In an exclusive interview, Malayalam actor Arjun Ashokan talks about working with Mammootty in Bramayugam and why he feels February 2024 is a month that Malayalam cinema will be proud of
Post pandemic, Malayalam star Arjun Ashokan has truly come into his own – delivering memorable performances in movies such as Madhuram, Super Sharanya, Thuramukham and Romancham. This month, he promises to push it further by showcasing two different sides of himself as a performer in Rahul Sadasivan’s Bramayugam and Nadirshah’s Once Upon A Time in Kochi.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, ahead of the two releases, the actor talks to us about what he learnt from working with Mammootty in the upcoming period horror survival-thriller and why he’s now more driven to do “good movies and good characters”.
Also read: Bramayugam movie review: Mammootty's black-and-white experiment paints an engaging tale about the politics of power
You are obviously not allowed to talk much about the film or your character, but how challenging was it to play this role in Bramayugam opposite Mammootty?
It’s a totally different character than anything I have played so far. Even though I have worked with Mammukka earlier in Unda, I haven’t had as much screen time with him like I do in this film. You get to learn a lot while acting with him. When you read a script, you would have visualised it in a particular way; but how he conceives it and delivers it on the spot would be extremely different from what you had in mind. At times, he would just leave you speechless. To experience that in close quarters and to see him get into the skin of the character, is a huge blessing.
I believe Bramayugam has refined me as an actor, in various ways; be it how its director Rahul (Sadasivan) chettan explained about the character or how my co-stars Mammukka and Sidharth (Bharathan) ettan helped with the process, it’s something that I will cherish.
I share the most screen time in the movie with Sidharth ettan, who is an actor as well as a filmmaker, and he has helped me perform a lot. He treated me like a brother on the set, and it was great spending time on that set. Rahul ettan and his team were also very cool to work with. The only tension was to act with Mammukka, but he makes you feel at ease after sometime. That said, you are always conscious when you are acting with him.
You haven’t done too many films with a period setting. Did that also get you to showcase a different side of you as a performer?
I had only done another period film, Thuramukham , prior to this that again had me in an intense role. For that film, which was set in the 1950s, there were certain words that had to be pronounced differently. (Scriptwriter) Gopan Chidambaram sir was there throughout to help us with the diction. Similarly, in Bramayugam, TD Ramakrishnan sir was there on the sets and we used to discuss the dialogues and settings – all of that let me understand the character and the world better.
Rahul ettan was also extremely clear about what he wanted. His entire team was, and we just had to go with that flow. I actually enjoyed working with the crew of the film.
The kind of the films that you have been part of in the past few years – be it Madhuram and Super Sharanya to Trishanku and Bramayugam – were with filmmakers who were trying to do something new but were clear about what they hoped to achieve. As an actor, does that focus make your job easier?
It depends on each character. In the case of Bramayugam, there’s nothing that I could add from my side. We discussed while I was trying to define the character’s traits, and if Rahul ettan thought my suggestions were good, he would tell me to use it, else he would ask to drop it. But after two days, you get into the groove.
For certain movies, where I speak in Kochi slang or I’m playing a fun role, I try to improvise. But again, I only include that in my performance if the director likes it. I like being a director’s actor because it also helps my characters stay different. I also try to not repeat myself as much as possible.
Your second film this month, Once Upon A Time in Kochi, is an entertainer – a genre that you have shone in, with films such as Romancham and Jan.E.Man. Having done so many films, do you have a preference in terms of the kind of films that you are comfortable doing?
I try not to have any preference because I want to explore different kinds of characters, especially after Bramayugam. Now, there’s a drive to be part of good films and to do good roles.
February is also a good month. Right now, Premalu, which is from Super Sharanya’s team that you were part of is doing well. You have two releases this month, and then your friends are all part of Manjummel Boys. As someone from the industry and also part of these gangs, are you excited about all of these films?
Oh yes! You can never do a film alone. Making a movie is always about teamwork. So, this is a great month for Malayalam cinema. Both Premalu and Anweshippin Kandethum are getting great responses from the audience. I am also looking forward to Bramayugam, the same way I am excited about Manjummel Boys that has all my friends.
Once Upon A Time in Kochi is another great film. I am lucky to work with Nadirshah ikka as he’s collaborated with my father. Raffikka has written the script for the movie, which has his son Mubin in the lead . I am sure February 2024 is a month that Malayalam cinema can be proud of.
What are your upcoming projects?
After these two movies, I have Liju Thomas’ Anpodu Kanmani coming up. We had completed the shoot in January. I also have Vinayan sir’s son Vishnu Vinay’s Anand Sreebala.