He has been in the entertainment industry for close to three decades, acting across various languages, but actor R Madhavan says he is still waiting to deliver his best performance. Madhavan started his career as a model, appearing in TV commercials, and later ventured into acting with TV shows like Banegi Apni Baat, Ghar Jamai, Saaya and Sea Hawks.
His first major hit in movies was Mani Ratnam’s Tamil romantic film, Alaipayuthey. He followed it up with films like Minnale, which was remade in Hindi as Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Kannathil Muthamittal, Anbe Sivam, Vettai, Irudhi Suttru, Vikram Vedha, Nishabdham and Maara.
The actor also actively pursued a career in Hindi cinema and attained success with supporting roles in Rang De Basanti, Guru, 3 Iditos, besides Tanu Weds Manu franchise. Reflecting on his illustrious journey, the 51-year-old star said he still craves for diverse roles.
“I feel very inadequate right now. I don’t think I will ever reach that stage ever. When a big star or politician or leader, who embraces and says and means that he likes my work or I meet people from different generations, maybe that time I feel I am on the right path. But I still strongly feel that my best is yet to come. I don’t know if it is a safety mechanism or that is a fact. I have never sat around… The fact that I have also financially never (been) super settled at any given point of a time, the hunger to create a star life has always kept me wanting more,” Madhavan said during a virtual session on day three of India Film Project.
The actor believes he would hardly ever reach a stage in his life where he would feel he has “made it”.
“I have realised that I can never live like a star, I am a terrible star. I don’t wear designer clothes. I can’t afford to have people around me all the time. I also realise that your demeanour and the way you walk at the airport or in public kind of decide how many people mob you and how many leave you. I am very hungry. I don’t think I have ever reached a stage where I feel I have made it.”
He recalled when he started out in the Tamil film industry, he was very conscious of his age as he was doing a love story when he was 30-year-old.
“As soon as I finished Alaipayuthey, I (felt) needed to get into a bracket of age group where I will be able to play that sort of role over and over again because it becomes easier to catch a particular genre and keep making movies in that genre when it works. And people have done that before and it has worked for them. But I realized that maybe I won’t be this young teenager looking for a long time. Hence, I jumped into Kannathil Muthamittal, where I played the father of three children. Most guys told me (it was) suicide that time.”
He also added that fear of not being able to shake a leg and punch the bad guys on screen made him realise that he can’t be like the other heroes.
“I was very conscious that I had to find a niche for myself where I am not competing in areas that are not strong for me. In that attempt I started doing roles that were very varied, which were not in the mainstream realm of films but had the ability to earn a lot more than what was invested. That became an addiction over a period of time and I started picking up roles that people normally would not associate with commercial heroes. I started playing to my strength and here I am today and my absolute desire to do something different, he said.
Madhavan revealed that when he acted with superstars like Kamal Haasan in Anbe Sivam and Aamir Khan in Rang De Basanti and 3 Idiots, he realised that he can “stand on my own”.
He added that it was filmmaker Mani Ratnam, who made him feel confident about his capability as a performer.
“Since I never wanted to be an actor, I never trained to be one. Till I started Alaipayuthey and I remember my first take was okay for Mani Ratnam but it was when he offered me Kannathil Muthamittal that was a reassuring factor that he actually considered me an actor and that I am capable of pulling off something,” he reminisced.
“I remember I told Mani Ratnam that after his film Alaipayuthey that I don’t think I will be acting because it was like ‘where do you go, what do you do, especially when you don’t have a background in the industry’. But every time I got ok and saw reviews, I realised this looks like a life-long profession,” he added.
The actor forayed into OTT space with Amazon Prime Video series Breathe and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Madhavan said he is immensely proud of it.
“The first two episodes were made with Indian palatable spacing where people are getting used to storytelling and then took it to an international level of storytelling, it was breaking the mould. That was very exciting for me,” he said.
Next for Madhavan is his directorial debut Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, which is based on the life of Nambi Narayanan, a former scientist and aerospace engineer of the Indian Space Research Organisation.