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HomeEntertainmentInterview | Actor Aju Varghese: The success of ‘Gaganachari’ has been overwhelming

Interview | Actor Aju Varghese: The success of ‘Gaganachari’ has been overwhelming


It has been a dream run at the box office for Gaganachari, a hilarious sci-fi mockumentary by Arun Chandu. Aju Varghese, who plays a key role in the movie set against a post-apocalyptic Kerala ravaged by floods and threatened by alien attack, says the appreciation was unexpected. “It has been overwhelming. We are thrilled that the film has been released across India,” says Aju.

Gaganachari, set in Kerala in 2043, is centred around Victor Vasudevan Valaparambil (a brilliant KB Ganesh Kumar), an ex-military officer and an alien hunter, and his two goofball sidekicks and companions, Allan Jose Valaparambil (Gokul Suresh) and Vaibhav Vydyanathan a.k.a. Vibe (Aju) who live in a bunker. Their lives turn upside down when an alien (Anarkali Marikar) ends up staying with them. Aju is in his element as Vaibhav, a ladies’ man and former social media influencer, who is struggling to find an identity after the ban on the Internet. He is now Victor’s cook and the one who accidentally brings home the alien.

Actor Aju Varghese
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Aju says that it was during the post-production days of Saajan Bakery, Arun’s second film, that the latter told him the story. “[Arun] Chandu comes up with whacky, crazy themes because of his exposure to world cinema. However, I wasn’t sure if people would understand the concept of a mockumentary. But the audience proved me wrong. Fahadh Faasil had said in an interview that we can experiment with anything in Malayalam cinema for the next five years. When a brilliant actor and producer like him makes such an observation, it can’t be taken lightly. I think Chandu was buoyed by those words and got the confidence to go ahead and release it,” Aju says.

In one of his interviews, Arun pointed out that initially the movie had a dark theme and it was Aju who suggested a change. “It was a tough time for all of us because of the pandemic. That’s why I asked him whether we should add to the already depressing situation,” Aju recalls. So they toyed with different crazy situations, one of them was about giving a twist to the evergreen film Kilukkam, starring Mohanlal, Revathy and Jagathy Sreekumar. “We wondered what if Revathy chechi‘s character is an alien!” Aju says. Evenstually, they came out with a funny yet clever narrative packed with crazy situations and dialogues.

The actor mentions that Ganesh was Arun’s first choice for Victor. “We both love him as an actor and had a great time working with him in Saajan Bakery. His potential as an actor has not been explored. His Pathanapuram dialect and the ease with which he delivers dialogues are delightful. Sarcasm, humour, intensity – he communicates everything in that,” Aju adds. Gokul, who worked in Arun’s first movie, Sayahna Varthakal, was a natural choice to play Allan.

Aju Varghese in Gaganachari

Aju Varghese in Gaganachari
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Aju also makes note of two characters who made a mark with their voices. Mallika Sukumaran, the voice of the alien, and dubbing artist Abraham Joseph as the AI, Raghavan. “In Mallikamma’s case, we needed a voice that sounded aged since the alien is pretty old; at the same time, it had to be a popular voice that could evoke laughter. For Raghavan’s voice, Chandu wanted Nedumudi Venu chettan. Unfortunately he passed away and we had to look for other options,” he adds.

Getting into the role

However, he was not sure whether he could do justice to Vaibhav. “By that time I had done films such as Minnal Murali, Meppadiyan etc. I was no longer the age of Vaibhav; my mindset had changed. I had put on weight. I had unlearned and learned a lot as an actor by then. But I had to wear funky dresses and recreate some of my happy-go-lucky characters. I even asked Chandu if he could make Vaibhav an aged character. He convinced me to do the role and insisted that I lose weight. I surrendered to his conviction and confidence. He knows my journey and has also directed me in two movies. So he knows how to extract a performance from me,” Aju points out.

KB Ganesh Kumar, Aju Varghese and Gokul Suresh in a scene from Gaganachari

KB Ganesh Kumar, Aju Varghese and Gokul Suresh in a scene from Gaganachari
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The actor adds that he has always enjoyed working with directors who can take the best out of him as an artiste. “One is Vineeth [Sreenivasan], whom I consider my mentor. Ahammed Khabeer is another director who did that in [the web series] Kerala Crime Files (KCF). They are among the filmmakers who believe that it is the performance of the cast that takes a film forward,” he says.

He was confused about the project because “I am not used to watching such content. Also, the situations in the movie were such that you had to imagine everything, which Meraki [the VFX studio] created later, like the flood, the debris, including that of an aeroplane, a portal up there through which aliens arrived etc. However, even though I was clueless, I was not bothered because in some cases, imperfections add up to become perfect and that’s what happened in Gaganachari.

A solid presence in the Malayalam film industry for over 14 years now, Aju mentions that the pandemic has brought about a shift in his career, especially with his choice of roles. “Comedy has been my forte for long. But during the Covid-19-induced break , I realised that I need to choose roles carefully. Since then, I have not done any character in which I cannot contribute something as an artiste, irrespective of the length of my role. This includes projects such as Minnal Murali, Meppadiyan, KCF, Phoenix, Nadikalil Sundari Yamuna, Perilloor Premier League (PPF), Saturday Night Fever, and Varshangalkku Sesham.”

One thing that has not changed is that he does not read the script at all. “I listen to the synopsis, that’s it. And I ask the director what I have to do. I firmly believe that the whole film is not my responsibility. That is the director’s job and I continue to maintain that.”

Aju Varghese and Gokul Suresh in a scene from Gaganachari

Aju Varghese and Gokul Suresh in a scene from Gaganachari
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

But what about the cameo in Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil in which he sang a song as well? “They had approached me to act in that song sequence. Having seen Vipin’s [director Vipin Das] works, I knew he would not offer me a role without a reason. The decision to sing was mine because I loved the lyrics and the song as a whole. I also took up the role because it was my chance to associate with a project featuring the Guruvayoor temple. I had the good fortune to do scenes at Kollur Mookambika temple in Aravindante Athithikal, in which I also got the chance to drive the jeep to Kudajadri, and at Vadakkumnathan temple [in Thrissur in Punyalan Agarbathis],” the actor says.

His upcoming projects include Identity, Sthanarthi Sreekuttan, Ajayante Randam Moshanam and Nunakkuzhi and a web series Love Under Construction directed by Vishnu Raghav. “In a web series, you can explore the depth of a character and that’s exciting. I portrayed totally different characters in KCF and PPF and it will be another interesting role in Love Under Construction.”

He has finished shooting for his first Tamil project directed by Ram starring Mirchi Shiva. He is currently shooting for another Tamil film, Moon Walk, starring Prabhu Deva with music by AR Rahman.

Meanwhile, the actor declares that he no longer wants to produce films. “It was a dream and I am done with it, just like I gave up my wish to become a director! I have realised that acting is the only thing I don’t crib about.”



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