by Sreedhar Pillai
Madhavan or Maddy, as he is popularly known in Kollywood, is considered by many as the only Tamil actor who has been successful in Hindi films as well. Madhavan began his acting career doing Hindi television serials before Mani Ratnam cast him in his Tamil romantic Alaipayuthey.
Later he forayed into Bollywood and struck gold at box-office with films like Rang De Basanti, Guru, Mumbai Meri Jaan, 3 Idiots and Tanu Weds Manu. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, Maddy opens up on how he manages to keep afloat in Kollywood and Bollywood simultaneously.
Q: You are one of the few actors in India who has a pan-Indian appeal, being successful in Bollywood and Kollywood. Please comment.
A: I was born in Jamshedpur in a Tamil Brahmin family. My father was a management executive with Tata Steel while my mother was a manager with Bank of India. We spoke Tamil at home, but in school and college I spoke in Hindi. My biggest advantage in Bollywood was that I could speak and understand the nuances of various types of Hindi spoken. In 3 Idiots my character Farhan Qureshi spoke Delhi Hindi with an Urdu accent, while in Mumbai Meri Jaan, it was Maharashtrian Hindi.
Q: How did you survive in Tamil cinema with your limited knowledge of the language?
A: If you look at the characters I did in Tamil cinema right from Mani Ratnam’s Alaipayuthey, were urban cool guy roles, which allowed me the freedom to break into English. And later, only similar roles came my way – most of them were the “so-sweet Chocolate Boy” type of roles.
Q: The North Indian audiences seemed to have accepted you…
A: I’m grateful to the audiences for accepting me in films where I have played hardcore north Indian characters. The success I had is that I know the culture and the dialect that is spoken in various parts of North India. Tanu Weds Manu, was the acid test for me where I spoke in Lucknowi Hindi. I feel actors like Kamal sir (Kamal Haasan), Lal sir (Mohanlal) are far superior actors and more talented than me. My advantage was only the knowledge and control over the language which helped to sail through.
Q: What is the advice you would give to the new breed of south Indian heroes nurturing Bollywood dreams?
A: First and foremost, treat Bollywood as another industry. There is a lot of difference the way both north and south industry functions. Bollywood is very unforgiving and only commercial hits matter. Top south superstars coming to Mumbai is similar to Bollywood superstars trying to go to Hollywood. I feel it is better to stick to your core area and play to your strengths.