Though he’s been part of the film industry for over a decade now, actor Arjun Mathur has become a social media star with his portrayal of a gay character in Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven. The nine-episode web series, which released last month, is still being discussed and so is Arjun’s character Karan, who along with his friend and business partner Tara Khanna (played by Sobhita Dhulipala) plan lavish weddings in Delhi.
Arjun, is currently being seen in Bejoy Nambiar’s web series for Eros Now, Flip, which is an anthology show. The actor recalls doing the project three years ago. “Bejoy and I have been wanting to collaborate for a while and when I read the script of Flip, I liked it. It was in a wacky space and therefore it was fun for me,” he says.
The actor who has starred in films like Kyun! Ho Gaya Na..., Luck by Chance, Mumbai Cutting, I Am, and Ankur Arora Murder Case, is working for both web and big screen. He says that he never looks at the format or where is content is going (to be released), while selecting a script. “I just focus on the script and my character. Where the project lands up is often not in our hands like the film I did, Brij Mohan Amar Rahe. When I shot the film, we didn’t know if it will have a theatrical release or not. But we still gave us our best and it released on Netflix, which was much better, as we got a much wider audience.”
As the discussion moves to Made in Heaven, Arjun is happy with the attention the series and his character is getting. The series has been written and directed by Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Nitya Mehra and Alankrita Shrivastava. Ask him how much was it a collaboration between him and the creators, while playing such a sensitive character, and he replies, “It was more of a collaboration between Zoya, Reema and Alankrita while they were writing the series.”
“They created the character and as an actor they just found the right person to come and breathe some light into it. Having said that, while portraying it on screen, every bit of it was a joint effort. I am an instinctive actor but I am also very much a director’s actor. I need my director to be clear and focused on where s/he needs my character to go. Then I need to trust the person. On this particular project, I was in such good hands, even the technicians were close friends so it was comforting for me to be able to do whatever they wanted,” he adds.
Arjun has portrayed a gay character for third time on screen. He played a similar character in Mira Nair’s Migration and Onir’s I Am. Isn’t he worried about being stereotyped? Arjun says that after Made in Heaven, he’s been offered two gay parts. “To be honest, I will do it again if I like script and character. Out of 30 films, if four are gay parts, it’s no big deal. Our heroes are not being stereotyped for playing heterosexual men? I have played heterosexual character in most of my films. All my career, people have tried to stereotype me either as the hero’s best friend, social cause actor or gay character, but it’s up to me on what kind of roles I want to do.”
After all the success, there are reports about the makers of Made in Heaven working on the second season. Arjun says, “I can only say that it’s happening for sure. But I won’t be able talk about it further.”
There is no denying that Arjun has found a whole new success on the web. The actor says the creative freedom the medium offers are mostly for the creators and writers. “They are ones who are creating these stories and working out such characters. As actors we are lucky that we are able to dive into these character that have been created for us. As an actor what matters is that we live the character for much longer and the audience that we reach is massive. Imagine doing a small film which hardly gets a proper release in comparison to doing a series like this, which reaches 280 countries,” he explains.
After being part of such high content show, Arjun says he won’t compromise on the content in films. “That’s the way I have operated all my life. I never compromise on my work or what I believe in. Especially after Made in Heaven I am far more conscious about the quality of work I want to be part of. Just like films, a lot of content is being created on the web. It’s like a gold rush right now because every production house wants to make content for the digital platform, but the quality is so compromised. I don’t want to touch it,” he says before signing off.