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Saala Khadoos most physically challenging role for me: Madhavan

Saala Khadoos most physically challenging role for me: Madhavan

Trans World Features | 20 Feb 2016, 08:14 pm
Saala Khadoos has been a very big and risky leap for Madhavan who has been seen as a good boy in many earlier films. He has also produced the film with others. But let him unspool the story himself says TWF correspondent Shoma A. Chatterji.

Everyone likes a “good” boy like Madhavan who has almost always played the quiet, low-key friend as in 3 Idiots, or the flamboyant and overly in love romantic Flight Lieutenant in Rang De Basanti or the gentle, quiet, dignified and yet thoroughly confused husband in the two parts of Tanu Weds Manu. But no one could visualise him in the role of a boxer who has lost out on the big game and has now to console himself as a coach not liked by the people on the board not because he is a loser but because he has absolutely no control over his temper.



After your four-year sabbatical from Tamil films, Saala Khadoos was a big risk for you as an actor and a producer. So what made you take the leap?


Yes, it was a risk on many counts. For the first time, we were shooting the two language versions of the film simultaneously on the same sets at the same time. The title of the Tamil version is Irudhi Suttru (Final Round).  It was not a regular mainstream film with the usual gimmicks. It was a complete image-change for me both for my Tamil audience and my Hindi audience. I was playing opposite a new girl who had never done films before. It was a sports film. But if the script and story are good, which I had convinced myself about, and if you are passionate about the work you have set out to do, the risks are worth taking.


How about  the hard training?


I went through gruelling and extensive training in amateur boxing under Hollywood experts who specialise in training actors. This is the most physically-challenging role I have ever done. I spent close to two years in the gym, trying to look the part though we shot only for 44 days. I went through intense body conditioning regime in Los Angeles in 2013 because Sudha Kongara, the director, had read the script to me two years before and I jumped at it. But the role needed rigorous preparation. When I got into the boxing ring for the first time, I did not last for even a minute. This made me change my perspective about boxers and I now respect them. Shilpa Shetty who is a close friend, also helped me gain and lose weight effectively during the period, doubling up as my dietician and fitness coach.


What about the new hard and tough look you are sporting in the film?


I grew a beard and had to wear unkempt, uncombed hair for the character plus a beefed up look and biceps measuring 17 inches. His past is riddled with a sad story. A defeat in an important match has left him shattered, and in a life of booze, brothels and bar-fights, he is given up almost as a lost case. But he is not without hope. I had to shed the romantic image I had cultivated for my Tamil films and the soft, gentle and quiet characters I played in Bollywood and the look had to match the roughness which demands that I zoom through the roads and bylanes of Chennai on my two-wheeler and sell it off the minute I feel I need the money to pay the very poor girl I am coaching for a championship. The look comes also when you believe in what you are doing and are convinced that you are doing the right thing.


But Saala Khadoos and  Tanu Weds Manu plus Tanu Weds Manu Returns are extremely polarised films. How do you respond to this?


Saala Khadoos is the story of a banished coach, who wants his protégé. When the coach is not allowed to participate in the game, he moves to another city where he does not see the enthusiasm in any of the boxers, until he meets a girl who beats up the judges for manipulating the scores. 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. Manu on the other hand, is quiet and dignified. But he can be very strong when he needs to be.  He is the kind of man every young man wants to be and if cannot be like him, you become a flamboyant one. They are poles opposite and that is why I found the distancing from Manu extremely challenging.


For the two female leads, you and the director chose to cast two real-life boxers with a newcomer in the female lead. How did this happen?


I consider the casting of these two young and talented girls, Ritika Singh and Mumtaz Sorcar the greatest victory for the film, its director, producers and myself as an actor. Mumtaz Sorcar is a Bengali actress who does the older sister’s role. She is a trained boxer. Ritika is a trained boxer who has never been in front of the movie camera. She gave everybody a run for their money with her acting skills.  Ritika was first spotted by Sudha on an ad for the Super Fight League competition, and successfully auditioned for the lead  role through the competition's organizer  Raj Kundra. During our rehearsals, we forgot to tell her to take it easy when mock-fighting for the film. We were battered a bit, but it is great for the audience to watch


From Banegi Apni Baat on ZEE TV in 1996, you’ve come a long way to Saala Khadoos in 2016.  How has the 20-year-long journey been?


It has never been my aim to act in as many films within as short a span of time as possible. I ventured into Tamil films and evolved my own audience who look forward to my films. I have my own Bollywood audience too. I have worked with the best of directors and for Saala Khadoos, I brought in Rajkumar Hirani as one of the co-producers for the Hindi version. The other producers are Ynot Studios’s Sashikant and Thirukumaran Entertainment’s CV Kumar who are debuting into Bollywood with this film. I even set up my production banner Tricolour Films to produce Saala Khadoos. It’s been a good journey. I don’t have any regrets.

Saala Khadoos most physically challenging role for me: Madhavan

Trans World Features
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