'It's an out-and-out Madhavan film!'
Presenting the brand new action star of Run
His new release is a Runaway hit. Madhavan's new film and his first action starrer Run opened to phenomenal crowds in Tamil Nadu recently.
A blow-by-blow actioner about a small-town guy who takes on a bloodthirsty mafioso Atul Kulkarni, to win the love of his life, Run is poised to become one of Tamil cinema's biggest hits in recent times, Madhavan tells Subhash K Jha:
Does Run signal a new beginning to your career in Tamil cinema?
It just shows how unpredictable the box-office is. This is my first action film and I really enjoyed it. It was my mentor Mani Ratnam's idea that I do an action film. My last two Tamil films weren't hits. But the offers never slowed down. And if I am to judge my popularity by the hits on my web site, there has been a gradual increase.
It is true that K. Balachander's Parthalai Paravasam was a critical and commercial flop. But I am very proud of Mani Ratnam's Kannathil Mutthamittal. It got phenomenal reviews, and it was screened at the Toronto film festival.
What about Run?
The response has been phenomenal. Mani Sir (Mani Ratnam) saw Run. I was afraid to show it to him since it is an out-out-out masala film with a very thin storyline. After seeing it he nodded at me and left.
Later, he called to say it is just the kind of film he would have made if he had to launch me as an action hero. His compliment made my day.
Now suddenly, everyone is wondering why I didn't do this film before. I had never seen the press coming out smiling from one of my films before. After Run, they asked me, 'Where the h&^% was this Madhavan all this time?'
You know, when I go to the villain's house to announce, "Tomorrow morning at 9, I'll come and take your sister away. Try to stop me if you like," the villain asks his men if I will have the guts to carry out the threat.
The audience piped in, "You wait, you son of a b^%$#. See if he comes or not!" They were completely involved with the film. I've never seen women in the audience whistling and cheering the hero before.
What do you have to say about Atul Kulkarni as the villain?
People are happy to see a goodlooking villain. He is the kind of guy who gets a boy's hand cut off because he dares to give his sister a love letter. When I was being beaten up, members of the audience stormed towards the screen shouting abuses at the villain. I've never seen the audience so vocal.
After the debacle of Baba, how important is Run to the Tamil film industry?
I can't comment on the economic repercussions of Baba [starring Rajnikanth]. But I know every section of the Tamil film industry wanted Baba to do well.
I have a feeling Run will be the biggest hit of my career. The best part is, it has got the audience interested without any vulgarity.
Bigger than Gautam Menon's Minnalae?
Minnalae grew into a success gradually. In Tamil cinema, action films have always had an edge over romantic films. Action heroes have always lasted longer.
Your film was released on Thursday instead of Friday. Why was that?
Yeah. The producer thought it was an auspicious day. Also, my colleague Vikram's film King was being released on Friday. And he's a force to reckon with.
How did you end up in a film like Run?
Producer A M Rathnam sent director Linguswamy to me in January. It was one of the most lucid narrations I have ever heard. There was no doubt in the director's mind about what he wanted and how to do it. As an actor, the director's confidence means a lot. I called the producer immediately and expressed my approval, though I did express my doubts about the out-and-out masala climax.
But I had complete faith in Linguswamy.
Why weren't you convinced about the climax?
I did not know how much of the action hero stuff I could pull off. The rest of the script could have been done by any hero. But the impact of the climax hinged entirely on the hero's ability to carry off the machismo. To me, that was the only grey zone in the script. But I was sure that if my director reached the climax the way he narrated the rest of the film, we could surmount my nervousness about the bang-bang climax.
I said yes to Run. It was a gamble because it was my only Tamil film this year.
Why is that?
I was supposed to do Anbesivam with Kamalji (Kamal Haasan). But that got delayed. I was also supposed to do a Hindi film with Shyam Benegal which didn't happen. So I decided to take a month-long holiday in the US with my wife.
When I got back, I started shooting for Run. It was the most smooth-sailing shooting of my career. Not a day wasted. I can't tell you what a difference a well-oiled, perfectly coordinated team makes to the film.
Linguswamy had definite notions about what he wanted to achieve and the cameraman Jeeva could translate the director's vision to perfection. Jeeva has already directed a film called 12B which did well. Despite being a director, Jeeva was the most obedient cameraman.
As for Linguswamy, he knows the pulse of the audience, as Anandam and now Run prove.
What are the factors responsible for the success of Run?
Linguswamy's script sense is a winner. Vidyasagar's music proved a big advantage. We initially thought of a melody-based soundtrack. But Vidyasagar put his foot down. He favoured a fast-paced, young sound. I groaned at the prospect. But I now realise what a master craftsman Vidyasagar is.
The songs got audiences interested in Run. The songs even have the girls getting out of their seats. I have never seen that happen before.
Producer A M Rathnam has a track record of successful films. His last film Khushi was a phenomenal success. There's always a tremendous anticipation for Rathnam's films.
The other factor was the actor. Me! It's an out-and-out Madhavan film. The Linguswamy-Madhavan combination created an anticipatory buzz in the film industry. Once the film was released and audiences saw I could do the action scenes, there was no stopping the film.
Quite frankly, I am surprised at the audiences' response. I worked out for this. I lost weight. I also had my army training to fall back on. I was in the National Cadet Corp for three years. I was selected the best cadet in Maharashtra. So far I never really had a chance to use those skills.
Now my appetite has been whetted. I want to do a combat film next. I think I will be good at it. I know I can hold a gun as though it is an extension of my body. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. But I was six months over the age limit when I applied.
So acting was your second career choice?
No, must be my 100th! I never dreamt I would be an actor. After my dream of being a fighter pilot ended, I became a teacher. Acting happened by chance. And now I'm really enjoying it. I will now shoot for Anbesivam with my idol Kamal Haasan.