He has been around for over 15 years and created a successful presence in both Kollywood and Bollywood. From a television presenter to producer, writer, and most importantly an actor, R Madhavan aka Maddy has been part of some phenomenal projects including memorable movies like Rang De Basanti and 3 Idiots. Still riding high on the success of Tanu Weds Man Returns, he is back in a never-seen-before character as that of a coach in Sudha Kongara’s Saala Khadoos. The film has already created quite a buzz and going by the trailers, R Madhavan is all set to surprise the audience.  We catch up with the talented actor to know more about his role, the preparation that went into it and more.

R Madhavan in Saala Khadoos

R Madhavan in Saala Khadoos

How did Saala Khadoos happen to you?

Sudha Kongara Prasad, with whom I have worked in the past, is the writer – director of the film. I was actually pleasantly surprised when a lady director came to us with a story about boxing as the main subject. I have seen the story develop from the preparation stage. Sudha had interviewed more than 600 boxers and documented their story – the reasons they chose boxing and their life story, which was backed by facts. When I saw all of this, I realized that I wanted to make this film. I started a quest to find producers and it took me a while before I could actually hit upon somebody who I thought would be able to understand the merit of the script. That was the reason why we decided to go to Rajuji (Hirani).


We have largely seen you in romantic or comedy roles. What made you take up the role of this angry, frustrated coach in Saala Khadoos?

Tthe script drew me towards this film. Sometimes, when you read a script you know that it is capable of taking you to another place in your career, a movie that will help you to get into the archives. It is the kind of film that the audience will not forget. Moreover, I have been very choosy or lazy because I don’t take scripts every third month and I can’t afford to do 2 or 3 films in a year, I take my own time. So this was one of those subjects that would help me wait for 2-3 years.

What was the kind of physical training you underwent for your character? 

This is my first sports movie. And I knew that this was a sports – oriented film not merely in its story, but also in the fact that it had to be very real. That was also one of the reasons for casting Ritika because she is a boxer in real life. So, it would be very odd if I were to go there as an actor and look like I was touching the gloves for the first time. I didn’t look like a boxer as there was no need because I was just a coach, but I still wanted to make people realize that this guy could have been a brute in his heydays as a fighter. I decided to build this physique of a retired boxer, which took me a about a year and a half.

In recent years, several sports movies have been made and they seem to have a similar story line with an underdog overcoming challenges. What according to you sets Saala Khadoos apart?

Any sports based film will have a coach and have a challenge that manifests at the end. This film could have been the same old thing with an element of realism to it, but then there would be no entertaining factor. But I assure you that the entertaining realism in this film is so much that in the last 20 minutes irrespective of whether you know boxing or no, care about it or no, you will be sitting at the edge of your chair. I think if I am able to get to create such intense emotions in people through a sports film, then I think I have succeeded extensively.


Still from Saala Khadoos

Still from Saala Khadoos

What were the challenges you faced while preparing for this role?

Firstly, to look the part. Secondly to convince the producers that this is a viable script that has to be made was the toughest part. The third part was to wait for everything to come in place because releasing two films together is double the work. So it took six months for the post production and the wait was really crippling.

Why did you choose to make this film bilingual?

This film extended itself to be made in both languages because a lot of it is fighting and action. Moreover, it is based in Chennai as it is about a fighter from there. Therefore, the nativity is not an issue in the Tamil version and it becomes a novelty for the Hindi version.

Plus, the real Chennai is not what you see in Chennai Express. There are places in Chennai where you cannot go as a normal person; in fact, you may not come out alive from the ghettos. The chawls of Chennai, unlike Bombay were not ever shown in movies. This film gave us the opportunity to show Chennai in a manner that has never been seen before.


This is the first time you are working with a female director. How was the experience?

I think she is an exceptionally controlled director who knows exactly what she wants, so she won’t let things go out of hands. As an actor I am confident that whatever is written in the scene is what is going to happen because the consistency of the film stays like that. She is a pretty strong lady who won’t stand any bullshit.

How do you choose the films that you wish to be part of? is there something specific that you look for in the characters?

Romantic roles are always easier and fun to do but I prefer challenging roles like Saala Khadoos.

– Dhruvanka Medhekar. Transcribed by Aarti Sukhija