Q&A with actor R. Madhavan on ‘Saala Khadoos’

January 29, 2016
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Handout photo of R. Madhavan

For two years, R. Madhavan has worn braces on his teeth that he doesn’t need. The actor has worn them so that he can replicate a lisp like Mike Tyson for his role in the film “Saala Khadoos”, where he plays the mercurial coach of a young boxer from a fishing village in Chennai.

Madhavan, otherwise known for his roles as a docile and all-round good guy in films such as “Tanu Weds Manu” and “3 Idiots” says the angst his character displays in this film is closer to his real personality. He spoke to Reuters about “Saala Khadoos” and why he thought the script was a “calling”.

Tell me how you developed so many anger issues for this film
(Laughs) Those anger issues have always been there. But it’s been hidden from sight. I have been exploring this side of mine more in Tamil cinema. My assistants will bear testimony to the fact that I am a very angry man. My wife saw the trailer and said “finally, the world will see who you really are”. I am one of those people who are really short-tempered, but I don’t lose it unless it is justified.

Is that the reason you picked this character and this film?
No, one doesn’t have the luxury of choosing a script because of a character trait that you want to portray on screen. That’s too much specification. If I get one normal script that is well-written and interesting … because that is what is hard to come by. When the script comes, it is a calling. This was exactly that. It was a story about broken people who are trying their best to stay afloat. These people are rejected at every turn by people who are happy with the mundane. I thought it was phenomenal.

What are the kind of preparations you had to go through?
I prepared for this for two years. I got the script in 2012. After “Tanu Weds Manu”, I went to Los Angeles and I learnt how to box and trained for it. I came back, wrote some additional screenplay and dialogue, and then set about finding the people to put this project together in India.

Is there a reason you wanted it to be a Hindi film and not a Tamil film, given that it is based in Chennai?
Actually, not all of it is based in Chennai. A large part of it is based in the Hindi belt. Yes, the character is a fisherwoman in Chennai, but it also features boxing towns like Delhi and Hisar.

We haven’t made too many sports films in the industry, and there is a tendency to Bollywoodise those films. Do you think there is a need to do that?
We just tried to make a story. I am not worried about bastardising it. It has to be a wholesome story. We were sure we didn’t want to do anything that makes it look false. Nothing in it should be a leap of faith for the audience.

You said the film was based on true incidents. Who are these people?
They are boxers, from around the country. Coaches, referees, people who have written about the sport. Sudha (director Sudha Kongara) went and interviewed these people and we realized one thing. Boxing is not a sport that people are willingly letting their daughters take up. You’ll never get married, you’ll break your nose – no chance. But when these girls in the ghettos and chawls (one-room tenements) go play this sport, you do well, and you get a government job. You get government accommodation. The whole family moves out of the chawl, and at least the remaining daughters can get married. It’s a route that people took to get into a better situation, and even in that process we developed champions. The kind of things these boxers have achieved – it is sad that there is not too much documentation about it.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma and Tony Tharakan. Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay, David @davidlms25 and Tony @tonytharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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