Bollywood is far ahead of Hollywood: Nishabdham actor Madhavan

Actor Madhavan on his Amazon Prime Video movie Nishabdham, his life during the pandemic and how he managed to survive it.

Actor Madhavan is waiting for the release of his upcoming movie Nishabdham. The crime thriller, which is directed by Hemant Madhukar, would have released in theaters in April if not for the coronavirus pandemic. The film is now set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on October 2. caught up with Madhavan, who is shooting for his web series Seventh Sense in Dubai, for a quick chat about his film Nishabdham, his life during the pandemic and how he managed to survive it.

What did your gut tell you when Nishabdham was narrated to you?

It was a very interesting concept. We were supposed to do a silent film. So the language was not a barrier because it was a film in which nobody spoke. Like how Pushpaka (Vimana) was. As we went into the storytelling, we realised that we had to compromise on that. Because the thriller was not coming out with just silence. It was just looking like a gimmick. So we added the language later. But, I was very excited that there is a person who can’t speak or hear, and she solves the murder. It was an amazing experience.

Tell us about your character.

I am a world-famous cello player who’s emotionally hurt because his wife cheats on him. He is trying to find solace. And what happens when he meets somebody like Anushka’s Sakshi, who is exactly as broken as he is. And both of them are artists. What happens when these two artists get together forms the crux of the story.

Michael Madsen is an interesting casting choice. Did you get to share screen space with him?

I was able to meet him a lot and work with him for two or three scenes. Unfortunately, they were short scenes even though we are friends in the film. It was amazing to see how Hollywood actors work with respect to Bollywood actors. I think, in all honesty, we are far ahead of them (Hollywood).

Do you think Hollywood people have any idea as to the kind of films we do here?

I think they have a cliched idea. Even now, when you go to America, they still think Bollywood is always about dancing around the tree. When they see films like Baahubali and 3 Idiots, they are stunned.

How did you manage to get through the pandemic?

Same as everyone. I wish I had a different formula. I wish I could tell you that mine was easier than anybody else or tougher than anybody else. But because of all the gaping in the dark not knowing whether it is going to be 10 days, 20 days, one month, two months or three months, the same amount of anxiety, the same amount of unrest, the same amount of insecurity as anybody else was creeping through my mind. When everybody else was putting up photographs of sweeping the floor and cooking in the kitchen, I had the intelligence to understand that this is a long drive. I didn’t put up those videos because I knew this was going to become a part of our lives for a long time to come. It is very tough. I can imagine how people are feeling insecure right now. And we still don’t have an answer to when this is going to end and when the normalcy is going to return.

Are there any lessons from the lockdown which you would like to share with us?

I think one of the lessons that you learn is that the feelings that human beings have are universal. People around the world have realised that we don’t need as much stuff as we have at home. People have realized that we need people more than we ever imagined. We need more personal interactions with your family members to make life meaningful. All those lessons are around the world. Because of the lockdown, many realised the importance of human relationships. Also, you realise that people are jittery, angry and don’t know where to take out their anger. And people don’t know whom to take out their anger on. Sometimes, it is the driver, watchman, husband, wife, dog, actors, Bollywood. All sorts of things face the negativity.

Were you so emotionally well-balanced since the beginning, or is it something you develop as you grow old?

It’s something that only comes when you put yourself out and take risks. It is a very easy life when you don’t want to take risks. Therefore the gambit of emotions and the gambit of learning that you do is limited. If I am living in the same city and going to the same job for 30 years, then the area I want to feel insecure is not going to be my job or my travel to job. I’d look for something else to feel insecure about. If I am in a line where I constantly want to learn something, I am competing against someone on a day to day basis, and I have to keep evolving myself just to stay relevant and have a job, I can’t afford to be content and complacent about the job. All the time you are meeting new people and sticking your neck out somewhere or the other. And those experiences give you knowledge and failures give you lessons. Thankfully, I don’t have language barriers with Hindi or English, so I can articulate my emotions and learnings to you clearly.

So how do you manage to stay ahead of the curve and subvert expectations?

It’s a basic requirement. I have seen other people who came in with me and other people who came in after me, whose life experiences are so limited that they can’t portray a character that youngsters, who have so much knowledge about the world, have respect for. I went into that era. I did movies, where I was doing characters which I didn’t have respect for. Then, I realised that I am not encouraging the right kind of storytellers to come to me. Then I took a break and I came up with Irudhi Suttru, Vikram Vedha and Breathe. All these are Maddy 2.0. I realised that I need to do movies that people will have respect for the kind of experiences I am portraying in a film. If I am playing Vikram, you need to believe that Maddy would have made a sharp police officer. If I am acting lazily, being a film star, and being stylish, then you will say that I don’t have any material, so I pulling off such a stunt to be successful. I want to be aspirational as a character in the film. If I am playing a rocket scientist in Rocketry, I want you to believe that ‘Oh Maddy, if he says those words, he must have said it all his life.’ So the preparation that goes into (playing characters) keeps me ahead of the curve.

How are you feeling about going to work after such a long gap?

Only one word – lucky. Right now I am happy to go to work, and I am happy that not too many people have COVID. At least it keeps the fire burning.

Does it feel different shooting during a pandemic?

It is very different. Freedom has gone completely. And I am wearing my mask before the shot. As long as I am wearing the mask, I am Maddy, and only when I take off the mask, I can be another character. So that switch is very difficult.

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