VoxTalks With Arjun Kalyan : Of Varied Interests, Juggling Jobs, Short films And An Unwavering Will For Success

The Story Introduction Of Arjun Kalyan

My mom is from Kovvur and dad is from Khammam. I was born in Kovvur and spent my childhood in various places like Rajahmundry, Bhadrachalam, Vizag, Khammam, Ongole, Guntur and others, due to my dad’s job. I did my B.Tech from GITAM, Vizag, where I was exposed to many movie shoots. While I was in college, I used to take part in many inter-college dance competitions.  Eventually, my passion towards dance shifted into acting.

By then we moved to Hyderabad, and back then I had only one contact in the Industry. Through him, I went to meet actor Siddharth. I told him about my interests in acting and script writing. He suggested taking one craft seriously at first and later trying my hand in other crafts. He advised me to get trained formally, enrol myself in acting, writing or directing course, to really understand the crux of film-making. I took his advice and went to do my Masters in the US. There I enrolled myself in New York Film Academy, Boston.

A Different Screenplay Of Life…

I pursued screenplay writing and acting there. Once I went through the course, I realized that Acting was my calling. While I was doing this, I got an offer from director Deva Katta, for which I flew back to India. Unfortunately, the shoot got postponed indefinitely, and my parents felt film career is not a stable one. So I had to go back to the US. That remains one of my regrets, where I couldn’t wait up. Later I got a few offers but somehow it didn’t materialize.

While I was doing that, I got an audition offer from director Ajay Kamabampati. He started a movie called ‘Chinna Cinema’. The shoot for this movie was in the US and so, I could manage to do it. I took leave from office and participated in the shoot. By this time, I felt that I should take up Acting career seriously. That’s when I packed my bags and came back to India to pursue films.

Chinna Cinema:

The Range Of Work Later On…

Unfortunately, the movie bombed, but I did get a few offers, yet nothing seemed to excite me. I didn’t want to take up everything that came my way. Am more for quality, than quantity. At this point, I forayed into short films, with Love Forever directed by Srinu Pandranki. This was made for 48 hr Short Film Festival. Right after that, the same director wanted to shoot three short films, to submit to the short film contest of Puri Jagannath sir. The short films which came out as a result were Unspoken, Pseudocide and Upma Thinsendi with Pujita Ponnada, which became a huge hit.  Later on, I did Parichayam with Pujita again and directed by Hareesh Nagraj, which also became another big hit in the short films industry. These short films opened doors for further opportunities and brought me roles in couple films, like 2016’s Premam. Later I did a music video called Chandamama with Phani Kalyan (Neeve fame), another short called Varnam with Silly Monks and a web series called Nenu Naa Girlfriend with IDream, which gave me good acclaim.

Parichayam Short Film:

On Inspirations And Role Models From The Industry

My inspirations started with Shah Rukh Khan, Pawan Kalyan, Mani Ratnam and Siddharth. ‘Dil Se’, ‘Yuva’ and ‘Johnny’ were the movies that changed my thought process. They got stuck in my mind for the visual regality. I still remember some of their scenes and being struck with awe for the way they were conceived and shot. That inspired me to study cinema and acting. I used to watch ‘Behind the scenes’ and ‘Making videos’ of movies, and realize the excitement that went into making a movie.

Once I became an actor, I started observing and absorbing things from every person and actor I came across. For example, I just love ‘Vennela’ Kishore’s comedy and his spontaneity. The way he improvises over the script is just mind-boggling. I’ve tried comedy myself in my web series ‘Nenu Naa Girlfriend’ and it is not easy to pull it off.

Nenu Naa Girlfriend:

Three Things Which Make Working In ShortFilms Exciting

The range of concepts in short films is truly wide and there is a lot of scope for experimentation. It is a wonderful launch pad for incredible talents both actors and technicians, from where they are picked up by production houses for films. So that bridge of having talent and showcasing is filled by the short film industry. It has replaced Theater to give new talents to the industry.

On The Ups And Downs Of Shortfilm Industry

The industry has seen its ups and down. In 2013-14, Short films were the new in thing, when only content mattered. You had to impress them with good content and acting, and nothing else mattered. But a lot of it has been diluted now, due to excessive and trivial content. Unfortunately, most of the short films are love stories and coffee shop stories.

From 2016-17, web-series picked up.  People are lapping up web-series really well, more than the short films, mostly owing to the whole story arch, growing loyalty to characters and production values. But I feel more of anything can get monotonous if you don’t offer variety content. I hear even Youtube revenue has dwindled and people nowadays are following film gossip news clips and interviews more than short films and web series. So the short filmmakers have to really improve their quality, content and presentation, to pull people back. Unless you don’t offer which TV soaps are already offering, even web series will fade out. This may lead to people move on to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

On Advent Of App Based Shortfilms

Content is the biggest anywhere. Technology comes next is what I feel. With app-based technology becoming prevalent with players like YuppTV, VIU, HotStar and more, the demand for content driven features, more web series has gone up. It’s still early days, but if you need a person to download an app and watch a web series, rather than just click on YouTube, then the pull has to be really great.

On Following Any Specific Webseries…

I followed VIU’s PelliGola and Pilla by Pavan Sadineni. I liked them pretty well. I saw a couple of episodes of Social and Nenu Mee Kalyan, but they couldn’t hold my interest much. I followed Geeta Subrahmanyam by Wirally as Manoj (the main lead) is a good friend of mine and also because that I was offered that role earlier. But I didn’t want to take up as I did a similar role in Upma Thinisendi. So instead I chose to do Nenu Naa Girlfriend web series, which was something new for me.

Upma Thinsendi:

On Taking The Audience’s Opinion Into Consideration

Over the years, I do consider constructive criticism for honing my skills. I do check the comments I receive on YouTube or Facebook and see where I might be going wrong. Is it important truly? I would say yes when you know how the audience is reacting to your output. Presently, at this point, I see that people have grown more aware and therefore there is very less of a margin of error. And not just the acting part, but also the way short films are made – direction, production and content wise. It’s becoming difficult to impress them time and again. So some of our filmmakers now are syncing with the ideologies and bringing out experimental content as well. So it’s a nice organic growth.

But as a society, we have become very opinionated and unforgiving on social media. Expectations are sky high. A movie’s fate is decided in a tweet or FB status. There is no middle ground. Either you love something or trash it mercilessly. And that’s happening worldwide, unfortunately. We should try not to malign something when we don’t like something. We forgot how to let go, gracefully. We are in the age of trolling. Sigh.

On Learning And Honing All Forms Of Film Making Arts

Since the start of my career, I’ve tried to not just restrict myself to acting, but improve my skills with Scriptwriting, Dialogues, Direction, Camerawork and many other things. I would like to work in a collaborative team. If I have a good rapport with the Director or DOP, I would like to discuss shots with them, which might work out well. Most of my inputs have worked out pretty well so far. For eg: the last expression in Upma Thinsendi, the Time machine box in Love forever, placing dead body shots in Pseudocide and some of the funny dialogues in Nenu Naa Girlfriend, were my own. I practically choreographed the dance routine in Chandamama music video (starring Pujitha Ponnada). Am planning to direct and act in a video song/short film pretty soon. Let’s see how that goes by!!


Next Projects 

I have signed a film called “Prema Desam” by Srikanth Siddham. We originally started it as a web series and launched our trailer. A production house liked it and wanted to make a feature out of it. We are re-shooting with a new cast in Jan 2018 and hopefully should come out in 2018 Summer. A couple more projects are in discussions.

Prema Desam: