith do you have in it? Or is it just a necessity for two people in love to be together?

I don't think I have serious faith in it as an institution because I feel marriage is mostly used for social acceptance. You need two people to raise kids if you decide to have them and that’s how marriages make sense. But I also believe that marriages were and still largely are patriarchal tools to keep a woman, who’s potentially more alive, under control. Things are definitely changing now with respect to how this institution functions but I am not sure whether it's for good or bad - on the one hand, you must credit and trust society for creating a construct called marriage. On the other, when every relationship hinges on the rules of society, that's not fair either.

Modern Love Chennai, the third anthology of the series set in India (after Mumbai and Hyderabad), is set to debut on Amazon Prime Video on May 18. Kishore's segment, titled Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal, is directed by Bharathiraja and based on a script written by Pratheep S Kumar. Maestro Ilaiyaraaja has scored the music and Jeeva Sankar has handled the cinematography. Ramya Nambessan, Vijayalakshmi, Delhi Ganesh and others, too, star in the six-part anthology segment.

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