An actor par excellence who instantly lights up the screen with his performance, Arjun Mathur has impressively emerged as the entertainment industry’s dark horse. The British-born, Indian actor has been working predominantly in Bollywood, independent films and television for quite a while now, and to say the least, Mathur in no time has become the directors’ and audience favourite. He won hearts, and garnered international recognition, with his performance in the web series Made in Heaven (2019). Here’s Arjun Mathur, unplugged in a new avatar as he tackles tough questions on his films, tackling criticism and more. Excerpts from the interview:
Let’s start with a tough question… how do you tackle criticism especially in reviews?
While I say everybody is entitled to their opinions, critics too, but none of the opinions matter much to me. I don’t read every review. I just enjoy the process of doing my work, being on the sets and shooting. Once the shooting, dubbing and marketing gets over then beyond marketing, I don't get into controlling the fate of the film or think about what people will say, what the box office numbers will be… yeh sab se main door rehta hoon (I stay away from that).
What’s your take on the rise of OTT platforms? Do you consider OTT as the survival platform for artistes?
These platforms are not only a mode of survival for actors, but it’s survival for all — creators, technicians and writers, and everyone in the process of film making... I'm glad it exists. I’m one actor who has never chased box office numbers. For me, single screen audience is important too. The existence of these spaces, where the kind of the content we wish to be part of is also there, is gratifying. We are reaching out to the global audiences and competing with global filmmakers, and this is an important aspect for the growth of our activity.
What about international vistas that may have opened up for you after the International Emmy Award nominations?
I do have many vistas on the work front that may have opened up for me, but Covid has shut it all down for all of us. This is an odd time and though we are talking about plans, but there is one thing — Covid. So, at the moment we are all waiting to see as to how it passes off.
You have worked as an assistant director. Any plans of taking the reins of direction?
I started my career as an assistant director (AD), however, acting was always a passion. I feel there is somewhere a keeda for direction... but I am not a writer, so even if I have to direct some day I have to come across the right material. I really feel inspired by the right people to collaborate with. The director's job is to find the right people. I think if I find the right material and right people to collaborate with then I will direct some day.
You have worked as an AD with Zoya Akhtar, YRF productions, and others... you can always seek their help to direct films independently?
Yes, I have worked with all of them, but of course, it's not in my hands to try them — in fact, it’s in their hands to try me. (Laughs)
How was your experience of working as an AD on Bunty Aur Babli?
When we made this film, it was like working and having fun with a bunch of friends… and we had a lot of fun. It is a fun film; and a great experience. I was doing the continuity, which is a very tough job. People do talk about its remake, but I don't agree with the remake formula. It’s just another formula picked up, and people are using this formula until we get tired of it. There is so much to do than just remake films.
How was it working with Amitabh Bachchan?
I was present during the filming of the song Kajra Re. It was a three-day shoot. We all had great fun — Kajra Re in particular was fun. We had Mr Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai [Bachchan] dancing on that step for three days. Watching all of it was fun as well as a great learning experience.
What about future assignments?
I am doing Made in Heaven season 2, Gone Game season 2 and a film called Lord Curzon Ki Haveli, directed by Anshuman Jha. Currently, I’m shooting for U Special for the Lionsgate series. Covid has thrown a spanner on everyone’s plans, mine too. I’m hesitant to talk about the timeline as it’s not in anyone’s control. But currently, I have eight projects in hand.
Could you elaborate about the show U Special for Lionsgate, which is a well-known American company creating Indian content for the first time?
I am excited about this project. It is set in Delhi University North Campus. U Special is the name of the bus that goes en-route to that University. It is also set amidst the backdrop of one of the biggest education scams in our country. It’s an interesting premise. I love the character I’m playing, the cast is great... the whole host of young new actors and being around this young energy at this stage of my career, it feels nice to be one of the senior actors on the sets.