Theatre will always survive: Roshan Mathew
Ameer in ‘Moothon’ will stay in hearts, for sure, and it gave young actor Roshan a breakthrough to his career and a kickstart to new beginnings. Hailing from Changanassery in Kottayam district, Roshan Mathew has a boy-next-door image to Malayalees. With a handful of characters to his credit, he has already won hearts of many. Be it the ‘Soochimon’ Gautham from Anandam or villain Aaryan of Puthiya Niyamam, he made sure they find a place among the audience.
But for him, theatre is love and life. Theatre was where he started as an artiste and talking about theatre, he is out of breath and words. He wishes to grow more in it and bring in new experiences to the South where the theatre culture is slowly budding. Excerpts from interview with Roshan:
Entry into Bollywood and work with the legendary director Anurag Kashyap
‘Choked’ was great fun. I found a good bunch of people at ‘Choked’. People who wanted to put everything they had into making the best film they could make. That’s always a great environment to work in. Anurag sir is incredible. He has got this superbly clear vision of what he wants, and once you let go and let him do his thing with you, it’s great fun. He really lets you explore scenes, beyond the boundaries of the script.
Actually, it’s very liberating. I’ve never really thought about this as an “entry into Bollywood”. It’s another exciting project I was lucky to be part of, with a brilliant filmmaker who happens to work in another language. ‘Moothon’ sort of blurred the boundaries between our industry and Bollywood for me. It was a bilingual, and Anurag sir was part of it. There were a lot of people from the Bollywood in ‘Moothon’.
How long should we wait for ‘Choked’?
Again, I can’t reveal much about it but I can tell you that it won’t be too long.
‘Kapela’ is a movie by a debut director but also an experienced artiste movie. So how does it feel like?
‘Kapela’ directed by Mustafa is essentially a love story, and about what happens when an intruder walks into the life of the lovers. How these three characters meet and what ensues after is the film essentially.
Mustafa is a very brave director, with a lot of clarity. He has got a very genuine, intricate way of looking at situations and characters. And he has tried to stay true to the story as much as possible.
Working with Anna and Bhasi was also a super fun experience. Jimshi Khalid, who shot the film, also comes with great energy. Sudhi Koppa and Tanvi Ram are the other exciting artistes in the film.
You've worked more in theatre than in films. Do you feel like doing it again?
I do and I hope I always will. I don’t think I’ll feel fulfilled doing films alone. Theatre is rewarding and satisfying in a very different way. It makes me happy as it takes away stress. I couldn’t pick one over the other.
What made you choose the character of Ameer in Moothon? How challenging was it to do speech impaired and gay character?
I couldn’t have chosen to do Ameer. It’s easily among the most well written characters I’ve been offered. And the team of ‘Moothon’ was too irresistible to say no. It was a dream project.
The disability was scary, and it was a huge risk for me cause I’d never done anything like that before. I decided to give it my best shot. The rest of it was Geetu’s trust and guidance, Nivin Pauly’s support, Rajeev sir’s brilliance and the overall talent of every single person who worked on the film.
Him being gay was super exciting too. The more distant you are from a character you are, the more you have a shot at doing something that’s different from what you’ve done before. And an obvious difference like one in sexuality was great to explore, especially because it was essentially a love story. It was difficult but fun.
How much has your Grandpa inspired you? Was he the reason behind you becoming an artiste? You've spoken about him being a great fan of Shakespearean plays. Was that your spark to do theatre?
My grandpa is my hero. I’ve grown up on stories about him, from a lot of people. I’ve always thought that everything he has done was really cool. So he largely influenced me from a very young age. He passed away when I was quite young.
I attended college he went to. When I decided to take up theatre, grandma gave me the green signal saying at least one of his grandchildren had to walk the way he walked. So yeah, he has kept me company through my decisions, I guess.
About 'A Very Normal Family', so when everyone is into directing films, here you're directing plays? Are more coming up?
Exactly why should there be more people doing plays, right? Films will keep coming. Why can’t we also have more theatre on the side? It’s a great form of art. It’s live, it’s entertaining, it’s powerful, and has massive potential. There’s a lot of good theatre happening in Kerala, we’re just making an effort to do spark off a theatre culture in Kochi.
How much of a social person are you? You're rarely spotted at the Award events or any others?
I’m not great with big crowds unless I’m performing something. To just “appear” is an intimidating idea. I’m more of small circle-intimate-company kind of guy. But I do go for some events I’m invited to. I try and find some relevance to me being there, if I can.
‘Thottapan’ wasn't a commercial hit, but now many are talking about it after it was released on Netflix. What do you think about it? What made you take up role of Ismail?
‘Thottapan’ was a big heart break for me. I had huge hopes on that film. I think that the film deserved more attention. But you can’t ever say that about your own film, because you’re biased of course. It’s heart-warming to see the response it’s getting on Netflix. I like the movie. I know it has its flaws, and could’ve been better. But it has heart, I think.
Ismail was very different from everything I’d done before. And I really liked what director Shanavas had done before Thottappan, and I love all of actor Vinayakan’s work. So it was very easy movie to say yes to.
Films or theatre, which gives more satisfaction on work?
Both, in very different ways. Theatre is a lot of rigour and discipline, and I need that. Films throw surprises in front of me day after day. Everything is unpredictable, when its done right. And that’s scary and exciting. Right now, I’m eager to do more of both.
Even when more commercial or mass movies come up, the present audience is ready to skip those to watch movies like ‘Moothon’, ‘Chola’ or ‘Vikruthi’ to name a few? How do you see the audience shift?
Is it shift or widening of spectrum? Audiences in Kerala welcome all kinds of films. Last year, we had ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Kumbalangi Nights’. They’re almost willing to give every kind of film a shot. And most often, if you’ve made something worth their time, they’ll accept it. It’s a great setting for all kinds of films and filmmakers to really push the envelope.
People prefer watching things on Netflix, Amazon Prime or other mobile-streaming platforms these days, can theatre survive this new trend?
Theatre will always survive. Somehow. It’s been around for too long for a few apps and websites to kill it.
How is the film crew, sets, and comfort in Bollywood compared to Mollywood?
Each film is different, and I’ve only done one film in Bollywood. So I don’t think I’m really in a position to make a comparison.
How was it working with a director like Anurag Kashyap, who is also an active voice in political issues?
His politics are a part of his life, every minute of it. So yes, it influences everything he does, including his work. But he has never unavailable for a conversation or debate, and he has as much clarity about his films as he does about his politics.
Spending that much time with him was great for me though. The intensity with which he reacts to what’s happening in the country really shakes you up. He makes me question why I’m not as affected as he is. It’s our country, after all.