We last saw him in a flop. By the time Jodi Breakers tanked, actor R Madhavan already knew that the fire had gone out of him. He responded in ways few actors do — by blinking off the radar. As Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR) hits the screens this week, Madhavan talks about reinventing himself, his insecurity about being overshadowed by co-star Kangana Ranaut and why he was bored of his movies.
Your last Hindi film was the forgettable Jodi Breakers in 2012, a year after Tanu Weds Manu (TWM). Why such a huge gap from films?
I was bored of my own acting and the kind of films that I was doing, both in Hindi and Tamil. I have done 47 films in my life and I didn’t have the fire in my belly that I had in college. I was fat in TWM and it still worked. Jodi Breakers was a disaster. I wanted to reinvent myself and see what I had missed out on. I took a sabbatical of three years. Thankfully, Tanu Weds Manu Returns fell on my lap right after the break.
Why were you bored? Did the films you were doing not offer anything new?
There was a certain energy with which I acted in 3 Idiots and even TWM. Success came easily and the money was there. But I was losing the urge to metamorphose into a character. The Tamil movies were being built around my star persona. The fact that I was doing so many romantic movies at the age of 42 was boring. I took the break to know what my audience was doing at that point of time.
What was exciting about TWMR?
This movie sticks to the timeline of the first. It has almost repeated the original cast, including all junior artistes. While the first ends with Tanu and Manu getting married, this one starts straight after four years. The world of TWM is soaked in reality, so it was challenging to explore what happened to these people in four years; what did living in a London suburb do to these people? Their personalities have changed, their likes and dislikes have altered a little but not the basics. There are a gamut of emotions you need to tap into to portray the characters on screen.
Kangana Ranaut has a double role and she almost seems like a hero in the movie. Did the thought of being overshadowed by your co-star ever bother you?
When director Anand L Rai narrated the story to me, I said, ‘What the hell, I have become the heroine of the film’. Then it struck me that there was a reason why these two women fall in love with the same guy. I totally trust Anand. If you ask me whether I was jealous and insecure about Kangana, yes absolutely. But, that is how I am. I am the kind of guy who would dive into a situation like this and hold my own.
Tell us about your other projects.
I have Saala Kharoos/Irudhi Sutru, where I play a retired boxer-turned-coach. I went to Los Angeles to train in boxing when I realised I should be observing a coach instead. I did that and I built a physique that looked like I could beat the hell out of anyone. I built a lot of muscles, I had an 18.5 inch bicep, a size only two inches less than that of Arnold Schwarzenneger. For a vegetarian South Indian like me, this is a big deal. But I had to lose all that dramatically and be a lump of lard for TWMR. Then I have my first Hollywood film, Night of the Living of the Dead: Origins (3D), a reimagining of the 1968 zombie horror classic. It is a motion capture animation picture and shooting for it was a unique experience. I play one of the leads and the film is slated for a Halloween release this year.
How helpful was the break?
I travelled on my own across India and the world, including Russia and Los Angeles, where I went to train for Saala Kharoos, for which I grew my beard and hair. This made me unrecognisable and people would mistake me for a sardar. I went through the grind of living like a common man, standing in line, waiting for my turn, travelling by bus and getting pushed about in trains. I came across so many stories and people. It was lovely to know that you are walking in pace with the people you make movies for.