“Though I’ve had it technically easy since I’m from that celebrated family background, I felt like everyone else who enters the industry. I saw the struggles of other people because I struggled too. I wanted to make this happen on my own.”
After spending years shying away from the limelight, Arvind John Victor transformed from someone who wouldn’t even feature on a family portrait to the protagonist in South Indian films. This story is punctuated with a handful of opportunities missed here, several opportunities created there and a final dying wish that lit a spark within.
Arvind John Victor speaks to Neha Vinod from Cochin Herald- shuffling between English, Tamil and even fluent Malayalam- discussing life, his passion for movies and everything in between.
Getting into the Act
After 26 years of industry exposure in a corporate background, most reach a juncture in their career when a paradigm shift isn’t part of the larger picture. An unassuming Arvind would have believed the same, if it wasn’t for a conversation that he had with his father.
Veteran actor Vinod Raj expressed his desire to see his younger son on the big screen too- and breathed his last a week later. That conversation happened a little over three years ago. “For me, it was like a dying wish. I’ve not done anything great for my dad after I started living my life as an adult. So, I thought at least he’s asked me this much and it’s no biggie for me- because I’ve been there and done that,” he says.
Filmmaking and acting weren’t entirely unfamiliar to Arvind, but it was a learning curve. “It was a new world for me. There were so many things I didn’t even realise existed! For me, technically it was a new industry per se, looking at it from a career point of view. I came in here with a passion because I wanted to achieve that milestone for my dad. But once I got into it, I realised I don’t want to invest so much time and effort into it with just that as a yardstick. Unless you have a passion and you want to follow it through, you will not be able to perform.”
If there’s one thing that all those years as a corporate trainer taught him, it was that preparation is key. He understands that the ability to act is not genetically gifted but a skill to master. Arvind chose to kickstart this preparation process by jumping headfirst into the deep end to make it a part of his career graph- surrounding himself with the magic, magnetism and macrocosm of movies.
A star-studded family’s late entrant
Arvind John Victor comes from the family who gave Indian cinema stalwarts like Vinod Raj, Thiagarajan and Vikram- and he has spent the last three years in filmmaking and acting. ‘Athukkum mele’ (translating to ‘above and beyond’) may be a Tamil punch dialogue from his brother—it also seems to be Arvind John Victor’s philosophy for life.
“Though I’ve had it technically easy since I’m from that celebrated family background, I felt like everyone else who enters the industry. I saw the struggles of other people because I struggled too,” he says. “I wanted to make this happen on my own.”
Breaking out of the umbrella of being someone’s son, nephew or brother was always part of his plan and even between wind and water, he intended on standing alone, strong and proud.
“Don’t try to be perfect- set a standard and work towards achieving it. Once you get there, keep that as a benchmark and work further up,” Arvind advises. He acknowledges that he hasn’t arrived where he did the easy way- the journey to where he is now has seen more failures than successes.
Three years, four films- and counting..
What Arvind seems to gravitate towards is films with substance, rarely doing popcorn films. He says, “Why can’t you make the world a better place, in the smallest way you can?” of why he chooses movies that are impactful.
His first short movie called Pesa Madanthai, made in 2019, is the recipient of about 17 awards and accolades across the globe. “I never realised that I’d be facing a camera- rather two of them! I actually had it in me,” he says. He plays the role of a psychologist in the film and it is slated for public release soon.
Eppo Kalyanam is his second film, a Tamil language full feature film where he plays the antagonist role. The movie is to be released OTT and is made with a message to enjoy one’s youth in a wise manner.
His third venture was into the Kannada industry with a film called September 13. It’s a multi-starrer anthology related to the pandemic. The film is made dedicated to the doctors and nurses worldwide who put their lives at risk to save everyone.
His fourth film is in Tamil called Sudalai Maari, a true story that chronicles the extraordinary journey of a woman, for which shooting is scheduled to commence in early January 2022. He has also been signed as the lead role for his next project from KUAV Productions, a Tamil-Kannada bilingual movie called Fire Flies on how to nurture long meaningful relationships for which shooting begins in late January 2022.
