For Mathew Thomas, it’s back to school for the time being. But the excitement clearly refuses to taper off for the Plus Two student. As Thanneermathan Dinangal blossoms an idée fixe for watermelons and jathikka (nutmeg) among many who have watched the movie, the teenager is basking in its sweet success while also catching up on some missed lessons. “It’s a film all of us enjoyed a lot doing. Though I was a tad nervous about the initial reception, it’s been overwhelming. We knew it had all the ingredients to click,” says Mathew over phone from Kochi.
As Jaison, a higher secondary student in Thanneermathan Dinangal , Mathew delivers an endearing performance, credibly capturing the follies and foibles of any teenager. It’s certainly a step up from his début earlier this year in the acclaimed multi-starrer Kumbalangi Nights when Mathew got noticed for his rather smallish but significant role as Frankie, the youngest of the four brothers in the heart of the story.
“The Kumbalangi Nights experience boosted my confidence. In fact, I underwent training for six months in preparation to become Frankie before the shoot commenced. I learnt a lot of new things such as swimming, casting a net, rowing, playing football and even a bit of cooking for the role. When Thanneermathan… happened, I wasn’t camera-shy any more. Also, we quickly developed a bond with the team. It also helped that many in the cast were my age,” says the Thrippunithura native.
Until two years back, Mathew never even dreamt of setting foot in tinseltown. But he got a bite at the cherry during an audition for Kumbalangi… that was taking place at his school. “I just went there to have a peek out of curiosity, but much to my surprise, I got short-listed. Then there was another round of audition during pre-production and I was through. Thankfully, the shoot started after my Class 10 exams,” recalls the commerce student. So with Kumbalangi… becoming a box-office smash, it was a low-hanging fruit when Thanneermathan… came calling the very next month after his début film hit the marquee .
He says the “learning experience” in both the films has been “very different” due to their respective themes and treatment. While Kumbalangi… demanded a rather subdued performance, the character of Jaison is more expressive. When asked how he is in real life, Mathew says with a chuckle, “I think I’m somewhere between Frankie and Jaison... I try to speak only when required and keep quiet when required.”
Mathew considers it “a blessing” that in Jaison, he bagged a role he can so closely relate to. “As I myself am a Plus Two student, there was a certain ease in essaying the role. Certain scenes, such as talking during class (laughs) or claiming there’s no paper when a teacher asks for a surprise test, felt just like how it is in school. Also the high-school lingo the students speak in the film sounded the way my friends converse,” he explains.
The catchy, offbeat number ‘Ee jathikka thottam’, the video of which went viral before the film’s release, greatly ratcheted up the movie’s promotions. “It was shot at a location near Mambra in Thrissur. The song’s popularity buttressed our confidence about the movie’s prospects,” says Mathew. The teenager says he is “indebted” to the support of his parents (his father is an engineer and mother a school teacher) and elder brother who encouraged him to follow his heart while also not losing sight of studies. “I’m someone who likes to go with the flow and don’t harbour any big ambitions. I want to do either B Com or BBA next and I also want to do a lot of films after my board exams,” he says.
In the film, Jaison and friends love to knock back watermelon juice while they brainstorm during recesses. What about Mathew? “Yes, of course, I love watermelons too,” he says with a laugh.