The actor, who played Pranav Mohanlal’s friend and batchmate in the Vineeth Sreenivasan directorial, tells us about working in the movie, the lessons from Darshana Rajendran and more
Last Updated: 07.38 AM, Jan 27, 2022
Hridayam is undoubtedly a big break for Venjaramoodu-based actor Aswathlal, who played the best friend of Pranav Mohanlal’s character in the movie. As Antony Thadikaran, the 28-year-old, who had previously acted in films such as Aaha and Pathinettam Padi, made a mark for himself, proving that he can handle emotional and humour scenes with as much ease.
Pranav missing from the promotions of the film has also kept Aswathlal busy – from theatre visits to interviews. In a candid chat amid his packed schedule, OTTplay caught up with the actor to know about his experience working in the Vineeth Sreenivasan directorial with Pranav and Darshana Rajendran.
Could you take us through your initial reaction when Vineeth told you about your character Antony and his importance in the script?
We had a two-day script-reading session at a hotel in Kochi, when he narrated the story to all of us. What I found most interesting about the experience was that after Vineeth ettan explained what he wanted from the script, he asked us to share the picture of our characters that we had in our minds. I don’t think usually a director would ask that from newcomers. They tell us what they are looking for and ask us to perform based on that. But Vineeth ettan asked each of us for suggestions that we wanted to add. Some of us gave inputs that he added to the script because he thought that improved our characters.
Was the reading session the first time that you met Vineeth?
He cast me in the role after my performance at the auditions. I told him that I haven’t done characters that journey through an array of emotions like this, and asked him if I would be able to pull it off. He told me, ‘It’s fine. Just go with the flow. I am also there with you and let’s flow together’.
It’s a character that every actor would want at the beginning phase of their career. Did you put in any extra preparation after having landed the part?
My mind was blank. Even when Vineeth ettan asked us after the script-reading session, I was the only one who had nothing to add. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I only had Vineeth ettan’s version of the character in my mind and used that even while performing in front of the camera. He also has the gift to vividly explain the emotions of a character; you could see those emotions in his eyes. He would tell you in detail the positions you have to be in and that’s all that’s required.
Your scenes mostly come in the first half during the college phase. How much could you relate to the sequences in the movie?
I have enjoyed my college days the most in my life. A lot of situations that I had experienced and seen in my life are shown in Hridayam. So, I could connect to the scenes well. For instance, a junior, who was my friend, had passed away like in the film. I believe Vineeth ettan also believed that I could essay the character, while conversing with me about the various incidents.
There’s an emotional scene where you tell Pranav that you would be going to the funeral – with or without him. You had earlier mentioned that both of you didn’t rehearse that sequence.
Usually before doing any scene, Vineeth ettan would brief us about the characters’ mindset. There wouldn't be too many rehearsals per se, but he would give us pointers. For this sequence, he didn’t come to us. I have never acted in such an emotional scene before. But I wanted Vineeth ettan to say ‘okay’ this sequence. I told Appu (Pranav) too this, because it’s an important scene and we were on the same page. But Vineeth ettan was busy setting up the shot; he never came to us to explain what we had to do.
Another factor was that we hadn’t shot the camaraderie sequences with Selva at all, prior to this. So, we only knew what Selva’s character was through the script. We didn’t have any combination sequences and we wanted Vineeth ettan to tell us. But he went behind the camera and said we can start. I quickly asked him to explain how to go about it. He said, ‘I haven’t planned how to take this scene. You guys know the script, so just perform and I will shoot it accordingly’.
Both Appu and I exchanged quick glances at each other. Vineeth ettan said, ‘You guys can go ahead and if there’s any correction, I will let you know. Before that, I won’t say anything’. That’s how that scene was captured. I believe it came out fine only because of the trust Vineeth ettan, Appu and I had in each other.
Vineeth has said in some of his interviews that Pranav and you had struck up a chemistry from the start and that helped your scenes in the film. How much did that bond evolve during the shoot?
Before meeting him, I had this picture in my mind that he has worked in several films with experienced actors and knew about the craft. He thought the same about me, but when we told each other that we didn’t have much clue about this, that instantly broke the ice between us.
We shot for almost 60 days. Even though I didn’t have scenes for the entire duration, I was there on the sets throughout the filming. More than the actor, it was a delight to be with Pranav, the person. We used to talk about travel and it’s a great experience conversing with him. You could learn a lot of new things in terms of how he approaches life. He has travelled the world more than we have, and so has a lot of experiences to share.
After Pranav, you must have shared screen space with Darshana the most. How was it working with her?
She has a rich background in theatre and I am someone who has always wanted to do plays. Even when I started acting, I wanted to do theatre, but my mentors asked me to stick to cinema now. However, I got to work with a lot of people from that arena – be it Darshana in Hridayam or Roshan Mathew in my next film, Oru Thekkan Thallu Case.
Darshana would share a lot of her thoughts about the sequence that helped improve our performance. For instance, she would say, if my character Antony also thought like this, I could also get into that emotional space. For me, sharing screen space with her was a huge learning curve.
The responses for the role must be pouring in. What was that one feedback that you hold close to your heart?
There was an experience that happened before Hridayam released. Roshan and I had completed our portions for Oru Thekkan Thallu Case and went to a canteen to have our breakfast. Both of us were wearing masks. A man entered the place, looked at each other and then proceeded to talk to the owner. He then returned and told us, ‘I know both of you’. He pointed at Roshan and said his name. He said, ‘I enjoyed your performance in Kappela and I recently watched your film, Thottappan’. By then, Roshan lowered his mask to thank him. The man then looked at me and said, ‘You have acted in Hridayam’s song’. I was amazed because the movie hadn’t come out and only a couple of songs were released online. So, he recognised me from just the fleeting visuals of a song.
Roshan told me, ‘It’s a huge recognition for you because your movie hasn’t released yet and you were wearing a mask, but still they identified you as the actor from the Darshana song’. After the movie hit theatres, a lot of people from the industry called me to share positive feedback, but this remains special.