Decoupled, dissonance, and deja vu: Madhavan, Surveen Chawla on marriages and more
Madhavan, Surveen, who play a couple in a broken relationship, discuss the various kinds of marriages they have to navigate through as actors
At the outset, Netflix’s latest release, Decoupled, might seem like the antithesis of love and romance because it tracks a broken marriage, and how worse romantic life can get. And yet, the glimmers of love and hope shared by Madhavan’s Arya and Surveen’s Shruti is the lifeline of this series. “I liked the take on splitting up. It is normal for people to grow apart. Not all splitting or divorces need to be about something dramatic. There is both a real image and a projected image in a marriage/relationship, and when there is a vast difference in what we are and we are projecting, all that remains is our intent to be together,” says a sagely Madhavan tapping into his 22 years of marriage. In this conversation with Cinema Express, he is joined by an equally philosophical Surveen Chawla as they discuss marriages, literally and metaphorically.
Marriage of their real and onscreen selves
Surveen Chawla (SC): Playing Shruti was so much fun. There were times when it felt like I was talking to my real-life husband, and not Madhavan’s Arya. It was not about the manner of speech, but simply about the way both conduct themselves. The relatability factor is that the basic issues faced by this couple are things we might have experienced. Just because there is relatability, it doesn’t mean all couples have to end up like Shruti and Arya. Relationships are always a work in progress.
Madhavan (M): There were so many instances that were well-written; I could see such fights erupting between my wife, Saritha, and me. When you are really fond of each other, the intensity of arguments flares up. But the difference between a marriage that works and one that doesn't is that once this argument is done, any residual anger will not seep into the next conversation. The power equation is reset after every disagreement, and this was written beautifully in the series too. This resetting of the power equation between Shruti and Arya is what gives us the hope that this couple might actually work. I thought it was mature, and it was a great insight into the marriages of today.
Marriage between thinking and acting languages
SC: Having the same acting and thinking language can make all the difference to our performances. Although we are fluent in other languages, English has been the thinking language for both Madhavan and me. The pauses, the commas, the casualness… everything is effortlessly translated from our minds to our dialogues. When I am thinking in English and delivering lines in another, it runs the risk of becoming dialogue-y. Also, points to Hardik Mehta (director) and Manu Joseph (writer) for allowing me to put down on paper what Surveen was thinking as Shruti. They gave us the liberty and scope for improvisation.
M: My son Vedanth gave me a huge nod of approval and not only felt that the show looked trendy but was also candid about how the English we spoke didn’t feel forced. To be honest, I haven’t done anything like this before. Our language of communication at home was English, and we wanted it to have the flow in which the language is spoken in our country.
Marriage between the content and audience
SC: We are not regional actors anymore. In fact, we are global actors and not just pan-Indian. The pandemic propelled the OTT movement, and it has definitely taken centrestage. The world itself has shrunk, and it is important to have the right team and trust them to make the right decisions. But more than anything else, the end game is really the content we are doing. For now, I honestly don’t have a preference about the kind of release as long as I am doing the content I love to do.
M: We have to decide if the content is worthy of the format it chooses to be presented in, and that choice has become paramount for the success of the content. Secondly, with experience, it does become an easy and informed choice. There is no way I could make Breathe into a film. Thirdly, having stepped away from the industry for a long time, I am more in touch with what people really want. Kids are now watching anime because they care more about relationships than the VFX. In this pandemic, people don’t want to watch morbidity anymore. So, when I read a script and depending on the place where I am in my life, I see if I am able to relate to it. If yes, and then the team is a solid one, I am completely committed to the film/series.
Marriage between reality and social media personas
SC: I am moody when it comes to social media, and I saw the pandemic as an out. I took a social media detox, and honestly, I am happy about this step back.
M: It helps me see how people gauge my work. It is a great insight into misconceptions I had about myself. Of course, there will be bitter and harsh people. Even if we say things in good faith, negativity comes to us sometimes. I have decided not to give them that power.
Also, in this pandemic, people have become negative and bitter; so, occasionally, I do give them that allowance at times and believe that things will look up.
It is also important to realise that social media contains a small percentage of people in India. While your world might seem grey when compared to what you see in social media, there are a large percentage of people in the real world who are going through exactly what you are. The picture is not as bleak as we make it out to be. That’s why I try to spread cheer on my timeline.