It seems like everyone is talking about Arjun Mathur. His outing as Karan Mehra, one half of a wedding-planning agency Made in Heaven, in Amazon Prime Video India’s eponymous series has finally put the young actor on the mainstream map. You would have seen him before, of course. Earlier this year, he played Rahul Gandhi in the eminently forgettable film, The Accidental Prime Minister; and last year, he played a Delhi shopkeeper who fakes his death in Nikhil Bhat’s Netflix release Brij Mohan Amar Rahe.
Almost exactly a decade ago, the 38-year-old made his feature film debut as Farhan Akhtar’s ‘theatre type’ friend Abhimanyu in Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut Luck By Chance. He followed it up with Raja Krishna Menon’s debut Barah Aana, where he played an ambitious cash-strapped waiter who is driven to a world of crime, and a supporting role in Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan, starring Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan. After his initial forays in mainstream films, Mathur has thrived in the world of indie productions and on OTT platforms.
The actor will next be seen in Bejoy Nambiar’s anthology film Flip on Eros Now. It is no surprise then, that Mathur is a huge fan of this new medium that has taken the Indian entertainment industry by storm. “More than anything, there is a lot of creative freedom that this medium brings. Writers and directors are being able to tell stories differently, go deeper and chart out more developed character arcs and story plots, because they can tell the story over episodes rather than a two-hour film,” the actor explained over a phone interview recently. More importantly, he believes these give a “platform for all the talent that exists that hasn’t necessarily been able to find its place in the confines of commercial Bollywood cinema”.
Even as film industries across the world are grappling with the theatre vs OTT experience, Mathur appreciates that there is a new avenue for certain kind of films. “Take Brij Mohan Amar Rahe, for instance. We didn’t know while it was being made whether it would have a theatrical release. In retrospect, the fact that it released on Netflix, at least for me, is so much better, because it reaches such a wide audience in so many countries as opposed to getting some morning shows in some far out place and lasting one week in a theatre. And it’s still out there, and people are still watching it for the first time,” he said.
I am a part of one of the four short films in this anthology. The theme through all these stories is that the characters go through one experience that flips their lives upside down. My story is called Happy Birthday. I really liked the script, thought it was out there. Bejoy and I have been trying to collaborate for a while, and finally this is what worked out.
There is a certain sensibility some people have that has always tried to keep the narrative as authentic as possible. The last two times I played a gay character, one was with Mira Nair and one was with Onir. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t trust their sensibilities and the fact that they too would be handling it sensitively. That being said, there are definitely many people who have been presenting it in a caricaturish way, and one can only hope that they will stop and move towards presenting it better.