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In Conversation With Roshan Mathew

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Hailing from the Kottayam district of Kerala, Roshan Mathew caught the acting virus quite early in his college years during his second year of his physics bachelor’s degree in Chennai. Although he’s always been inclined to act since his school days, he had a professional opportunity when Stagefright Productions came to his college, looking for potential actors to be a part of their production of Dirty Dancing. Mathew ended up packing the role of Neil Kellerman and began his theatrical journey. Soon, as can be expected, he fell in love with the craft. “I really fell in love with the energy I found in this space. Chennai’s theatrical scene is unlike Mumbai, not everyone in the theater is a professional actor. These are usually people who have day jobs that they don’t like, but have a passion for the theater. And that’s the only way for them to follow it. So the time they spend in rehearsals is really busy, and I think that’s what got me hooked. Mathew then decided to take a break from physics and pledged to take action by enrolling at The Drama School Mumbai.

After getting a taste of theater, Mathew then turned to films and eventually made his Malayalam debut with the film Adi Kapyare Kootamani. He then made his second film – Puthiya Niyamam – with some of Malayalam’s biggest actors like Mammootty and Nayanthara. But Mathew’s role in these two films was limiting and didn’t seem like enough to get the attention of the right people. Then came Aanandam in 2016, where her role as rockstar Gautham got her all the attention it deserved, and there has been no looking back since. His cinematic journey has really started. Along the way, he began to move towards more independent narratives, which helped him become a part of Thottappan. The film was not a financial success, but garnered several positive reviews and helped Geetu Mohandas confidently assume the role of Mathew in his film Moothon. The film was a huge hit with critics after its premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Moothon undoubtedly opened several doors for Mathew and caught the attention of an important man – Anurag Kashyap – who produced and co-wrote Moothon. Cue the celebrity, cue Choked.

“AK was going through the first edition of Moothon. He really liked what he saw, and he told Geetu about it. She then texted me saying that Anurag Kashyap had just looked at you and said some really nice things. That was enough for me, I felt that my year was over. But within five minutes I get a call from Kashyap and tell me that I did a great job and that he wants me to watch a script he’s working on, which turned out to be Choked, ”said he remembers. OTT platforms have undoubtedly been the saving grace for new actors and experimental films. Mathew thinks it gives everyone a “level playing field” by giving space to stories like Choked, a movie that probably wouldn’t have worked out as a traditional theatrical release. A platform like Netflix has also helped boost the popularity of Kappela, another great film where Mathew’s performance was applauded. Following its massive Netflix release, C U Soon is Mathew’s latest project on Amazon Prime Video. The film was completely conceptualized and shot while on lockdown, on a phone. “This film is unlike any other film that I have made, or has never been made in Indian cinema before. It’s a very unique thriller, and I’m extremely excited. “

None of the actors were on a set, nor were they physically interacting with each other, everything was digital through their screens. Yet Mathew eventually worked with Fahadh Faasil, an actor he greatly admired, and someone who is considered the standard bearer of new-age Malayalam cinema. “Faasil is a huge inspiration, and I easily consider him one of the greatest actors we have. So for me it was great to sit down and watch him play. One thing about him is that of course he knows how to bring out his emotions organically, but he also knows how to interact with the camera in the best technical way possible. I learned a lot. Besides C U Soon, Mathew is also currently working on finalizing a few Hindi films. We’ll also see him in the movie Pennum Cherukkanum, and make his big-budget Tamil debut with Cobra alongside Vikram. There is no doubt that we are living in the golden age of Malayalam cinema right now. The industry was applauded for its films in the 80s and 90s, but then fell somewhat in the quality of the films it produced after 2005. However, the Malayalam film industry had its second coming, with bolder stories, more experimental narratives, and a whole new breed of unconventional filmmakers and actors who have contributed to this reinvention. Roshan Mathew is the newest name, and certainly one of the most promising too.

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