Sometimes, a good actor slips into the shadows, because his talent is not recognised. Madhavan’s is an excellent case in point. After being on the sidelines for years, the essentially Tamil actor was last seen in the bilingual Irudhi Suttru/Saala Khadoos some 12 months ago. Here he captivated critics and the ticket-paying masses with an extraordinary performance as a fallen wrestling champ-cum-coach, who finds a new meaning to his life when he chances upon a young firebrand of a fisher-girl. He coaches her to rule the ring, much like how Professor Higgins once taught a rustic flower-seller the art of sophistry in My Fair Lady. Now, Irudhi Suttru appears to have injected into Madhavan a flame of creative urge, and he has signed seven films. All of them will be wrapped up by the middle of 2018.
Long periods of disappearance are nothing new in the world of cinema, and the one example that comes knocking is that of the legendary Malayalam auteur, Adoor Gopalakrishnan -- whose last movie, Pinneyum (so aptly titled, Once Again), came after an unbelievable hiatus of eight years. So, it is nothing new that we should have not seen Madhavan between 2012 (Jodi Breakers) and 2015 (Tanu Weds Manu Returns).
Of the seven films that he has signed, some will be in Tamil, some in Hindi.
The movie of his that we would soon be watching is Vikram Veda -- a gangster/cop drama, whose teaser came out recently.
Some of the other films that he is on to are Chanda Mama Door Ke (a space odyssey with Sushant Singh Rajput for company that may remind viewers of the George Clooney-Sandra Bullock Gravity, which opened the Venice Film Festival in 2013), Ameriki Pandit, Gramophone and Charlie (Tamil).
Also, Tanu Weds Manu’s third edition will be rolling in 2018-19.
Nobody can fault Madhavan’s range. From the chocolate-boy in Mani Ratnam’s unforgettable Alaipayuthey to Kannathil Muthamittal (where he is the father of a little Sri Lankan refugee girl he adopts), the actor’s versatility knows no bounds. As the years rolled by, this only became increasingly apparent. We saw this in 3 Idiots - where he is a meek son whose passion to be a wildlife photographer sees the end of a dark tunnel when his friends step in to help him. In Vettai, he amazed us with a brilliant turn in his character - from a cowardly cop under the shadows of his brother to an epitome of courage and conviction. Now, in Vikram Veda (culled from the folklore, Vikramathithan Vedhalam and inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can), Madhavan plays a cop and Vijay Sethupathi (another very interesting actor from Tamil cinema) a gangster.
One is happy that Madhavan -- who grew up in the steel city of Jamshedpur and speaks fluent Hindi apart from his mother tongue, Tamil - has stayed clear of the Tamil cinema’s obsession with honourifics and titles and fan clubs. He has no title, and, probably, he could not care less. For, one is sure that he would like to be known as a great actor, not just a star with a fancy title preceding his name!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran’s paperback edition of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s biography, published by Penguin-Random House with an added chapter on his latest film, Pinneyum, will be out soon.)
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