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Exclusive! Arjun Lal: Glad we could lend diversity to Dear Friend as that is what Bengaluru is all about

The Thanmathra actor has also co-written the screenplay of Vineeth Kumar’s Dear Friend, which has Tovino Thomas, Darshana Rajendran, Basil Joseph, Sanchana Natarajan and Arjun Radhakrishnan

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 10.04 AM, Jun 08, 2022

Exclusive! Arjun Lal: Glad we could lend diversity to Dear Friend as that is what Bengaluru is all about

Dear Friend poster and Arjun Lal | Credit: Vishnu Shankar

Despite having acted in only two films in the past 17 years, Arjun Lal’s role in Mohanlal’s Thanmathra is still fresh in the minds of the audience. He is now gearing up for his next release Dear Friend, which is based on his story and also had him co-writing the screenplay with Suhas and Sharfu.

However, Arjun Lal is quick to say that it wasn’t a film that he pitched with the intention of becoming a scriptwriter. “That just happened. When I get a story idea, before narrating it to someone, I usually have the screen order or a basic screenplay structure ready,” he tells OTTplay in an exclusive interview. “So, from the feedback I got for Dear Friend and also based on my instinct, I knew that the story would work. That’s when I thought maybe I could write it as well. It became more structured when Suhas and Sharfu too worked on the script.”

While writing was not planned, Arjun Lal says he definitely wanted to act in it. “In fact, from the very beginning, I had that in mind and I wanted to play this particular character. I was in Bengaluru for a lot of years. I had friends who worked in start-ups, I did my MBA there and even my love life evolved in Bengaluru; so the city is always special. The movie is a fictional version of all of that and that’s why this character excited me a lot,” he says.

Ask him why Bengaluru and he says, “The story demanded a place like that. As it’s my story and I am familiar with the city, that’s why it is set there. But it can happen anywhere because the film is about what happens between the characters. There’s fun, emotions and suspense; it’s a mixed bag. It has a mystery but it essentially revolves around the politics in friendships.”

The locations outside Kerala also posed challenges for the team, especially with the pandemic. “This wasn’t a film that was planned to be shot during the pandemic. It was greenlit in 2019; we were working on the script and the production side was ready. After Tovino also came onboard, we finalised the dates. But it got pushed due to the pandemic,” he says. “Also, because the film was to be shot in Bengaluru and Mumbai, we also had to keep in mind when the restrictions were relaxed and shooting was permitted at these places while planning the schedules.” The movie was shot in September 2021 and had completed its entire shoot last year.

Another highlight of the film is its casting with Tovino Thomas, Darshana Rajendran, Basil Joseph, Arjun Radhakrishnan and Sanchana Natarajan in the lead roles. On how they zeroed in on the actors to play the parts, Arjun Lal says, “Once we finalised Tovino, it was easy to get Basil and Darshana onboard. They were so apt for the characters that we didn’t have to look at other options. In my case, I had already booked the slot. But we had auditioned the most number of people to play Arjun Radhakrishnan and Sanchana’s characters and they were the last two to join the team.”

Both Sanchana and Arjun Radhakrishnan were suggested by the film’s co-producer Sameer Thahir. “In Sanchana’s case, we didn’t even have to make her audition because of her performance in Sarpatta Parambarai,” says Arjun Lal, adding that Arjun Radhakrishnan had previously worked with the cinematographer-director in Pada.

Apart from the fresh onscreen team-ups, the actor also says that it coincidentally mirrored what he wanted the story to represent. “In hindsight, it all worked out and we could bring that diversity in the casting. Ultimately, Bengaluru is all about that. It’s a hub for people from across the country and we could reflect that in the film’s casting,” he says.

Incidentally, the film’s director Vineeth Kumar, much like Arjun Lal, is known for playing the role of the younger version of Mammootty’s character Chandu in Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha in 1989. Point this out to Arjun Lal to ask him if it was ever a topic of discussion between the two and he says, “Yes, in his case, his face hasn’t changed much either. Recently, we have been travelling a lot together because he stays near my place and we have been talking a lot. Come to think of it, there are a lot of similarities – both of us trained classical dancers and became part of films at a very young age.”