Coffee Bloom’s character’s journey is very close to my heart – Arjun Mathur
As Coffee Bloom is all set to release, the film’s lead actor Arjun Mathur – who is often seen in indie projects – reveals what he liked about this offbeat love story and the reason he wakes up doing what he does best.
Can you elaborate your role in Coffee Bloom and tell us what made you accept it?
My character’s name is Dev Anand Cariappa and his family owned a coffee estate in Coorg, which they had to sell. So, now he runs a small coffee business with his mother in Bangalore. Earlier in life he has been badly hurt in love which has made him disinterested and disillusioned about life. He wants to rid himself of worldly possessions and desires and take up sanyas. Circumstances push him to return to his coffee estate in Coorg, where he learns that the land that earlier belonged to his family now belongs to his ex-girlfriend and her husband. That’s where the conflict comes in.
It took one narration for me to accept the film. The casting director, Tess Joseph called me for a narration with producer Harish (Amin) and director Manu (Warrier). The story was so fresh and different from anything I had heard, and it was a love story. Also, the spectrum of emotions the character was going through and the layers of complexity – it is definitely one of the most complex and layered characters that has come to me – it involved did it for me. Doing Coffee Bloom was a no brainer. I am lucky they thought of me for this part.
Did you have to undergo any preparation for the role?
Honestly, I connected immediately with the character. As soon as I heard the script I knew I could pull off the role. There were certain parallels I drew between my own life experiences and the character. So, there wasn’t that much preparation needed. Unless the part requires me to undergo a change in physicality or really put myself in an emotional place which is far removed from my own experience, only then it needs work. Also I tend to come from a very instinctive kind of place. That’s the way I approached Dev Anand Cariappa.
Is there any interesting memory that you take back from Coffee Bloom?
Coffee Bloom’s character’s journey is very close to my heart. It is a story of a boy who is extremely rigid, immature, angry and very negative. The story is of his maturity into an adult and I really treasure that about this film. There’s one scene I fondly remember. Sugandha (Garg, his ex-girlfriend), Mohan (Kapoor, her husband) and I are sitting around the bonfire. The scene required me to be a little tipsy so for the first-time in my life I decided to drink before the scene. I had to drink beer in the scene as well. For added affect I took a few whiskey shots in between takes. Obviously I had to shoot the scene from different angels, so by the time we came around to the last take I had consumed about 180 ml of whiskey and downed three mugs of beer. I was extremely drunk. I was sitting in my position and was unable to even keep my head up but we got the scene. I have no memory what happened after that. But I was told that I ran to my room, threw up all over the place and the homestay owners had to clean the place. The next day when I walked out of my room for breakfast, I got a standing ovation from the entire unit.
Your filmography boasts of movies in which you played deep and complex roles (Onir’s I Am, Fireflies). Is it accidental or you seek to play strong characters?
I think it’s a combination of things. When I was kid my vision was that bada hoke hero ban na hai (when I grow up I want to be a hero). But I have been working in the industry as an assistant director first, then as an actor for a while. I have been in Bombay (Mumbai) for almost 12 years. Within this time one evolves and the reasons for doing what one does change, mine have at least. Now I find myself automatically attracted to films and characters that have a little more depth than the average mainstream fare. I think one attracts what you put out there. Somewhere I must be putting out the energy of being this person so people think of me for parts which require such complex emotions. And I am thankful for it.
Do you miss being the quintessential Hindi film hero and the stardom?
I’ll be very honest. Even today there are times when I go out and people recognise me, I am almost uncomfortable with it. I still don’t know how to deal with it. But now I have reached a point where I just want to do what I do – act. My intention now is more towards my own evolution as an actor and as a human being. And my contribution to the evolution of Indian and world cinema. That’s the bigger picture I try to keep in mind and anything else that comes my way, be fame or money is just incidental. I think one has got to keep doing what one believes in.
Was it a particular instance that changed your reasons for being an actor?
It has been gradual. When I came to Bombay, Dil Chahta Hai had just released. To some extent it was a landmark film for changing the language of Indian cinema. I remember back then I had felt that Indian cinema is going to go through a major change in the coming decade. Then, over time as I started struggling to be an actor I realised that I don’t have a godfather or a big producer who is going to launch me in a 40-crore movie. At the same time there were these star kids who even before their first film released were already stars. No offence to anyone but I saw that everyone was trying to fit themselves in a pre-determined mould. And that’s when I almost started feeling lucky of not being forced to do exactly the same thing that everyone else is doing. I just had to find my own way.
Are you happy with the way your career has been progressing?
I am very happy with the way my career is progressing. When I look at my filmography I feel very proud and lucky. Of course, we live in Bombay and are surrounded by Bollywood. It’s extremely brash, loud and in your face all the time. It’s very difficult to escape the Bollywood influence and it might sometimes take your mind into dark places. When one keeps seeing star kids getting a launch and getting ahead, you sit back and wonders if you are doing something wrong. But the struggle is more internal and about coming to terms with your own place in this bigger scheme of things. I think I am unique and that is the biggest prize for me. It is hard to stick by your guns and do work you believe in. But in the last four-five years I can name so many people who got big launches and have been forgotten. Yes, I didn’t get that big launch, I have had it harder but the fact of the matter is that I am still sustaining and growing with every film and character.
Is there any role or a film you crave to do as an actor?
I am constantly looking for stuff that will challenge me. I want to do everything; comedy, romance, musical, dance, every genre possible. But immediately I am dying to play a psychopath, a really scary one. A lot of people see me as this cute next door guy so I really want to break out of that. And I know I can.
What are your forthcoming films?
Couching Tiger Mannu, it’s my first comedy in a leading role. Mannu is a young boy who likes couch surfing and his aim in life is to meet women. It’s a commercial kind of film. Then there’s Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddessess, and Anu Menon’s Waiting in which I play Kalki (Koechlin)’s husband.