Madhavan shares the trials and tribulations of producing a film on the unusual theme revolving around boxing.
How would you describe the experience of producing your first Hindi film, Saala Khadoos?
I went through a lot of turmoil before I could get this film rolling. I was attempting something different and I had faith in my director Sudha Kongara but people were not able to see it. I had trained for two years to play a boxer, built my physique and had grown my hair, but every time I came to an understanding with a producer, it would fall through. They would say,
“Maddy, why don’t you change the director? She doesn’t know Hindi,” or “Change the heroine as she is not popular,” Or “Maddy, why don’t you direct it?” But I was not interested in making those changes.
Did you get emotionally affected?
I spent many teary-eyed nights, sitting in bed and thinking ‘What the hell am I doing? Am I the only idiot who can see this film’s worth?’
Did your wife encourage you to follow your vision?
My wife supported me during those days. She told me that it wouldn’t matter even if we returned to the one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai we started from. I saw my wife telling our son that we couldn’t go on holiday because he had to study. But the truth was that I didn’t have any money as I had put everything into the film!
Didn’t you ever feel like giving up the idea of producing this film?
At one point, I wanted to give it up since it was not happening. The last contract I was to sign with a producer fell through because they wanted some ridiculous changes. I spoke to a friend in the US who had gone bankrupt twice before hitting big with his third attempt when he successfully sold his company for `900 crore. He told me, “My success is because I didn’t give up even after going bankrupt. If you give up now, you will never come this far again.” And that’s when I decided to give it one last shot.
Is that when Rajkumar Hirani came in the picture as co-producer?
I thought I should narrate the script to Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) and see if he’d react in the same way as I did. He asked me to narrate it in detail, and as I started, he started taking notes. As I narrated the second half, he erased all the notes he had made. As I narrated the climax, he had tears in his eyes and he gave me a tight hug. He said, “I’ve never heard a script like this. How can I help you?” I told him, “Sir I wanted to see this reaction. Leave the rest to me.” He became my pillar of strength from writing the script, to the censors. He never let me feel the pressure as a producer.
Any problems with the Censor Board?
The film has been censored. Few words had to be altered. In Tamil, we have a U certificate and in the Hindi version, we have a U/A.
You have gone through a physical transformation for the film. Is this is the first time you have got this deep into the skin of your character and lived it for a long time?
The second part of your question is true -- I have lived it for a long time. But I think I do get into the skin of the character in all the films that I have done till date. I am saying this because I have my limitations about what I can do onscreen to entertain people. I can’t dance like Hrithik Roshan; and I don’t have the necessary glamour like some other actors do. They are able to sell themselves on that aspect. I do roles and films which are very realistic. And in such films if you don’t get into the skin of your character, they won’t look convincing.
If I had looked like a six-pack warrior in Tanu Weds Manu, viewers would not have accepted me. If I hadn’t looked like a 21-year-old student in 3 Idiots, they would have wondered. So I try to get into the skin of every character ... but yes this one was very challenging.
Any problems with the Censor Board?
The film has been censored. There were minor words that needed to be altered. In Tamil, we have a U certificate and in Hindi we have a U/A.
You are one of the few contemporary actors after Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan to have a successful career both in the Hindi and Tamil film industry.
I think it is unfair to say that. I was lucky that I was brought up in the Hindi belt and my Hindi is good; and I have been lucky that in the South that they have accepted me as a hero. I write my dialogues in Hindi.