I arrive at CCD and am greeted by a humble guy in his early 30s wearing a white shirt and a large smile. His beaming face and excitement made perfect sense when he told me that The Punekar was the first to do a one-on-one interview with him!
“There have been some interviews on the movie, but not on me. I’m not a known face, you see. So no one is interested,” he explained, “They all said, aapka actor star nahi hai.” Thus began our conversation on the struggle of becoming an actor with our Pune boy, Arjun Radhakrishnan.
For those who don’t know, Arjun plays the lead role in the upcoming movie, Shreelancer. I open with the obvious question. So, tell me about your movie.
“The story is of Shreepad Naik, a freelancer who does odd jobs to make ends meet – writing pamphlets and small bits here and there. I come from a generation where everyone was pushed towards engineering and doctoring; towards stability. ‘Following your dreams’ wasn’t really an option. Hence, his story is really close to me.”
Is the struggle real?
“You have no idea. Small budget films don’t get any publicity. The media is least interested if there’s no famous actor starring in the movie. I understand that the media has to make money, but that also means newcomers don’t get a chance.”
What about your struggle? How did you get here?
“I always wanted to become an actor; since the age of five! At the time, my favourite was the Malyali actor Mammootty. But I too got caught up in the middle class life – graduated college and got in to KPMG where I worked for two years. One fine day, I just decided to quit. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I had had enough. I was rather naïve, I actually believed that it would take a year to find work. It took me four years to get a movie!”
I too got caught up in the middle class life – graduated college and got in to KPMG where I worked for two years
Arjun laughs it off and goes on. “I started by taking several workshops at FTII; I’ve done several student films, training, and even some theatre when I was in Bombay. I’ve done a few commercials, but you know how it is with commercials; dark skin nahi chahiye. Besides, if you get a reputation as a ‘commercial guy’, it’s tough getting in movies. So, I managed paycheck to paycheck, until this came along.”
Arjun takes a long sip of his coffee, then continues. “The rejections get easier though. With time, you learn to not take it personally. By the way, did you know there’s such a thing as, ‘too good looking’? Anyway, most of the time you never really know why you’re rejected, you just put yourself out there. The bigger problem is rent in Bombay.”
Wow. We’ve all heard this, but it felt suddenly so real coming from someone sitting in front of me.
You imagine 500 people on the set with big equipment, lots of lights, someone yelling “Action!” and all that. Well, it’s not like that at all.
So, how did your movie get picked up to be released?
“This is Sandeep Mohan’s (the director) third independent film. Since completion, it’s been shown in colleges, cafés, and even homes on request. It premiered at the New York Film Festival, where it was noticed by Manish Mudhra. He helped us produce the movie.”
How does it feel now? Being in a movie?
“When you do your first movie, you’re thinking, ‘Oh man, I’m in a movie!’ You imagine 500 people on the set with big equipment, lots of lights, someone yelling “Action!” and all that. Well, it’s not like that at all. There were a total of 5-6 people on the set, besides the actors. Actually, sometimes there were no ‘sets’, we were shooting on the streets. Now that it’s releasing, my brain has gone into overdrive. It’s taken me nearly two years to grasp that ‘Oh, God, you’re in a movie!’ feeling.”
On that happy note, I tell Arjun to remember me when he becomes a big star, and I shut my journal. Shreelancer will be releasing in 29 theatres across the country, and three PVRs in Pune! Support your local talent and don’t miss this one!
Book your tickets here!
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