R Madhavan in an exclusive interview talks about having a loyal fan following despite taking up age-appropriate roles; insists he doesn't want to project himself as an alpha male
Q. Let's begin with your latest outing, Saala Khadoos. Has it made money at the box office?
A. We made money, but I thought we'd make a lot more. Even for my super flop film, 'Jodi Breakers', we made
Rs 2.5 crore on day one and Rs 7 crore over the weekend. Raju (Rajkumar Hirani, co-producer of 'Saala Khadoos') is stunned at the figures. We barely had any publicity. People didn't know when the film was releasing. In Tamil the film went berserk. It made more money in week two — almost a 40 per cent jump.
Exclusive pic of R Madhavan for his next on encounter specialists
Q. Is it true that Sudha Kongara Prasad wanted to make the film with you because she is a fan?
A. No, we used to fight like cats and dogs. She was Mani Ratnam's assistant, one of the last ones working when I was a star there. She would come up to me and talk about continuity and I'd ask her shut up. I am always skeptical when I work with Mani Ratnam's assistants because they would come with my mentor's sword over their neck, and I have to be careful. But when I read Sudha's script, I was completely blown away with the kind of research that she had done for it.
R Madhavan at the mid-day office. Pic/Shadab Khan
Q. Given that she is a debutante director, how much did you all have to work on the film?
A. She had a basic story, so I worked on the screenplay with her for the first two years before we pitched it to Raju. We had to work on it; she was inexperienced to an extent, but she would take suggestions from everybody and mould it. Whatever films I do, I submit myself to my director because they decide how I should perform. I date my directors, take them out for dinners, debate and discuss, throw red herrings at them just to see how they function under pressure and if they accept all my suggestions or have their own point of view. Sudha was acing all of that like Aanand L Rai (maker of 'Tanu Weds Manu').
Q. Do you also pitch ideas to makers?
A. No, I don't pitch ideas; I give them full-bound scripts. Either the maker and I finish it and pitch it to producers, or there is an idea that I have and we work on it. But mostly, I don't have original ideas, so I wait for the director to come to me. I have a bit of expertise in screenplay writing.
Q. Do you feel 'Saala Khadoos' release with 'Mastizaade' affected the business?
A. No, because they released with 1800 prints and we went ahead with 500. The strategy was to start off slow.
Q. What's next?
A. I will take a break and decide whether I should keep my hair and moustache, or take it off. There's a script I am doing on encounter specialists. The research is underway, and I will soon undergo arms training to make sure that I look like an arms specialist. We are meeting people involved with the police and Defence forces. For my kind of films, there is a little bit of research that goes into it, because I don't think I can entice people with the way I dance or show them my six packs now.
Q. You are known to be a good motivational speaker. Why don't you pursue it?
A. I do that every time I have to convince a producer to back my films. That's all I need. I recently gave a speech at a Coimbatore college which went viral. Since then I have been getting a lot of offers, but I don't think I am qualified for that right now. I want to act and be in front of the camera.
Q. People have appreciated you for your movie choices. But how do you regard the award system in the industry?
A. I am someone who gives enough respect to the media and award organisers to decide whether they need to give me an award or not. I cannot and I will not lobby for awards. I think if professional friendship is going to influence all that then it is not earned in the first place. It makes me think that I am better than I actually am. I know I have found a place for myself in the industry and will be walking into the archives; they will never forget that there was an actor like me — that much I know. I just have to make sure that I keep pushing myself. The awards system works the same way in the South as well. If you get an Oscar, your standing in Hollywood goes up. So, if you were charging 2 million dollars, you can charge 5 million dollars post that, but that doesn't happen with any award here in India. However, the National Award has suddenly got a lot more importance now.
Q. Is it a challenge to find age-appropriate roles?
A. I have always done age-appropriate roles except for '3 Idiots' (2009). That's the best part; you can make a Piku and get R100 crore out of it. I have no qualms playing my age and that's what the audience likes. If I were to dye my hair and behave like a 31-year-old and romance a girl, doing the scene would have felt obscene, let alone the audience watching it. Having said that, I know there are 23-year-old girls who lust after me. But that's a one-off thing as they are not lusting after the Maddy that I am right now; it is just about the image of who I was and what I had been — that I can't take seriously. The moment I do that, I will become a dirty old man. But as an actor, I can't look for a non-age appropriate role just to prove I am the alpha male around.