“Bayandhutiya?” Shalini asked her husband, after waking up from a coma, after a near-fatal accident. “Uyire Poiduchu,” replied Madhavan, with a faint smile. And we all broke down. Alaipayuthey’s climax scene was a defining moment in Tamil cinema. The ideal actor had been found. Someone who acts well and looks endearing. It’s been 15 years since that dialogue was first seen on the big screen, and Madhavan remains an actor to watch out for. He’s managed to be a member of the elite club of actors who genuinely have no ‘haters’.
In a role that is completely different from the Karthik of Alaipayuthey, Madhavan’s comeback film Irudhi Suttru features a bulky, rugged looking hero, with biceps in constant tension with his t-shirt. We join him for a short chat. In odd contrast to the trailer of the film, he’s dressed in a suit, looking prim and courteous.
“I had to shoot for Tanu Weds Manu right after Irudhi Suttru, so I had to lose the muscles quickly. But the intention was never to break any images. The idea was that it has to be something that the script demanded. I wanted that to be out of the way. If the next script that I like has me playing a crippled guy with one eye, I will do it. As long as it excites me,” he says.
Saala Khadoos seems to be the opposite of Madhavan’s real life personality. We ask him who was the real ‘Khadoos’ on the film’s sets. He says, “Sudha looks like a sweet lady, but she is the toughest person on set. We shot in ghettos and slums and the way she took advantage of being a woman, and getting her way through things, was amazing.”
The bilingual film has the actors doing all their scenes in both Tamil and Hindi. One would think this was challenging, but Madhavan says it was a cakewalk. “We pre-prepped for the film for close to nine month. Apart from my physique, we also did rehearsals, thanks to which we could wrap the shoot of the film in 44 days.”
No one knows who invented the term ‘chocolate boy’, but everyone knows that the first person to be associated with the term in Tamil cinema was Madhavan. After 15 years, has the chocolate turned bitter? Madhavan says, “I knew that I had to get out of this chocolate boy phase. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I needed to do something exciting. I was very bored with the kind of scripts that came my way. Sudha’s script was so powerful and did exactly what I wanted for my sake. Such a script is capable of catapulting you to the top, no matter how low you are.”
Is he also bored of being the ‘nice-guy’? “I think I’m blessed. It was never my endeavour to be one of those nice guys that everyone likes, but eventually, I think your work speaks for you, and the kind of roles I did set up my image. So either I have fooled most people or I have genuinely been a nice guy!” he laughs.
Of course, if the trailers are anything to go by, Madhavan’s character is anything but a nice guy. In just three minutes, the video has adjectives like ‘Pombala Poriki’ ‘Oodhari Naai’ and ‘Porambokku’ thrown at him. How will this change his image? He says, “I think it will be more endearing than ever. The ladies I shared the script with all listened with tears in their eyes. They say ‘We need an Adi Tomar/Prabhu in our lives’. When I say that he is a womanizer, a crude and uncouth guy, they reply, ‘All that doesn’t matter, we need a heart like his.’”
Madhavan says that apart from 15 kilos and grey hair, not much has changed for him in his 15 years in the industry. He says, “You can never take your audience for granted, and never judge them. Many actors and film makers do that. They decide on something saying this is what the audience would like to see. But no, [the audience] is more intelligent than any of us could imagine.”
For Madhavan, a lot rides on this comeback, and he is excited. He says, “The love of the people, I can see it in their eyes. I can sense how many have been waiting for me to come back. It’s a huge compliment. I don’t think many actors can say that despite being away from cinema for 4-5 years, people would welcome them the way they did 15 years ago.”