Cinema

I share a special connection with audiences here: Madhavan

While Tamil cinema may be his home ground, Madhavan has proved over the last decade that he’s equally comfortable doing Hindi films. His last is, in fact, a Hindi film, Tanu Weds Manu Returns. As if in tribute to his straddling both industries over the years, his next release, on January 29, is a bilingual: Irudhi Suttru in Tamil, and Saala Khadoos in Hindi. In the Tamil version, he plays Prabhu, a boxing coach who has a problem keeping his emotions in check. A defeat in an important match has left him shattered, and in a life of booze, brothels and bar-fights. He wants India to get a boxing gold medal, and when he returns to Chennai, he finds the girl who can bring it: Madhi, a free-spirited, fiery woman from the fishing community. The problem, of course, is he must first earn her trust, and tame her impetuosity; the catch is, he’s got only nine months to do this. Thus begins the story of an awkward partnership between a man who loves his sport and a girl who craves her freedom. Irudhi Suttru is a clash of not just boxing gloves, but of egos too.



It has been four long years since he last appeared in a Tamil film (Vettai). But Madhavan doesn’t view this film as a comeback. “I share a special connection with audiences here, and just the reception to the trailer has been phenomenal. I’m not going to call this a comeback,” he says. I can’t help but notice that he looks beefed up, and with long hair and a beard too. He talks about the extensive training he underwent with Hollywood experts who specialise in training actors. “This is the most physically-challenging role I have done in my career so far. I spent close to two years in the gym, trying to look the part, even though we only shot for 44 days.” His 18-and-a-half-inch biceps stand testament to that.



Madhavan calls the script “the king of the film”. He was thoroughly captivated when he heard director Sudha Kongara, a former assistant of Mani Ratnam, narrating it the first time, a few years back. “I lunged at the role. I was happy to help with the necessary research, and have done all I can to play my role convincingly.” This is not the Madhavan we know of from Alaipayuthey and Minnale; that quintessential lover-boy image is one he has shed. Yet, he believes this film will appeal to the youth. “Films like Chak De, Mary Kom, and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag have all done well. I think the key is to be passionate about the role you are playing. And it’s a great story too. So, I’m confident that the youth will take to it.”



Was it a risk to cast a newcomer opposite him? “At the outset, we didn’t decide who to cast. We just needed someone who could do justice to both languages,” he says. “Rithika (who plays his boxing protégé) is my biggest victory. She’s a trained boxer and gave everybody a run for their money with her acting skills.” So serious was she about the film that she reportedly didn’t go easy with the punches and kicks. “During all our rehearsals, we forgot to tell her to take it easy on us when mock-fighting for the film. We were battered a bit, but it will be great for the audience to watch.”



Madhavan has been promoting the film vigorously over the last week. Would he say it’s more taxing than those trying hours at the gym? “The budget of a film is almost the same as its marketing expense, these days. It’s important and needs to be done. So, I have no complaints about meetings fans and members of the press.” Considering he has close to 1.8 million followers on Twitter, wouldn’t promoting the film there do? “I’m active both on Facebook and Twitter, of course, but visiting the cities for promotional work makes it all the more personal.”



He hasn’t yet decided what he wants to do next. Perhaps he’ll take a lengthy break again; perhaps he won’t. For now, he’s leaving no stone unturned in promoting Irudhi Suttru. “I’m travelling next to Trichy. Coimbatore and Madurai.


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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 1:16:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/I-share-a-special-connection-with-audiences-here-Madhavan/article13992033.ece

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