Arjan Bajwa on new OTT series Bestseller and the magic of the big screen

The Bollywood actor hopes cinema will be back in full swing while praising the OTT format for telling good stories.


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Wed 9 Mar 2022, 3:02 PM

Actor Arjan Bajwa, who made his Bollywood breakthrough with Guru (2007) and won accolades for his role in 2008’s Fashion opposite Priyanka Chopra, is someone who despite having transitioned to OTT platforms with series like State of Siege: 26:11 and the recent Amazon Prime Video thriller Bestseller, believes the magic of cinema still lies on the big screen.

In a recent Zoom interview with City Times he shared that he was looking forward to cinema being enjoyed completely once more in its original format.

“That’s what we did all this while till the pandemic,” he said commenting on how OTT’s expansion was in most part due to the stay-home conditions the lockdowns enforced. “It was not this big! Both of them (OTT and the pandemic) came together - one was a boon and one was a bane! And our dear cinema halls had to take a back seat. The magic of movies happens only on the big screen, whatever said and done, so I’m really hoping that the world gets completely free of this whole situation of the pandemic and we go back to the movies and theatres.”

Having said that, Arjan (who also made a mark in the 2016 crime thriller Rustom) was appreciative of the growing opportunities for storytelling that OTT brings to the table.

Good stories with OTT

Because of time constraints in the standard film format, it’s not always feasible to showcase a story in its entirety which is why OTT becomes a good option, Arjan said.

“On OTT you are getting to tell good stories which are not possible to make into a two or two-and-a-half hour film. I guess OTT has really made a huge difference, because a lot of times there were stories no one would make because of the time factor, but now you can make such stories into a series.”

He gave the example of his latest project Bestseller, an engaging 8-part thriller about a down-on-his-luck writer (Tahir Wazir), who grabs the opportunity to write his next bestseller using someone else’s story, unleashing a violent chain of events. He described the role as “exciting and challenging”.

“Tahir Wazir is not somebody who is just one-dimensional but layered, intriguing and complex. He is going through so much and so many facets of his life come to the fore. You have to really switch on and off between so many moods. But I guess that’s any director’s job… to kind of make you sail through it.”

‘Life is absolutely grey’

The moral ambiguity of the role makes it a tough call but Arjan feels audiences are more willing now to accept lead actors playing parts that are not stereotypically ‘hero’ or ‘villain’, as well as films that don’t have a “a simple or straightforward approach with a good guy and a bad guy.”

“Now we are seeing very realistic and very human stories about people. And life is not black and white at all, life is absolutely grey,” he added.

Actors Shruti Haasan, Gauahar Khan and Mithun Chakraborty (who is making his digital debut playing eccentric investigating officer Lokesh Pramanik) form part of Bestseller’s talented ensemble cast.

“It was a reunion of sorts,” said Arjan, adding, “I last worked with Mithun in Guru, and I had a great time shooting with him for Bestseller. Superstars don’t achieve their status just by hit films or a long career - it’s also because of how they treat others.”

He also shared that Mithun was like an “excited kid or debutant” on the Bestseller set. “That’s a great quality; you cannot ever be complacent about your work. I really want to imbibe it and absorb it in my life and career as well.”

Arjan remarked how he and Gauahar (who is an old friend so no breaking of the ice was required) would “burst out laughing” after doing a romantic scene, and how Shruti was “a multi-talented actress with a great sense of humour.”

Asked who he would love to collaborate with in Bollywood, Arjan promptly replied, “Actors are greedy! They want to work with everybody. But definitely with the Greek god of the Hindi film industry, Hrithik Roshan - I’m really a big admirer of his work and the living legend, Amitabh Bachchan. I also want to work with Shah Rukh Khan!”

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