R Madhavan adoringly named ‘Maddy’ by his fans rose to immense popularity through Tamil Films. With his serials like ‘Banegi Apni Baat’ and ‘Sea Hawks’ he became the dream boy of every girl’s heart. His first Bollywood venture Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein paired opposite gorgeous Dia Mirza was an average grosser with failures like Ramji Londonwaley and Dil Vil Pyar Vyar which bombed at the box-office. However, this had no effect on his female fan following all over India.
He later worked in big banner Bollywood movies like Guru, Rang De Basanti and Mumbai Meri Jaan which were huge hits. His last release 3 Idiots where he shared screen space with none other than Aamir Khan and talented Sharman Joshi has proved to be a blockbuster and have finally gained him immense popularity worldwide.
In this conversation Madhavan talks about his latest release blockbuster 3 Idiots and his journey in Bollywood so far.
How is feeling at the super success of your movie 3 Idiots?
We moved from happiness to supreme happiness, to ecstasy to now numb. I run short of words for the movie have broken the records of Ghajini, Sholay. The movie has touched the hearts of many the way we expected it to. I haven’t met anybody in last five days who has not seen the movie more than once in a theater and that too in the times when piracy is so prevalent which is quite rare a thing to happen, so obviously the film has struck the chord and RajKumar Hirani is the true superstar of the film.
How has life changed after 3 Idiots?
All I can say is now- I can’t eat roadside pani-puri anymore. So, I have got a fair amount of recognition down south in Tamil industry. However, with three movies in a row, I am slowly and gradually getting recognized in North India too. It’s the visibility game…the more you are visible the more people recognized you are. Recently, we had gone to Indore and Nagpur I felt overwhelmed to see the appreciation in people’s eyes for me when they recognized me saying ‘Hey Rehnaa Hai Tere Dil Mein…’ and now 3 Idiots as I said earlier its difficult to move out to a public place.
Do you feel that after ‘3 Idiots’ got lot more acceptance which you deserved before since it’s been quite a long time now?
I have been able to choose the kind of movies I wanted to do. My list of films in Bollywood has been fair but money has kept coming from Tamil movies which I do. As far as acceptance is considered if the yardstick to measure an actor’s acceptance is the amount of lead roles he/she does in Yash Raj Films then I am clueless. However, I have been getting endorsements which makes me a brand ambassador on a national level so yes, I have been accepted nationally.
Which of your Bollywood movies is the most close to you?
Very honestly one of my films that didn’t do really well but definitely is very close to my heart as an actor is Ramji Londonwaley. I know many people who have really liked it and I can say that because once when I was on a flight I was asleep and an air hostess woke me up saying ‘Sir you have to see this’. And to my surprise everyone on the flight was watching Ramji Londonwaley on entertainment system. Since they all had earphones plugged obviously they could not hear themselves laughing but they were laughing aloud. I knew I had hit the base, it just that the movie didn’t get a good opening; perhaps it was not well promoted.
When was it that you thought of making a career in music?
I never aspired to be a good actor till the time press started writing good about me. I was performing for the sake of money. I used to teach public speaking and communication in Mumbai and films happened to me accidentally and I gave a loud laugh to it initially. I had no intentions to become an actor. I went to the audition of ‘Banegi Apni Baat’ with no expectations. Later they zeroed on me and aired one episode featuring me and eventually, I became the hero of the serial. I found it amusing initially and suddenly media started writing all good things about me, my acting skills, great female fan following etc. And eventually, I realized that I should take acting seriously.
When are you coming back into ‘Maddy mode’, when will audience see you in happy go lucky natured lover act which was really admired?
Actually I have been ignoring such roles for a while now and concentrating on more meaningful cinema with big directors. But I would love top come back in the mode which I am good at. Now I am looking for a good story that can bring me back in that kind of roles.
Was stripping quite embarrassing thing to do for the movie?
Stripping was not as embarrassing as stripping in girls’s hostel was. First day we all entered as heroes in that girl’s hostel where we were to shoot and were signing autographs but in evening we were standing there with our pants down. All the girls who had taken our autographs were looking at us and smiling which was very embarrassing.
As an actor what is challenging meaningful cinema or conventional main-stream cinema?
An Ideal balance between meaningful and conventional cinema works for an actor according to me. I think they both are challenging but the biggest challenge in switch to mainstream after doing meaningful cinema for quite long. The prime reason is- once you do realistic movies your conscience does not approve to do conventional movies. That switching lanes becomes challenging.
How does it feel- a director with whom you worked as a main lead in down south didn’t choose you as one in Bollywood?
Mani Ratnam makes such films that are not totally hero’s films. So, I did Guru where Abhishek Bachchan was hero, for me it is just to work with director like Mani and be in archives. I do feel that I could have done the lead role but then it’s not a perfect world.
You played Abhishek’s character in the southern original version of Yuva but were not chosen for the Hindi version. Do you think you could have done justice to role in Hindi version as well?
No, Abhishek did a good job and there are certain budgets that our films are stuck with to recover and every film has its own requirements and need to be reached after the release too.
What is the sweetest thing that fan did for you after 3 Idiots?
I have received loads of messages people saying- watching movie was the best three of their lives. Some were thankful to teach them how to make their parents understand their stand. These are the compliments that one does not hear after every film (smiles).
Currently you are the only south Indian actor who is doing well in Bollywood too? What is your take on this?
There are so many new actors who look promising and are doing great work like Mr. Cheeranjeevi’s son is making his in Farhan Akhtar’s movie. So, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you come from ultimately your talent speaks for you.
What it takes for a south Indian movie star to be accepted in Bollywood according to you?
It just takes hard work, enough luck to get good kind of roles and command over the language. There is no conspiracy in Bollywood to not let south Indian actors come and act here.
Tell us about your projects in the pipeline?
‘Tanu weds Manu’ with Kangana Ranaut which is being directed by Anand Rai apart from Teen Patti.
What do you have to say about the recent suicide cases being blamed on certain parts of 3 Idiots?
Film is not glorifying ragging or supporting suicides in fact it’s against ragging and suicides so people have to understand it.
What do you have to say about Chetan Bhagat controversy regarding your film?
I think it was a smartly done publicity stunt because anybody who has seen the movie would realize that how many percent of film is adopted from the book. It’s very evident- Vidhu Vinod Chopra has lived up to his commitments done in the contract which is obvious as when he came out in public to clarify; Mr. Bhagat had to apologize.
Do you enjoy your image as one of the heartthrobs of nation?
Yes of course I do, I don’t think there is any actor who would say no to it. I know many actors not to get recognized put their shades or ignore the people. But I am shameless, I surely enjoy all the attention.
Do you have any crazy fans?
I do like have and I am quite scared of them for they wanted to get married to me but now they are fine with the as mistresses.
-Chandana H Buch/ Sampurn Media