"I am in a renovation mode, both personally and professionally,” says Arjun Mathur, as he connects over a phone call from his Mumbai home. The actor is currently on a quick break, after the second season of his crime thriller, Gone Game dropped on Voot last month. After his character dies in the first season, speculation was abuzz if Mathur would return to play the master manipulator, Sahil Gujral. On the home front too, a makeover is underway as is evident from all the chaos of the carpentry work and pounding of the walls in the backdrop of the call.
Mathur has several projects lined up, including Lord Curzon ki Haveli, a feature film with actor Rasika Dugal, currently in the post-production phase. “The producers are yet to decide if it will have a theatrical release or will travel to the film festivals,” he says about the black comedy thriller he shot this summer. Then, of course, the much-awaited second season of Made in Heaven is likely to stream on Amazon Prime Video later this year.
Mathur, however, is not a man in a hurry. After all, he waited 14 years before he got his Emmy nomination in 2020 for his portrayal of Karan Mehra, a gay wedding planner in the Zoya Akhtar-Reema Kagti production Made in Heaven (2019). “When the casting is right, the acting is effortless and life’s a breeze,” he says, asserting, “Awards acknowledge your work, but it is your last big hit release that matters.”
Made in Heaven, however, wasn’t his first role as a homosexual. Mira Nair’s short film Migration (2007) and Onir’s anthology I Am (2010) also saw him in similar roles. “I love out-of-the-box characters and playing a homosexual was a big move at the time when actors flinched at taking up roles that went against societal norms,” he says.
When asked if he is afraid of getting typecast in a role, he says, “I surrender to my directors. Initially, I had my own misgivings about signing for the role in Made in Heaven. I felt I needed more variety. But when I saw the role challenges stereotypes, I was sold,” he says.
The actor credits Akthar for the “stamps of approval” he received from critics for his role in the series. “I did nothing beyond reading the script. I did not even have a reference point in mind when I did the role. I am an instinctive actor who responds to external stimuli,” he says.
Born in London, Mathur is often referred to as a British-born actor, but he admits that he would rather be known as a Bollywood actor. “I have been living in Mumbai for 20 years now,” he says. After he graduated from Barry John’s institute and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York in 2002, he joined Shaad Ali as an assistant director for Bunty Aur Babli (2005) and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra for Rang De Basanti (2006).
Acting, however, is where his heart lay. “I wanted to act since I was 10,” he says, adding that working in films such as Luck By Chance, My Name Is Khan, and Fireflies, for which he received a Best Actor nomination at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2013, have helped him broaden his horizon.
When not shooting, he confesses to being a home bird who likes spending time with his partner and two cats. Mathur is also a departure from his peers when it comes to the social media game. “I keep my feed believable. I can’t do that ‘hey look at me and my pictures’ kind of posts. I am real. Take it or leave it,” he concludes.