Hero, villain and everything in between: Why Roshan Mathew stands out

The thing about Roshan is that he dons every character skillfully — from a rapist to a reckless college student to a gay man with speech disability.
Hero, villain and everything in between: Why Roshan Mathew stands out
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Roshan Mathew's progress in the Malayalam film industry has been very evident — slowly, slowly and then bam! It wouldn’t be wrong to say that during this lockdown, with movies being exclusively released on OTT platforms, his face has been the most prominent from the Malayalam film industry.

The first time that Roshan Mathew wriggled into our constantly updated favourite-actors list with his curly hair and his disarming smile was with Aanandam (2016). His position in our ever changing list was consolidated by his role in Anjali Menon’s Koode (2018). Roshan, not much later, strengthened his presence in the smaller but mightier kingdom of talent-dom with his roles in Geetu Mohandas’s Moothon (2019) and Anurag Kashyap’s Choked (2020).

How about a stroll down the memory lane of knowing and loving Roshan Mathew and the various memorable characters that he brought to not-easy-to-forget life?

You would think that it was with Soochi mon-rockstar-lover boy in Aanandam that we first saw Roshan on the big screen. And we would be very wrong —  we had glimpsed his brilliance a few times before, in small, but well delivered roles. He had appeared in a small role as the cheating, dandy boyfriend in the comedy horror film Adi Kapyare Kootamani (2015). We also know him as the haggard and despicable (thanks to his remarkable acting skills) rapist from the Mammootty and Nayanthara starrer Puthiya Niyamam (2016).

Although Roshan had much bigger roles in Matchbox (2017) and Orayiram Kinakkal (2018), and had even played the protagonist a couple of times — in Kadam Kadha (2017) and Viswasapoorvam Mansoor (2017), he went largely unnoticed because the movies had failed to become big box-office successes. The big break that he deserved came with Anjali Menon’s Koode (2018). Roshan did a spectacular job of playing the precarious love interest of the protagonist Jenny (Nazriya) — dubious, careful, remorseful and grieving. All these stages of the character, he delivered with a poignance that we can say is unique to him.

When his character, Krish, chased Jenny's brother, Joshua (Prithviraj) on his bicycle to redemption, he rode straight into all our hearts. When he sang 'Aararo' with all his pain and pulsing veins at the memorial service for Jenny, we, along with Jenny, forgave him for leaving. We loved him again and much more than before when he jumped down the stage and let Joshua and Sophie (Parvathy Thiruvothu) escape from the clutches of her brothers.

Then came Thottappan (2019). It was not only the Thottappan’s (Vinayakan) trust that Roshan's character Ismu pierced with his dagger, it was each one of ours too. We were shook. How dare he! We had long been rooting for the Thottappan to find a friend, even if not the friend. At long last, he had not only just found a literal partner in crime but also a friend to fill the gaping hole in his life left by the disappearance of his dear friend. Ismu had come as the personification of solidarity, hope and promise to a thief and his god daughter. Roshan’s maneuver of the character as a friend as well as the enemy was gold. It was then, perhaps, that we really began to watch out for the actor.

Roshan isn’t one to disappoint. When we heard of him appearing alongside Nivin Pauly in Geetu Mohandas’s Moothon, we weren’t surprised. We had seen enough of the guy to be assured of powerful performances and heightened expectations. There were whispers about his role, the cadence of his character and the people who had watched the movie were wary of spoiling the movie for others, which was pretty unusual. And then we watched Moothon and fell for Ameer. The gentle, innocent, mute, hair-flying-in-the-Lakshadweep-wind Ameer. We felt the loudness of his helplessness and his muteness, we gravely felt his urge to voice his concerns with his fast moving hands and his furrowed brow and most of all, we all felt his love.

By now used to not putting a cork to our expectations when it came to Roshan, Anurag Kashyap’s Choked was one of the very few events we counted down to, cooped up in the confines of our homes in the lockdown. Roshan played the ‘couch-potato’ of a husband —  lethargic and idle, left lost in the misery of broken dreams and clogged drains. In this black comedy family drama that dealt with demonetisation, Roshan didn’t fail to impress.

Roshan played an autorickshaw driver in Muhammad Musthafa’s Kappela (2020), his latest movie. Here too, we were again fooled by his apparent charms. With his “aa shabdham kelkkande urangarilla” voice, his concern about others and his generosity, we fell for him instantly. Well, not instantly. We had been 'once bitten' and we were 'twice shy'. We were a little cautious of this too-good-to-be-true Vishnu but we gave him the benefit of doubt. But when we watched him ask around to the whole town the answer to a silly limerick, we laughed off our concerns and instead focused on the twinkle in his eyes. His character quickly became one of those rare species of humans we never get to see in reality. Well, we now know for sure that there’s a reason why. We had fallen for the ‘white’ knight — not quite the way Jesse (Anna Ben), the protagonist did, we had fallen harder; we had seen more of him and what he did for others. If we only knew better than to be tricked twice!

The thing about Roshan is that he dons every character —  from a rapist to a reckless college student to a gay man with speech disability to a couch potato, with commendable skill. Even with minimal alterations to his natural look, he steers his characters to perfection and to conviction.

Following the releases of Moothon and Choked, both the acclaimed directors, Geetu and Anurag were all praises for the young actor. “We all search for these three characters in a person — intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t bother about the first two. My dear friend Roshan, is someone who encompasses all of these qualities,” Geetu had written on her Instagram handle, sharing an open mic performance of Roshan at Kommune's Spoken Fest. Primarily a theatre artist, Roshan, clearly, is someone we all should be watching out for!

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