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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Think about it – how often do you come across an award-winning actor who counts 11 minutes of screen presence as "one of his toughest roles," admits that working with Mani Ratnam is "never easy" or jokes about the amount of weight he needed to lose in one of his movies. That’s not all, he also makes a bold admission of his limitations in Bollywood and how critical success doesn’t necessarily translate into commercial success. Madhavan, "call me Maddy" talks about it all and a whole lot more....

Q : Maddy, they say good guys serve the Army or become doctors or engineers. You almost got there and then made a radical career shift. How did your parents respond to your decision to join the film industry?
A : (Laughs) Thank you for your backhanded compliment about good guys, it’s a tough reputation to live up to. But you’re right, I tried to be a qualified engineer, I was about to join the Defence forces but I think it was just meant to be that I become an actor. I almost became all of these before I quit to become an actor. I just couldn’t imagine my life in an office, doing a 9-5 job, working for the Tatas, which is what was dreamed for me by my parents. Then there was of course the Army. I wanted to be in it. I wanted to be a fighter pilot and I almost became one but they wouldn’t give me MiGs to fly, they were giving me helicopters. Can you imagine my disappointment? I’d watched ‘Top Gun’ and like guys my age then I imagined flying around like Tom Cruise. As a 22 year old, who wasn’t getting what he wanted, you can imagine my sense my sadness at that. I pretty much walked out of all of that and became an actor.

Q : Well, you weren’t exactly Tom Cruise but you sure got to live a bit of your dream in Rang de Basanti – a movie that is widely credited with re-defining Indian cinema in a sense. It was a small role but an enormously significant one. What was getting and playing the role of Ajay Rathod like?
A :
I am lucky because I got a character like that, a character defined and written by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. It was not just as a guest appearance. It was one of my toughest roles to date. A lot of people don’t understand why. They keep asking me "Why do you say it was your toughest role? Do you say it because it did well?" I always say no to that. In Rang de Basanti, I had precisely 11 minutes on screen and a total of seven odd scenes and in those seven scenes I had to prove that I was a great guy as a friend, that I was a good lover, that I was a good son and that I was actually a latent patriot and at the same time a guy who his friends would think is worth dying for. All these things had to work simultaneously and if any one of them failed then the film would look that much shallower when it’s released. When Aamir Khan called me, I told him, you’ve got so many stories to narrate in this film and on top of that you’ve got me in it. I don’t know if I can do it all. Aamir said, "the reason I’m calling you is because I know you can do it." It was a lot of responsibility. Then Rakeysh and I discussed it and we hit upon a way of doing it. I told him Rakeysh don’t direct me in this film, let me just be myself, let me just be Maddy. Let me not have a mannerism or a style that is different from what I am. So that when I die in the film, let people think that Maddy died, not Ajay Rathod. The whole film was just about me being me, I wasn’t acting at all. It was a very exciting phase of my acting career.

Q : I'd think your toughest role was in Mani Ratnam's 'Guru'.....

Watch this space for Madhavan's response.

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