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R Madhavan was quite candid about his jet-setting life when he spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf. He talks about his new film 3 Idiots with Aamir Khan, and much more.
Over to Madhavan:
From your first Hindi film Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main in 2001 to 3 Idiots. How has the journey been?
I have been in the industry for 10 years, so everybody remembers the movies I have done. I have done seven Hindi films in the last 10 years -- from Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein to Ramji Londonwale, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar, Guru, Rang De Basanti to 13B. Now, I'm doing 3 Idiots. Every film has made its mark.
But only 13B recovered its money.
No (all my films did). Ramji Londonwale had a bad release but it has had about 180 shows on television.
The success of a film cannot be guaranteed by me because I'm not Akshay Kumar or Aamir Khan. All the films I have done have been successful.
Will you be shifting to Bollywood now, or will you still do South movies?
I am not shifting anywhere. My base is the airport, from where I travel a lot. I will definitely do Tamil films.
But I'm at a stage where I can choose and do the kind of films that I want, instead of doing films to survive. The money is enough for the lifestyle I want.
I will do Telugu films this year as well. I am proud to say that I can do commercial films in three languages. That's a great choice for an actor.
Director Priyadarshan had once said that South Indian heroines like Sridevi and Hema Malini can reach the number one spot but heroes can never reach it. Have you ever wondered why that is so?
I think that is a ridiculous analysis.
Are you trying to say that Bengali heroes don't make it to the top? Or only actors with a Khan surname can make it? There are only six guys at the top, and that level is limited to extremely talented people.
But you are very talented too.
No, I am not. I don't think I am half as good looking as Hrithik Roshan or half as charming as Shah Rukh Khan. I am the most undeserving actor in the industry.
Shah Rukh Khan went for acting classes and trained to be an actor. I was never trained as an actor, never went for acting classes. I never learnt dancing. I don't think I look like a macho hero. But I am lucky to be what I am.
Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth are number one in their cinema but their language restricts them from doing Hindi films. Unki Hindi bolne se aapko pata chalta hai ke woh Hindi bolne waalon mein se nahin hai jo ke mere liye nahi hai kyon ke main Bihar se hoon. Isse pehle ke log kahen ke main Hindi mein top hua kyon nahi to main kahoon ga ke main TV mein toh top tha hi. (You can make out that they don't speak Hindi but that does not apply to me because I'm from Bihar. But before people ask me why I haven't topped the Hindi charts, let me say that I topped in television.)
I was a leading actor at that time and audiences didn't had any problem accepting me.
As far as heroines are concerned, South Indian girls are beautiful. And Bharatnatyam and singing is part of their culture. You will find very few South Indian girls, who don't know Bharatnatyam or singing. So this tradition is beneficial when you want to become a heroine.
You said earlier that you can afford to be choosy because of your present financial status. Does that mean you had to do films because of economic compulsion, and not out of choice?
Yes, of course. Not for bread and butter but for paneer and ras malai! You want a bigger slice of life. You want a better car and a better house.
But now I am not in that stage where I have to do films for the sake of doing films. Today, nobody can forget the actor called Madhavan.
You are acting with Aamir in 3 Idiots after sharing screen with him in Rang De Basanti. What has the experience been like?
Fantastic. It's like old friends meeting up again. With Aamir, there is never a dull moment. 3 Idiots has been the best shooting experience of my life. It took us back to our college days. We stayed on campus at the IIM.
How did you get this role?
Director Rajkumar Hirani narrated the story to me. I felt it was like my life's story. I've always been his fan.
I asked Raju for a screen test because I wanted both of us to be comfortable with the shoot. He started laughing but I insisted. When I did it, Raju started crying. From then on, it was a breeze because I just had to be myself in the film.
What is your character in the film?
He is a guy, who is pressured by his family to choose a profession of their choice. Sometimes, parents put so much pressure on their kids, as they think they know what is good for the child. But the child may have something else on his mind.
Finally, how long do you plan to stay in that airport?
As long as the airport guys don't chuck me out! Once, I checked in thrice on a single day. I had to travel from Mumbai to Chennai, come back, then go to Hyderabad, and then go to Malaysia in the night! Someone at the airport asked me, 'Aap ghar pe rehte ho ya nahi?' (Do you stay at home at all?) (laughs). It's a great life, yaar!