Dubai-based actor on starring in 'Thedal', a music video filmed in the city
Arjun Raman told us that 'Thedal' was inspired by "the idea of people living in big cities, chasing their dreams."
Dubai-based Arjun Raman, who has been juggling his day job (banking) with his passion (acting/modelling) for over ten years now, recently starred in a music video, Thedal, with South Indian actress Mamta Mohandas (pictured).
Thedal (meaning ‘search’), a Malayalam song with contemporary beats sung by Mamta and music director Sachin Warrier, tells a romantic tale with Dubai as the backdrop. It released on YouTube and other streaming platforms in September, to an enthusiastic response from fans as well as members of the Indian film and music industry.
In a chat Arjun told us that Thedal was inspired by “the idea of people living in big cities, chasing their dreams, always being on the move, in search of something.”
“Thedal is an independent music video which started off as a collaboration between music director Sachin Warrier of the South Indian film industry and UAE-based filmmaker Sachin Ramdas. The entire project was helmed and successfully produced by Mini Sarma of 7 Media Productions and Ivor Gracias.”
Actress Mamta Mohandas - who is also a singer - “loved the concept” said Arjun, when the makers approached her to get on board. “When the team was deciding on the perfect male lead opposite Mamta, my profile was considered, and I ended up working on the project as the male lead due to my past work and experience in the field,” he said.
Arjun revealed why he was drawn to the idea of working in this video, which was shot pre-Covid. “The concept of an international quality independent music video from South India is very uncommon and viewers generally do not get to see them unless the song is part of a movie. Therefore, it was interesting to work on something new and we were sure that the response would be positive considering the way things fell into place. We shot this music video during pre-Covid times, in the first week of March 2020.”
Juggling two jobs
As someone who has a full-time job in Dubai, what are some of the challenges Arjun faces in pursuing his acting ambitions? “Personally, I love to juggle between my day job and modeling/acting work. I have been at it for 10 years now having featured in 50 plus commercials and adverts for top international brands and have acted in ten English language internationally acclaimed short films besides doing stage dramas and one feature length film in South India.”
Arjun said he wanted to transcend boundaries of race and culture and evolve with his performances. “I have missed out on a lot of lucrative projects due to my work commitments. This lets me take a call on choosing quality projects. With lesser time on hand due to my day job, I make the most of my leisure time learning new acting techniques, observing performances, watching good content, travelling, widening my knowledge and overall mind space. I want to ultimately make inroads into world cinema as a performer irrespective of language or geography and be a source of inspiration for the ever-growing talents in UAE.”
Arjun, who started participating in stage plays when he was in school as part of cultural shows, got into modelling in 2009 post his university studies. “That was when agencies in Dubai started to mushroom and models of different ethnicities were required. Acting in films began around 2012 as I started collaborating with short film makers in this region where our films were shot and produced with local talents.”
'Dubai is home to us'
He credits the UAE with helping him pursue his passion and broadening his mindset. “I was born and bred in UAE. Dubai is home to us. Having travelled to most parts of the world, I can say that the residents of UAE are fortunate - the country has definitely provided us with the best standards of living, world class amenities and facilities, prosperity and has managed to set an example to the world. It has helped me connect with various cultures, which helps broaden one’s thoughts and ideas, a true help to the creative mind.”
The UAE is slowly making its way into the international spotlight with its creative projects. Arjun starred in the 2016 short film L'attente or The Wait (directed by Ashish Varghese), which was the first English language short film from the UAE to be picked up by OTT service Disney+Hotstar.
He said the project - shot entirely at a cafe in Oasis Centre - was “one of pride for our local film fraternity”, adding, “Being an English language film from this region, to utilising all local talents right from technicians to actors, to having it successfully screened at our local city multiplexes as part of its film festival runs, to winning awards internationally for best film and best actor (personally), the journey has been fulfilling and a lot to learn from.
"We felt elated when our film was picked up by Disney+Hotstar as we officially became the first English language short film from UAE to be selected and picked up by an international streaming platform. The response has been overwhelming as more and more people got to see the film.”
Keeping busy during Covid
Despite the Covid pandemic, innovative people found ways to hone their creative skills even with so many limitations. How did Arjun keep himself occupied during shutdown?
“Covid times have been challenging in every way we can think of. Things that we used to take for granted are coming back at us in the form of life lessons. The only simple way is to stay optimistic and move forward. Such times have given creative people newer ways to interact and entertain viewers via YouTube and OTT platforms thereby reaching out to a wider audience in the bargain.”