Interview: Meet Roshan Mathews, An Actor On An Unconventional Journey!


    Back in 2015, when Aaadu was released in theatres, the audience had witnessed the handsome hunk, Roshan Mathews. With just a few scenes in the comedy entertainer, the actor vanished for two years and made an impressive comeback with the 2017 movie Dry, in a lead role. Well later, he was seen taking an unconventional path in theatrical plays and feature films. His approach of picking up socio-cultural content-driven scripts helped him grab remarkable roles in the projects, American Hate and Ayesha.

    Roshan Mathews

    Roshan is currently on an acting spree. He is gearing up to play the lead in a feature film helmed by Manjeet Singh, whose previous outing, Mumbai Cha Raja was officially selected at the Toronto International Film Festival. Also, he is a part of the play Brother At The Canadian Border, which has its shoot pushed ahead due to the ongoing Coronavirus scare.
    In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Filmibeat, Roshan Mathews gets candid on his engrossed journey of films and theatres.

    We didn't see you on the silver screen since the 2017 movie, Dry. Any particular reason?

    After the release of Dry, I was working on a few theatre projects in Mumbai, when I came across the opportunity to train further in LA. I soon received a scholarship from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and I felt the need for taking the time to deepen my skills and I also had the chance to pursue opportunities in Hollywood. So, in December of 2017, I moved to Los Angeles and have been training and working on several plays and films since then.

    How was it working with thought-provoking content-driven projects like American Hate and Ayesha?

    It is truly a privilege to be a part of such impactful stories. Since I started acting professionally, I've always tried to be mindful of the socio-cultural impact of the projects that I have been a part of, and projects like American Hate, Ayesha, or even some plays that I've been in, like Given, SubUrbia and Radicals, make me feel more content with my choices. I feel blessed that I get the opportunity to collaborate with writers and directors who want to talk about these important topics.

    Roshan Mathews

    Which character played by you is closer to your heart?

    Recently, I played the character of Norman Chaudhry in a classic American play named SubUrbia. This character is an immigrant who owns a 7-11 convenience store in the middle of rural America. Norman is just trying to survive there along with his sister, as he pursues his education, in order to make a better life for himself and his family. This character felt very close to some of my experiences living in America. Especially in such a time, when immigration, racism, and citizenship is such a huge conversation all around the world, playing such a character did affect me more than I'd imagine.

    Conventionally, an artist starts with theatres and then steps into movies. But you have opted a reverse formula. Any particular reason?

    I don't think of them as mutually exclusive. For me, they are both acting media, and they are equally challenging. Both platforms have their own identities and thus, the acting approach will be different. I happened to get into films first as that was my first opportunity. I got to act in my first professional play a couple of years later. Now, I continue to work in films and theatre as I enjoy both art forms. It all depends on the next best project for me.

    Can you tell us about your experience of performing theatre in LA?

    I have had a wonderful time working in plays in LA. The first play that I did professionally here was a play called Radicals, which is set in Kashmir and highlights the struggle of the people in Kashmir due to the religious conflicts that plague the region. It was written as a Bollywood musical style of performance, which received a lot of positive reviews and accolades at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019. My next play was Silver Bullet, where I played the detective in a film-noir inspired play. The play was inspired by detective movies and femme-fatale stories from the 1940s and people really enjoyed the modern retelling of that theme. Soon after I was cast in the play called SubUrbia, where I play a Pakistani immigrant who owns a 7-11 store and has to face some racism from the local population. I received a lot of positive reviews for the performance, but more importantly, I had people approach me after the play saying that they have gone through similar experiences and could connect with my portrayal in the play.

    Films or Theatres, which one do you like and why?

    I genuinely love both platforms. I feel different stories require different mediums, which is what the determining factor should be. For example, I have seen several films adapted from classic plays like Miss Julie by Strindberg and The Seagull by Chekhov, but they don't hold a candle to seeing it being performed on stage. Additionally, the process for both is very different. In the film, whatever interpretation of the character you have at the moment of the shoot is the one that becomes the defining idea of the character. However, when I'm working on a play, I can have different interpretations, different moment-before's, different nuances every time I perform, and as long as I'm still grounded in the reality of the situation and my relationships, it will still be a truthful performance. With films though, I love seeing the output of the performance and being able to watch the story from an audience's perspective. Also, I enjoy seeing myself on screen! I also enjoy the technicalities of the film; the way a frame is set, the way your acting changes depending on the type of lens that's used, the kind of choreography you create with the camera, etc.

    Roshan Mathews

    How is the theatre crew, sets, and comfort different from film?

    For one, there is a lot more sitting and waiting around on a film set, than in theatre. On a film set, you, as an actor, are just one of the functions along with several other departments like camera, lights, grips, sound, etc. On a theatre set, you are usually called in only when you are needed to rehearse or perform. All the other functions, like building sets, lights, sound, happen at other times (unless it is the tech rehearsal, of course). So, you're always either acting or seeing other actors in your play rehearse their scenes.
    With regards to the sets, in theatre, you get used to the set pieces, your props, your movement patterns, and marks as you do more and more shows, and that familiarity evolves your perspective of your character as you do more shows. In films, you have a limited amount of time with the set, depending on the schedule, and thus you have to endow it with the appropriate feelings and spatial/experiential memories by the time you begin acting in that set. Both have their unique benefits and challenges, and it is fun to discover this as part of your process.

    Who is your favourite actor who inspires you the most?

    I have several actors who I truly admire, be it their method, style, ease or the nuances they bring to a role. Some of my favourites are Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Mohanlal, Manoj Bajpayee and Vidya Balan.

    What are your next projects?

    I was due to start working on my next play, and my next feature film soon. The play was called Brother at the Canadian Border, which is a comedy play about two Iranian brothers who are arrested at the US-Canada border and the confusion that ensues there. I had started to work on the play, however, given the current situation, that has been put on hold!
    My next feature film is with director Manjeet Singh, whose previous film, Mumbai Cha Raja, was the official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival. The next project as well is set in a very real location and circumstances and is a political satire about people who go to various lengths to propagate their political beliefs. I play the lead in this film.

    Lastly, what is your dream project?

    I am a huge fan of the Marvel movies and I believe that there's a position open for Iron Man. I'd love to play the next Iron Man. Bas itna sa khwaab hai!

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