He eagerly looks forward to working in Malayalam films in the near future!
On Arvind John Victor Productions and its Vision
Looking at cinema as a business fascinated Arvind and so, it was natural to begin his film journey with production. He wanted to get involved in all the processes that went into making a film right from pre-production to post-production, alongside acting. This learning-by-doing over the past three years gave him the confidence to start his own production company.
“I started this not because I wanted to make it big in the industry. Having been a hardcore industry professional wherever I’ve been, I’ve always helped people grow. I believe in servant leadership. I believe in mentoring people and helping them achieve their dreams,” Arvind says and this is the intention behind starting a production house of his own.
Success for this particular production company wouldn’t be measured by the KPIs that you and I are used to. He says, “It’s only when the people around you follow through with their dreams will they be able to make you perform as a company.” He recognises that there are a whole lot of unsung heroes on a team, not showered with awards and accolades and setting up this production house was to give those people an opportunity. “At the end of the day, their happiness and blessings is what makes the world go around.”
By design, through his production house, he is looking to create movies for social awareness and to give people a message. Social media helps with instantaneous feedback and criticism, which is great since it keeps people on their toes, Arvind opines.
Arvind John Victor’s journey in film began as ‘Why not?’ and its transition to ‘This was meant to be’ has been nothing short of fascinating.
Victor’s Victory against COVID and its Lessons
The advent of the pandemic has reinforced Arvind’s belief that life is short- especially after coming face-to-face with the dire effects of the virus himself and fighting to survive, this April. He says, “When and if you go down, you should be remembered fondly. In my small way, I want to set a standard in the film industry. Though it has been around for 100+ years, the industry is still reinventing the wheel.”
OTT has been the hot topic on everyone’s minds with cinemas shut. When asked if he prefers a traditional release to an OTT release, Arvind says, “As an artist, I believe both [OTT and traditional release] are required.” Of OTT, he acknowledges that it is easier to reach millions of people in a flash. As he progresses with his answer, one can easily ascertain his preference for traditional release on the big screen, though!
Arvind is a die-hard fan of cinema, as an audience. As a filmmaker, Arvind understands that numerous intricacies come together to create a single screen. “You should be looking up with your mouth wide open! That’s the kind of experience that the director would like to give the audience,” he says. He speaks of how everything about the experience of watching a movie in a theatre is larger than life itself. The feeling of sitting in an ocean of strangers enjoying the ride alongside you is unparalleled. This is what makes the experience of cinema more profound, in his opinion. With OTT, on a smaller screen with a smaller audience, that oomph is missing! However, he confirms that OTT is here to stay!
A hybrid model with a balance of OTT along with the theatre releases is what will continue to keep everyone happy, Arvind believes; and his production house will be following a similar principle.
Apart from movies, Arvind also runs his consulting business and legal practice.
“Life is like a hurdle- but hurdles are meant to be crossed. You can’t go around the hurdle, you can’t avoid the hurdle. You have to cross it. Prepare and learn the dynamics of crossing that hurdle,” he says and is always prepared to welcome challenges head on!
Being a believer of giving people the space to be themselves, Arvind is a co-founder of Women Entrepreneurship Development Organization (WEDO) and ensured that his partner Kadambari leads it from the front, remaining happily in the background. He goes on to say that he supports the system and the movement as a whole, several times having to yield an answer on what a man is doing in a women’s forum and this is his response. Like the maxim ‘Behind every successful man is a woman’ and through WEDO, he gets to be a man who is behind many successful women. He realises that his role in this partnership is no more than mentoring and offering support, which has nothing to do with his gender.
He urges people to never give up on their dreams, start channelising them and make them happen. “Life doesn’t come easy. Like everybody else, I had to fight for what my dreams are all about. Dreams are just dreams unless you work towards it. Research and deep dive into it. Learn the hard way what is right and what is wrong. Move towards making it right.”
“Success is painful, filled with struggle, pitfalls, tears, sweat and a lot of obstacles. If you prevail in spite of all that- that is success.”