If Jamshedpur born R Madhavan had followed his parents’ wishes he would have ended up becoming an engineer. But just like his character in 3 Idiots he followed his heart and today he is a well known actor in both the Hindi and Tamil film industries. “Under parental pressure, I did my B Sc electronics hoping to do one more year and getting my BTech degree. But by then I had realised that engineering was not my passion. Luckily for me though things changed in my third year.” He was not only nominated as India’s cultural ambassador to Canada but also was sent to England for field training as he was adjudged as the best NCC cadet in Maharashtra. “This exposure widened my horizons and gave me the confidence to do my own thing. So after my electronics degree, much against my parent’s wishes, I did my Masters in advertising and public relations.” He then came to Mumbai where he started teaching public speaking and communication. “I won the Indian Championship for Public Speaking and represented the nation at the Young Businessmen Conference in Tokyo, (1992.),” he recalls.
Before becoming a film star, Maddy as Madhvan is popularly known, was a big Hindi TV star. “I started doing TV for a lark. My first show was an episodic for Yule Love Stories.” Then he went on to do, Tol Mol Ke Bol and Banegi Apni Baat. “My character in the latter was only supposed to be for just one episode, but it become so popular that it went to become a lead. It was this public and critical acclaim which made me think of taking acting seriously,” says he. His other well known idiot box projects were Saaya, Sea Hawks and Ghar Jamai.
Tamil film industry
Maddy’s first brush with celluloid came with the English film, Inferno in 1997. Later he did a Kannada flick, Shanti Shanti Shanti in 1999.
“However, my fortune changed when Mani Ratnam offered me a role in his Tamil film, Alaipayuthey (1999). I just said yes and packed my bags for Chennai.” He has done a number of hit movies down south. He did the role what Abhishek Bachchan did in Yuva in the Tamil version Aayutha Ezhuthu.
He entered Bollywood with Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main (2001). His biggest Hindi hits apart from 3 Idiots, would be Rang De Basanti (2005) and 13 B (2009). “I really loved my work in Ramji Londonwaley (2005) unfortunately the film was not promoted well and I had to pay the price.”
Maddy also won critical acclaim for his role as a troubled citydweller in Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008) based on the 2006 Mumbai train blasts.
Although he accepts that 3 Idiots changed his life he does not think that it was his best work till date. “Anybody could have played my role; all they had to do was to act as a student.”
The road ahead
“Today”, he says, “The sky is the limit. I am getting good work.” Maddy requests all parents to let their children follow their dreams!
“Marks don’t mean everything, tell me were people like Bill Gates or Albert Einstein class toppers? Even I failed in class VIII because my Hindi was bad. Today it’s the same command over the national language which allows me to be accepted in Bollywood.”