by Saraswathy Srinivas
If looking good is the first step to making it big in films then Madhavan’s home already. His compelling screen presence, combined with his histrionic talent already showcased through Hindi TV serials plus a dream debut in a Manirathnam film gave him the right passport to instant stardom. Madhavan is riding the crest of popularity now with five films already up his sleeve.
I found post-Alaipayuthe Madhavan the same balanced, down to earth person with no hang-ups. How does he feel about the phenomenal hype following the success of Alaipayuthe? "Awestruck!", he says. And to what does he attribute the success of the film? Pat came the reply : "Hundred percent to Maniratnam Sir". The euphoria still lingers, "I still haven’t absorbed it all completely", he added flashing that now-famous oh-so-naughty smile. Madhavan then went on to talk about himself, the making of Alaipayuthe, his stardom, aspirations, passions etc.
Q: Was your movie career a planned one?
A: I never thought I'd ever be a professional actor. I was always interested in joining the Defence. But my mother believed I'd make a good actor as I was great at fibbing!
Q: Was it the English TV Serial ‘A Mouthful of Sky’ that brought you into limelight?
A: No, in fact A Mouthful of Sky was my least noticed Serial. I had major roles in Sea Hawks and Ghar Jamai.
Q: Many artists say comedy is difficult to perform. Do you agree?
A: Not at all. I think I'm better at comedy. I think comedy and action are my forte.
Q: How do you differentiate between acting on the small screen and in movies?
A: There is a very big difference between the two. On TV you might put your heart and soul into one episode of a serial, put in your best performance of your life in that. While it is being telecast if you get a phone call or you have unexpected guests, you miss – its as transient as that. But in films you are glued for three hours and get totally involved with it. People come and tell you in great detail about your performance. Nobody comments on your performance as an actor on TV. People comment on the programme as a whole. Very few even remember the name of the artist.
Q: As an actor which do you find more satisfying, TV or films?
A: Both. I get satisfaction from doing a good job - be it acting in a TV serial or a film or even repairing a car.
Q: You have mentioned elsewhere you were first auditioned by Maniratnam for his 'Iruvar'. How did you feel when you were not selected and later when you were called for Alaipayuthe?
A: I had mixed feelings when I didn't get through. But meeting Mani Sir was exciting enough. When I got his call for a screen test for 'Alaipayuthe' I felt like a computer-crazy 12th standard student getting a call from Bill Gates! It was a mixture of excitement, awe, fear, expectations - everything. Even if he had offered me a miniscule role I'd have been thrilled. I think I'm the first newcomer ever he cast in the main lead in his film. That’s such an honour.
Q: Was Maniratnam a hard taskmaster?
A: Absolutely. But if you are a dedicated person he is the easiest person to get along with. I loved to be a part of his thinking process on each shot. I have learnt quite a bit about the technical aspects of film-making from him. I even learned the entire script of ‘Alaipayuthe’, irrespective of whether I was in the scene or not! Mani Sir inspires that sort of involvement and dedication in you.
Q: After being signed up by Maniratnam were you flooded with film offers?
A: I did get a lot of offers.
Q: Are you already being choosy?
A: I have been choosy during the last two years. It’s not ego. I'm simply applying business sense. Where 'Alaipayuthe' is concerned Maniratnam was the selling proposition, not Madhavan. P.C.Sreeram, A.R.Rahman and he are the stars of that film. Only if I do well in my next three films will I become a saleable commodity. I have signed up five films now, including one with Madras Talkies.
Q: How do you manage both your TV and Film assignments simultaneously?
A: I have reduced my TV assignments considerably. I'm now doing only one serial 'Saaya' on Sony. Since I'm not doing the lead role in and I don't have to be there in every episode and it doesn't clash with my film commitments.
Q: How good is your Tamil?
A: I do have an accent problem! I can speak, but cannot read or write Tamil. I get the script written in Hindi, really!
Q: Do you think your married status will affect your screen image?
A: I'm married to a Maharashtrian girl I fell in love with. She was my student and is now an airhostess. For the sake of my profession and to get the adulation of some unknown girls I'm not going to hurt the girl closest to my heart. All the good actors in the industry are married, some more than once! I'm not selling myself, I'm selling dreams and the character I play.
Q: What are your other interests?
A: I play Basketball and Football. I'm a computer freak. My wife always complains I'm always either working or at the computer! I love music. I'm an A.R.Rahman fan. I love Hindi bhajans, country and folk music and Pop. I don't like Hindustani Classical. I love the music of Balamuralikrishna and Jesudas. People like Jesudas are my idols.
And the parting shot…
It is easy to get carried away by all the glamour and adulation at my age. I don't want that to happen to me. I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground.