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Kerala Crime Files actor Aju Varghese on web series debut: Format has never bothered me, my job is to act

Malayalam actor Aju Varghese talks about his upcoming web series Kerala Crime Files

Kerala Crime Files actor Aju Varghese on web series debut: Format has never bothered me, my job is to act
Aju Varghese in a still from Kerala Crime Files

Last Updated: 02.38 PM, Jun 20, 2023


It’s probably no surprise that Malayalam actor Aju Varghese was chosen as one of the leads for Disney+ Hotstar’s first ever web series in the language. He’s one of the few popular faces who have ensured his presence across formats – movies, short films and lately, even TV serials.

The actor, who is in his 13th year in his acting career, is now gearing up for his web series debut with the police procedural Kerala Crime Files, which is helmed by Madhuram director Ahammed Khabeer and also has Lal as part of its cast. In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Aju talks about his experience working in the new format, his lessons and what to look forward to.


You are one of very few actors who have been part of movies, short films and TV series. Did you any hesitation to sign up for a web series, when the makers of Kerala Crime Files approached you?

I started off in movies and then did short films and serials; usually, it’s the other way round. So, the format has never bothered me. My job is to act. The makers of Kerala Crime Files – director Ahammed Khabeer and producer Rahul Riji Nair – chose me to be part of this web series. I have watched both of Ahammed’s films and have also done a small role in June; so, I know how talented he is. I have also worked in Dakini, which is helmed by Rahul, who is a recipient of a National Award and a Kerala State Award. So, when these two capable directors were teaming up for a project, I didn’t have to enquire further; all I asked was, ‘When and for how long?’

It didn’t matter to me that it was a web series. I also didn’t know the scope of the project, that it was going to be Malayalam’s first ever web series and could be a start of a big revolution in Malayalam content.

Aju Varghese in a still from Kerala Crime Files
Aju Varghese in a still from Kerala Crime Files

You play a police officer in the web series and judging from the trailer, it’s a serious role that we haven’t seen you often in?

The plot is driven by an investigation led by a team of police officers – a circle inspector played by Lal sir, Navas Vallikkunnu, Zhinz Shan, Sanju Sanichen and myself. It’s based on a real incident that a Kerala police team had probed and won special honour for.

Coming to my role, the web series allows your character to have more layers, as in you can have several subplots that lets you know more about the person. In a movie, you might not be able to show everything in just a few scenes. In movies like Oru Vadakkan Selfie, Kamala and Saajan Bakery Since 1962, my characters had more screen time; otherwise, they have been limited. I believe because this is a web series, there’s a bit more length to the role I am playing.

A still from Kerala Crime Files
A still from Kerala Crime Files

How was it shooting for the web series?

It was a great experience. Working with Ahammed, my task was easy as I only had to showcase what he already had in mind. That was my sole focus. That said, there was a scene we were shooting at the High Court after midnight, and we had to go for 23 takes. I told Ahammed, we should shoot till he gets the exact shot he wants. On the 22nd take, we got it. There were a lot of people around and I was also embarrassed; I said let’s go for one more take because they shouldn’t feel that it was because I messed up. All of us strived to achieve his vision, and now it’s up to the audience to decide.

Aju Varghese and Lal in Kerala Crime Files.
Aju Varghese and Lal in Kerala Crime Files.

The format of a web series – where each episode is supposed to have high points and a cliffhanger to keep the audience engaged throughout the series – has made it tough for even accomplished filmmakers to adapt to it. As an artiste, how did you perceive the script of this six-episode series?

As far as I was concerned, it was engaging from start to finish. That’s all I cared for. Ahammed is someone who has already proved his craft. What I like about him as a director, he has always been able to extract the best out of his actors. For instance, Joju George in both June and Madhuram. Even I was looking out for someone who could push me and bring a special performance out of me.

How plausible is it that even our bigger stars would be part of the web series format in the future?

That’s their choice. We want to see them do such projects too, but if you see, theatrical releases are becoming bigger. So, I think both formats would thrive.

Aju Varghese in a still from the series
Aju Varghese in a still from the series

Doesn’t being open to more formats also give an actor a plethora of roles to pick from?

One of the biggest positives that I observed, while working on Kerala Crime Files, was that it’s got about 100 artistes and only 10 of them are popular; the rest are all newcomers. It was Ahammed and Rahul’s decision to go with that kind of casting. A lot of people who do Insta reels want to break into the industry but films have a limitation in terms of the number of artistes they can accommodate. In web series, there will be more characters and hence more opportunities to showcase their talent. This is not just limited to actors; it also includes technicians.

You have also wrapped up your second web series for Disney+ Hotstar that is helmed by Praveen Chandran and scripted by Deepu Pradeep.

Yes, it’s got Sunny Wayne and Nikhila Vimal in the lead. I have a character role in it. It’s a comedy entertainer. I can’t say much about it right now.

You were also part of 2018, which was widely acclaimed and also a huge hit.

I will not take any credit for 2018, it was a bonus for me. All credit for the movie goes to Jude Anthany Joseph, its producers Venu (Kunnappilly) chettan, Anto (Joseph) chettan, its assistant directors, its lead actors Tovino Thomas, Lal chettan, Asif Ali and the supporting cast. I didn’t have to endure any hardships while shooting the movie. I am thankful that I was invited to be part of a film like this that became an industry hit.

In films, I have just wrapped up the horror-thriller Phoenix. My next release is Valatty, in which I have given the voice for a rooster. I also have Nadikalil Sundari Yamuna and Ajayante Randam Moshanam coming up this year.

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