South Africa chased down 259 with seven balls to spare in the T20 match against West Indies
He may be relatively new to the Malayalam film industry, having debuted in 2016 with Puthiya Niyamam, but theatre aficionado Roshan Mathew is today a name associated with good films and great performances.
Geetu Mohandas’ ‘new wave’ festival favourite Moothon catapulted him into the national gaze with maverick director Anurag Kashyap head-hunting him for Netflix movie Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai. He followed this up with a slew of power-packed performances in movies like Kappela and C U Soon.
In Amazon Prime Video’s socio-political thriller Kuruthi (Ritual slaughter), directed by Manu Warrier, Roshan rubs shoulders with his Koode co-star Prithviraj (who also doubles up as the producer) and an ensemble cast including Srindaa, Shine Tom Chacko, Murali Gopy and Mamukkoya.
In a candid chat with City Times over Zoom, Roshan is his usual affable self, philosophical at times while referring to the ephemeral nature of his job, with an inherent humility that sees him questioning his own worth and, of course, that shy smile that has made him a heartthrob among many viewers.
What attracts you to sign on for a movie considering run-of-the-mill roles aren’t your forte?
It is a different bunch of reasons for every movie. I will tell you why I picked Kuruthi. I was most excited about the cast and the script because it is structured in a way that each character joins one by one and then they are all together. That’s a lot of play with this amazing bunch of actors. Apart from it being an action thriller or an entertainer, there are certain layers that made it very exciting. And I wanted to work with Prithvi again… These are the reasons for Kuruthi, but trust me the reasons are different for each movie.
You have spoken about how your character Ibrahim in Kuruthi is very different from the ones you have played before. But was there a common ground between you and your character that helped you ease into your role?
I could relate to the idea of discovering (in a situation) more strength than you thought you had within you. That happens with Ibrahim a lot. He starts off from this very given up place and when the fight has already begun and there is no option but to fight, he finds that strength within him. I’m not talking purely about physical strength. I found that situation he found himself in most relatable.
How was it acting alongside Prithviraj after Koode?
There is a lot of energy that Prithvi carries and that kind of spills across. You try to match that energy and I really enjoyed that in Kuruthi. I got to work with him extensively — we were both on set from the first day of filming. A lot of our sequences are with each other. We were constantly feeding off each other’s energy and I really enjoyed that sort of give and take with Prithvi. Apart from that, you can always tell when an actor is really enjoying what he is doing and having a ball with each shot.
The whole point of the fulfillment that comes from working with a great cast is that anything that you give them, they double and return to you and that game sort of keeps going. So that happened with Prithvi and with every other actor on the set of Kuruthi. There are so many qualities that I respect in Prithvi. When I’m playing a character, my perspective is only of that character. But Prithvi has that character and he is also a maker and that side of him is very strong and active. It was interesting to watch the kind of clarity that he comes in with; the kind of points that he brings up because of both perspectives.
You have turned in great performances in all your movies so far. But does it ever scare you that your career is dependent on the choices you make?
Either way that worry sort of stays with you, right? Even before my work was spoken about or I was a name that people associated with good films, every movie seemed like life or death for me. And that hasn’t changed. Even right now I feel if I don’t do this particular project that I’m working on well, I’m not going to have work after this.
It is an unpredictable industry and I don’t think I have found the sort of comfort, to just sit back and assume that work will keep coming to me. Because there are so many brilliant actors all over and for any part that’s offered to me, I can think of other people who can do it, and maybe do it even better than me.
Add to that the fact that (you are being very kind but I really don’t think I have done all of my parts well) I have made mistakes with some (movies), my judgment has been off with some, so this sort of keeps you grounded.
With many of your recent movies coming out on OTT platforms, do you miss the buzz of a theatrical release?
I definitely miss everything about the theatres; be it the release or the collective experience of watching a movie in a theatre. How many other experiences do you frequently have where you are in a room filled with strangers and all of you are on some sort of a journey together? That’s quite special right? I’ve been sitting and romanticising about that since theaters shut. But it is an unrealistic expectation for us right now and given the current scenario I’m very glad that there are avenues like OTT platforms where our films can reach their audience.
What happened with Kappela, C U Soon and Choked was a little unexpected but it still does feel like release day somehow when a movie comes out on an OTT platform. There is still some noise around it and it is all so absurd because you are sitting at home and there are no people around you but you can feel that your work is suddenly out there. There is a different kind of excitement that comes with that also.
Roshan’s Onam memories
With Kuruthi being touted as an Onam release, Roshan is hopeful of spending the upcoming festive day with his family. He recollects his fondest Onam memories as the ones from his childhood when he and his cousins would assemble at this grandparents’ house.
“And there are these films that would premiere on TV on Onam day which we’d desperately want to watch. But your parents want to watch another film; the elder cousins want to watch other films… You want to watch a comedy but they’d want to watch an action film, so you really have to argue and win your right to watch that one film.”
While he says thinking about those days is fun now, “back then it used to be really frustrating when you don’t win the argument.” He adds; “The stakes were really high. There would be kids crying and yelling at each other!”
“Kuruthi is an unconventional Onam release because of the kind of film it is. Then again in my childhood it wasn’t like a happy festival meant I had to watch a happy film! A happy festival just meant I had to watch a good film that I was excited about. Hope everyone has a happy Onam and that Kuruthi is a good addition to all that they are doing for themselves.”
Roshan’s Bollywood movies
Roshan made his Bollywood debut last year on Netflix with Anurag Kashyap’s ‘kitchen sink’ drama Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai. He played an unconventional leading man as Sushant, the jobless husband of bank employee Sarita Pillai (Saiyami Kher) whose life is turned upside down when her kitchen drain spews out bundles of cash.
It was an unorthodox debut, but perhaps not a surprising pick for Roshan who has chosen not to take the straight and rose-strewn path to stardom.
“Choked was an opportunity of a lifetime and to work with AK and so I made it happen. I planned my things around it,” he says when asked how he manages to balance out his roles down South with his Bollywood stint.
“Similarly, Darlings came up and again it was a big opportunity and I made some space for it.” The Jasmeet K Reen directed comedy drama, backed by Shah Rukh Khan’s Chillies Entertainment, stars Roshan alongside Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma. It also speaks volumes about the actor’s humility that in his social media post following the last schedule of Darlings, he says - ‘I hope I’ve not let you down’. It is a sentiment that seems to emanate from the self-effacing actor who does not seem content to rest on his laurels.
Besides Darlings, Roshan has his plate full down South with a selection of movies including Chathuram (‘I still have some dubbing work to do’), Kothu (‘I have a schedule to finish’) and Kumari and Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, both of which have been pushed back due to the pandemic. There is also a Tamil movie to be wrapped up. So fans can look forward to seeing more of the talented Roshan Mathew.
Kuruthi is out on Amazon Prime Video from August 11
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