“There was a lot of doubt as to whether I would be able to play the part in Barah Aana” – Arjun Mathur

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I remember looking up Arjun Mathur when I saw him play the part of the struggling stage actor in Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance. Impressed by the ease with which he played the part of Abhimanyu, I was not surprised to hear that the young actor was a part of Raja Menon’s critically acclaimed, Barah Aana. As the young Aman who comes to Mumbai in hopes to fulfill his dreams of making it big, he has managed to create much buzz in the industry and heighten expectations for himself. Talented, he is but there is much more to Arjun Mathur than meets the naked eye. Honest, fun and extremely friendly, this is one actor to watch out for. And as for his performance in Barah Aana? Top-notch. Mathur has managed to keep his own in a film which housed the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Vijay Raaz in prominent roles. Check out what Arjun has to say to BollySpice about Barah Aana, acting with Naseeruddin Shah and his future ventures.

How did you get involved in Barah Aana?

I was called by the casting director, Nandini Shrikent, who is a very good friend also. I was auditioned first but she called me and told me about the part in the film, with Vijay Raaz and Naseeruddin Shah and I was immediately excited. And I went through a whole round of audtions. There was a lot of doubt as to whether I would be able to play the part because I am rather urban on everyone’s part from Raja [Menon] to the producer as to whether I would be able to pull off this guy living in the slum, but they were happy with the audition and it all worked out.

How true to real life would you say the character of Aman is? And the story?

I think the film in general is quite true to real life to an aspect of real life. In that I think Aman’s character is quite true in the sense that I don’t know that reality to be honest but it is a reality. There are so many people who must come to the city with the same dreams and hope which slowly dies.

Had you seen Raja Menon’s work before?

Actually no! I hadn’t seen Bas Yun Hi and I still haven’t seen it.

I suggest you watch it, it’s really good actually.

Is it? I was told so much by Raja himself, not to judge him from that film. He himself spoke not so nicely of it that I was like what’s the point? (Laughs)

How was he as a director?

He’s really good. He is quite clear with what he wants at the same time he gives a lot of space to the actors – a lot of space. Raja’s style is very simple and straightforward. He tells you how simply he wants to tell his story, there is no frills and here you go. I like Raja as a director. I’m just about to do something else with him – not a film.

And the production house? How was that experience?

It’s a nice homely atmosphere. There is Raja, his wife and bunch of really close knit from the Assistant Director to the office boy. Raja treats them like family so there is a family vibe. It’s really small and you don’t feel like there is anything corporate or huge about it. I dig that vibe!

This is actually the first time we see you in a love angle – a triangle in fact. How was that experience? How was it working with Tannishta and Violante?

(Laughs) It was interesting. More interesting than being part of a love angle or anything it was interesting to see how different his chemistry is with both the women. You’ve seen love triangles before they are all the same: the guy is chasing one girl and not chasing the other but over here it was so exaggerated by the class divide. I got to be two completely different people with both of them right down to the dialect that I speak. So it was cool. It was cool doing that because there is not so much romance other than that one scene where he tells Kate he loves her – which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way.

That was really cute by the way!

Yeah, I really like that scene. It made me vulnerable to be honest (laughs). I look forward to doing more romance – although not the cheesy romance ever. But love is the strongest emotion there is in the world!

And working alongside greats like Naseeruddin Shah and Vijay Raaz?

Brilliant! You can imagine how many times I’ve been asked this question obviously. But it was great man. It was not at all intimidating. On the first day itself, Naseer put me at ease, made me very comfortable. He calls me Mathur and treats me like a friend – which is really cool especially because before that all I had heard was Naseer is so scary and he has a terrible temper. It’s not true at all! (Laughs) He’s a very impressive man just by virtue of what he stands for, how strong he is about his opinions, how he doesn’t compromise and his creative outlook. And Vijay, wow! What a character! Honestly with Vijay Raaz you can’t tell where real life ends and where movies begin. When you’re hanging out with him, you just wonder, is he acting right now or is this just him? He is the most arbid person I have worked with and is just amazing. He’s a riot! Creates a very comfortable happy zone to be working in.

What is your interpretation of the metaphor to the title Barah Aana?

I don’t have my own interpretation to be honest because we all sat down together and there was a lot of discussion, confusion and suggestion over the title. The film was originally supposed to be called Bhaiya.

Oh really!

But that title was obviously with some Bhojpuri film (laughs). So we couldn’t go with that and then there was a lot of discussion as to what we should call the film. And then Barah Aana came along. So yeah, it’s a shortchanged life; its three-quarters there but not quite there.

You had to actually shoot in the slums and play the role of a waiter. How much preparation did you have to do for the role?

I’ll be honest I didn’t do too much preparation. I went to the slums and hung out a little bit. I didn’t spend any nights there or live in the slums, but I did make some visits. I observed the general vibe around the slums. My preparation to be honest was this one man, who works in the Bandra West office, whose name is Aman Shukla. Basically my character was inspired by him where he’s a young boy who has come from a small town to the city two years ago and after he has come to Bombay, he has started picking up English, dreaming big and trying to make a name for himself, that kind of thing. So spending time with him was my preparation. Also in terms of dialogue. If you notice in the film, I speak completely differently with Kate and differently with Rani and then differently with Naseer and Vijay. To get that North Indian dialect, I took Aman’s help a lot. I would go to him with the dialogue and it would be written in Hindi, but I would have it translated in his manner. I just went with that and that was on a day-to-day basis.

The film has received much accolades and recognition. How does that feel?

Has it? How much recognition has the film received?

The likes of Aamir Khan is coming out and tells audiences to watch the film Arjun!

To be honest, I would be a lot happier if the film had received a lot more than it has. I believe it was an important film but it was a very small film. And for that, I am happy for whatever it has got. But no, I am not surprised because we knew what we were doing was simple and true, real and nice. And how wrong can you go with people like Naseer and Vijay Raaz?

What will be coming up for you next?

I’m doing My Name is Khan with Karan Johar. Beyond that I have just signed Onir’s short film, Omar where I play the title character with Rahul Bose and Abhimanu Singh of Gulaal. And then there is a man called Sujoy Nambia who is making a film called Shaitaan and I think I’m doing that – I have really signed any papers as yet, but I’ve given my verbal approval to it. So that’s all for me!

One to watch out for? We certainly think so. And if you haven’t caught Barah Aana yet, this is definitely one to watch. We’re certain you will see a lot more of Arjun Mathur in the near future. And we will be bringing more of him to our readers. Watch this space for more!

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