Making a good living

StarTwo catches up with Chennai-based actor R. Madhavan, who was in Kuala Lumpur for a one-day shoot in a Malaysian movie, Tipu Kanan Tipu Kiri. 

IT’S not everyday you see a famous Indian movie star filming a movie at the KL Sentral station. But that’s exactly what passers-by got last weekend, when R. Madhavan came to town to star in the local film, Tipu Kanan Tipu Kiri (TKTK). 

TKTK is a Malay romantic comedy produced and directed by Indian filmmaker Sharad Sharan in a joint venture with Nusantara Films. It also stars Indonesian actors Christian Sugiono, Titi Kamal as well as Malaysians Natasha Hudson, Sazzy Falak, Hans Isaac and Catherine Wilson.  

Rising star:R. Madhavan wasin town recentlyto attend the ZeeCine Awardsceremony.

Madhavan is the only Indian movie star who makes an appearance in the film.  

“It’s been a good shoot,” he said after filming for less than an hour at the KL Sentral departure hall. A small group of people had huddled around the area cordoned off for the shoot, hoping to get a chance to speak to the star, or snap a shot of him with their cellphones.  

“I’m only in about four shots in the film ... but so far, so good,” said the handsome actor who looked the worse for wear on Saturday night. He’d arrived late from Los Angeles – thanks to an earlier flight being cancelled due to an accident on the tarmac – gone straight to freshen up at the hotel before heading out to the film shoot, and then on to a couple of press interviews.  

But the Chennai-based actor took it all in his stride, and with a smile to boot.  

“Actually, I’m based in the airports,” he said tongue in cheek. “I occasionally go to Chennai.” 

And then with a nod and wink he added: “You know you’re travelling too much when the guys at the customs know you by name... I see them more than I see my wife.” 

Just how did Maddie (as he is affectionately known to fans) land the role in a local film? 

Director Sharad – who will produce Om Ganesha, an animated Tamil film on the Hindu god, Ganesha, and featuring Madhavan’s vocal talents – had hoped that the guest appearance of a big name like Madhavan would attract Indians to watch the movie. “Sharad asked me if I wanted to do this small guest appearance and I said fine,” Madhavan explained.  

“I was supposed to be here for the Zee Cine Awards anyway. So he flew me down from Los Angeles a day earlier for this one-day shoot, he added” 

The Zee Cine Awards were held on April 1 at Genting’s Arena of Stars and the 37-year-old star was one of the many glamorous, glitzy celebrities who graced the event. 

Madhavan – who can speak five languages (Tamil, Hindi, Bihari, Marati and English) but is most famous for his Tamil-speaking roles – played a part in Raykesh Omprakash Mehra’s message-driven Rang De Basanti, a big winner at the Zee Cine Awards (it took home six awards). 

Prior to Rang, he’d acted in four other Bollywood films – Rehnaa Hain Terre Dil Mein, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Ramji Londonwale and Guru. Is the Kollywood star looking to switch camps for wider appeal? 

“My main thing is Tamil films,” he stated clearly and without hesitation. “I don’t think I lack the recognition in any part of the world as compared to a Bollywood actor. I think I get full attention, if not prominence, in every part of the world.” 

In case he sounds a little arrogant, be assured that Madhavan does not come across as egoistic at all. He speaks with confidence and a sense of pride. 

“The idea is that I get my bread and butter from my Tamil cinema – it’s what I do – and Hindi cinema is icing on the cake. I don’t really have to go into the rat race and compete with the others. But if I get a Rang De Basanti or another Ramji Londonwale, then why not? 

“I’ve done five Hindi films, but I’m not pressing to do film after film in Hindi or even in Tamil; in fact I am looking forward to making an English film next.”  

Madhavan said he is in the process of working on a “highly-confidential” contract for a Hollywood film in the United States, which should begin sometime in August. 

“I’m also supposed to be doing a Deepa Mehta movie,” he revealed. The movie, Stella, is said to star Brendan Fraser and Vidya Balan. However, Madhavan admitted that he hadn’t yet received confirmation on either the cast or script. 


Easy money 

Madhavan wasn’t always an actor. In fact, he never even thought of becoming one in his younger days. It was while he was a consultant in public speaking and communications skills that he discovered that acting was an “easy way to make legal money fast”.  

