Performing amid such fine actors an enriching experience: Arjun Radhakrishnan

Arjun Radhakrishnan
Arjun Radhakrishnan essayed the role of ccllector Ajay Sripad Dange in 'Pada'.

Arjun Radhakrishnan made his big Malayalam film debut through ‘Pada’ as Collector Ajay Sripad Dange. He has already acted in Shreelancer (2017) and also played Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s role in the latest web series ‘Rocket Boys’ on SonyLiv. Arjun was also seen in 'Jhund' in which he played Amitabh Bachchan’s son. The actor talks to Manoramonline about his journey so far.

How I came onboard

Kamalettan’s assistant called me to play the role of police officer Sachin Aggarwal in ‘Pada.’ There was an audition for the film. I was born in Nagercoil and brought up in Pune. My mother speaks a blend of Tamil and Malayalam, so I have that influence in my Malayalam. During the audition, Kamal figured out my slang and the way I spoke and cast me in the role of a collector. He felt I spoke Malayalam better than he thought.

When I heard about ‘Pada.’

My family was rather excited to know that I was doing a full-length role in Malayalam. It was only after Kamalettan narrated the story that I realised this was based on a real-life incident. When I came to know that this was an incident many Malayalees had witnessed firsthand I wanted to meet the real-life collector WR Reddy but couldn’t.

Preparations for ‘Pada.’

This is an entertaining film textured like a docudrama. So the freedom that comes with such structuring was there throughout the film. My friend’s father is an IAS officer. So I had this opportunity to visit his office and observe him. When the incident happens, the collector is around 36 years old. I was required to gain some weight for the character, and it was difficult to knock it off. Also, Kamalettan had met all the real-life characters for this film, so he had a clear idea of what he wanted from each one of us. He briefed us about their mannerisms and way of speaking.

Arjun Radhakrishnan
Arjun Radhakrishnan

Collector’s Malayalam

I spend my summer vacations between Aluva and Nagercoil. At home, we spoke a mix of Tamil and Malayalam. But mostly it was Malayalam. Though I went to the sets with that confidence, my Malayalam itself put me in a spot. This was my first film in Malayalam, and I haven’t played a collector before, so I was apprehensive about playing a Kerala collector. Since my background is Marathi, there weren’t many alterations given to the collector’s role. When I tried to brush up on my Malayalam by talking to my co-actors, Kamalettan discouraged me. He reasoned that I was exactly how he visualized the collector will be.

About the crew

This was a huge learning experience for me. Dileesh ettan more or less followed the method of a director on the sets. I was amazed by the attitude and discipline of Chackochan. Kamalettan and Sameerettan (Sameer Tahir) were hugely supportive. Kamalettan is a director who gives enough space to his actors. Both of them would offer me a lot of suggestions. My portions were entirely filmed inside a room. I was a bit nervous that I was acting alongside four big actors. But my fears were groundless as they were all hugely supportive.

A release after three years

I feel like I watched a brand-new film now. This was the first time I am watching my film with an audience. In our place, we don’t have that habit. There a film is watched by all the film people together. So I have never been able to catch the direct audience reaction of a film on the first day of release. I was able to experience that through ‘Pada.’ That was super exciting!

You were recognised in Kerala soon after the release of the film. How did you feel?

When I first saw the media, I was a bit scared. When I saw Chackochan giving an interview, I managed to slip away. But when I came out of the theatre, someone recognised me. My current look is very different from my character’s look in the film. I never imagined that anyone would recognise me in my bearded look. Having said that I was happy when someone noticed me. ‘Isn’t that our collector,’ they said and approached me. They took photos with me. That was a high for me as an actor.

What next after ‘Pada.’

When I got an offer from Malayalam, I knew that I had to do it. I have been trying to enter cinema for the last 11 years. So I wasn’t too sure that I would be able to do more films in Malayalam. Even when I did ‘Pada’ since I am an outsider, I didn’t think I would be offered more films in Malayalam. But 6 months before I did a film directed by Vineeth Kumar, starring Tovino Thomas and Basil Joseph. That gave me the confidence that if more films come in Malayalam, I will be able to do them. I am looking forward to acting in more Malayalam films.

Arjun Radhakrishnan
Arjun Radhakrishnan

Other films in Malayalam

My next is a film starring Tovino Thomas, Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran from the team of Shyju Khalid, Sameer Tahir and Ashiq Usman. There is also Rocket Boys season 2 coming up.

To my audience

I have been watching a lot of Malayalam films for the last five years. I am a fan of Malayalam cinema. I am so happy to have got a good role in a good film. And a lot of people called to congratulate me. Can't be happier. 

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