R. Madhavan may have starred opposite Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots, but the Southie actor who found his calling in Bollywood is anything but the derogatory moniker suggested by one of India’s highest grossing actors of all time. Perhaps a better persona to adopt is the one of “common man.” After all, there is something sexy and hip about being humble and everyday-like, especially when one reaches the superstar status Madhavan has achieved since arriving on the scene as a Hindi serials actor in 1996.
After portraying a crook in the serial Yule Love Stories, Madhavan is finding more luck in playing anything but a shady individual onscreen. If anything, producers and casting directors are looking at Madhavan in a new light--that of the everyday guy in Bollywood’s top flight romantic comedy productions.
Such is the case with Tanu Weds Manu, where Madhavan plays the lead in this boy-meets-girl narrative of a traditionally arranged marriage in danger of going wrong. In taking on the lead romantic role in Tanu Weds Manu, Madhavan is quite baffled that he is still 15 years into his acting career and landing romcom-type roles. Then again, while he may have just passed the age 40 marker last year, killing off his rather playful moniker of “Chocolate Boy” is not easy to shed. “(Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein) was 10 years back. It does not even feature in my memory now, but I am just amused that I am doing a romantic film at 40,” Madhavan candidly told the press as he promoted Tanu Weds Manu, which opens on February 25th. “I am not chocolate and definitely not a boy. I am a man, and I have no clue how this image has stuck to me despite all these years. I think maybe, in spite of trying to shell off my chocolate boy image, love stories excite me and some how I land in such roles.” Even more interesting is how Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, which also starred Dia Mirza, Saif Ali Khan, and Anupam Kher, did not do so well at the box office.
Further, Madhavan traditionally does not have “star power” strong enough on his own to guarantee strong opening weekend receipts at multiplexes across India and around the world. Generally, the highest-grossing films Madhavan has been attached to are often ensemble productions, such as 3 Idiots, Guru, and Rang De Basanti. Accordingly, Madhavan hopes for a slight change of fortune with Tanu Weds Manu, where he carries the weight of the film’s star power, despite solid actors such as Kangna Ranaut and Jimmy Shergill also appearing in significant roles.
In playing Manu (short for Manoj), Madhavan portrays an NRI who rather has quite the head on his shoulders and is, for the most part, considered an ideal marriage partner...though it was not easy bringing Manu to life, as he is much more of “common man” status than the usually “larger-than-life” personas Madhavan tackles in other blockbuster projects. The actor hopes to change things with his latest movie, which is again a boy-meets-girl story in the traditional wedding set-up.
Madhavan plays the role of Manoj Sharma a.k.a. Manu--a smart, intelligent, but shy NRI who possesses all the qualities of a good husband. To make matters worse, Madhavan has very little in common with is own life, let alone the characters he became accustomed to playing over the years. “It was real hard work to play Manu, as the character is strong and silent, unlike my real personality,” Madhavan shared with the press. “I have certain style sense, but Manu is devoid of such styles. It was a challenge indeed.”
Yet another challenge Madhavan currently faces is in breaking the mold of Bollywood actors pumping out films at a pace faster than a New York minute. Taking his cue from one of the biggest names in Hindi film (Aamir Khan), Madhavan is now trying to moderate his filmography and take his acting career one day at a time. “Right now, it’s just Tanu (Weds Manu). I do only one film at a time,” the Southie actor told the media. “I am just following Aamir Khan’s lead and trying to know what a film is worth, what is its market value, and how much to risk.” Perhaps the only risk he is willing to blindly take right now is a role from 3 Idiots director Rajkumar Hirani. “If Hirani offers me anything, I think I will accept it blindly. He is the only man in the industry for whom I would do a role blindly,” Madhavan confessed to the press. Until Hirani comes a-calling, Madhavan has to settle for taking a risk with Manu Weds Tanu, a light tale of two people who fall in love despite apparently opposite personalities.
'Tanu Weds Manu' opens worldwide on February 25th.