“And then when people started saying I was a good actor, I started to take it a little more seriously,” he explained. “Now it’s become my passion.” 

Other passions – the type that get Madhavan all wide-eyed and put a smile on his face – are his wife Sarita and son Vedant, model aeroplanes and helicopters which he builds himself, lazing around at home in front of his “huge” home theatre, and (drum roll, please) ... golf. 

He even comes to this part of the world just to play golf! 

Madhavan said that he has been to Malaysia “hundreds” of times: “It’s just an extension of my country. There are so many wonderful people here – family and friends. And there are fantastic golf courses that I get invited to. 

“Golf is a huge passion. It’s great game to unwind with,” he said, adding that he had played at courses in Subang, Kinrara, Johor Baru, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Kubu Baru.  

“At one golf course, the Tamil school pupils from a nearby school all came out and we had to run up seven holes ... being chased up the golf course by Tamilians ? I thought that only happened in Chennai!” 

Madhavan has received much success in a short time (his debut film Alaipayuthey came out in 2000). He has worked with some big names in the industry, including renowned director Mani Ratnam (they’ve worked on five movies together) and No.1 Tamil actor Kamalhassan (on Anbe Sivam in 2003). 

Working with Mani, he said, makes him feel really alive on set. “He pushes my boundaries. The best part about a Mani Ratnam film is that as an actor you can’t go wrong. He won’t allow you to go wrong.” 

Madhavan also thinks Kamalhassan is the best in the world, where Tamil actors are concerned.  

“The sheer volume of the roles he (Kamalhassan) has portrayed on screen; the excellence that he’s managed to acquire in every department – from singing to dancing, action to comedy – you name it he has set the standard. 

“It was a complete privilege to act with him. It’s like a fresh computer graduate getting to work on his first project with Bill Gates.”  


Ups and downs 

While he is quite happy with his career progression right now, Madhavan doesn’t think cinema is the “be all and end all” of his life. 

In fact, there are quite a few things he dislikes about the job. 

“I really dislike the long hours. I dislike the fact that I have to look good all the time. I dislike the fact that I have to be on my best behaviour when I’m in public,” he rattled off, quickly adding “But I’d much rather have all the attention than not.” 

For the moment he’s enjoying the perks of being an actor. 

“There’s so many things that I like about it that I don’t know where to begin. I like the fact that I work with different faces every day. I like the fact that I work with different backgrounds, different scenes, different places. That gives me such a high.  

“I love the travelling ... unless your flight gets hit by a bus and then you’re in trouble, which is what happened to me yesterday.  

“I love putting smiles on people’s faces.” 

Madhavan feels that most of the time acting is like an out of body experience.  

“I can’t believe that all this is happening to me. I’ve been to Malaysia when I was not an actor and if I had seen this (the film shoot at KL Sentral), I would have stood there and watched the shoot and said ‘Hey, I can do better than that guy... ’ 

What he loves best is that there’s never a dull moment. “I love the fact that when you finish a project, you just move away from that and start a different one. You mull over the outcome of a film for some time and then you get over it and you just go into the next one, be it a success or a flop.  

“I guess I like the fact that my life is very episodic. One episode starts, ends, and then I move into the next episode. It’s never the same people, never the same place, never the same story. 


Did you know?

”THERE’S a whole list of types of Indian cinema, which may be a little confusing for those who don’t keep up with the various forms. Here’s a quick guide to help you: 

Bollywood – is the name given to the popular Mumbai-based Hindustani language film industry in India. The name is a portmanteau of Bombay (the former name for Mumbai) and Hollywood 

Kollywood – home of the Tamil-language film industry in India. It is based in Chennai (formerly known as Madras) in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. The name is a combination of Kodambakkam (an area of Chennai with a high concentration of film studios) and Hollywood. (Tamil language movies are also filmed in Sri Lanka but they are not part of Kollywood but part of Cinema of Sri Lanka) 

Mollywood – the Malayalam film industry in India 

Lollywood – the Pakistani film industry 

Tollywood – refers to the Telugu film industry 

* (Dollywood is a theme park owned by country music singer Dolly Parton located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, far, far away from India).