I’ve never done anything like this in cinema before: Madhavan
The actor is excited about the psychological thriller, Breathe, which marks his debut in the digital space
Madhavan isn’t one to shirk from veering off the trodden path. That’s why he’s excited about making his debut in Breathe, an Amazon Prime web series. “This is the most exciting phase of my career. Times are changing and so are people’s tastes in films, and what they consume. I am glad to be a part of this new revolution. This is where filmmakers will be telling their stories in the future,” he smiles.
Excerpts from a conversation follow:
Do you think actors are generally warming up to the idea of a web series?
I can’t speak for others, but I’ll tell you why I decided to do this. As a performer, I need to constantly reinvent myself to stay ahead of the curve. Today, films aren’t the ultimate source of entertainment any more. We have tele-series, web-series, reality shows and so on. Would you believe if I say only 2 per cent of the audience watch movies in theatres? 3 Idiots, one of the highest grossing Bollywood films, managed to bring 2.2 crore people to the theatres. The population of India is estimated to be around 1.4 billion. But how many television sets and smartphones do we have? How often do we access the internet? I am sure it’s way more than the people go the theatres. If we get at least 15 per cent of the population to watch our content, it would be great.
So, cinema, in the conventional sense, is taking a back seat?
Of course. Television and digital platforms have become huge. They reach out to nine times the audience than films. Revenue-wise too, cinema scores less. But films still have the maximum impact. They give us recognition, fame, and fan-following. However, digital medium provides scope for new content. It’s not just me. Web series are already successful in the west.
What’s Breathe about?
It’s a psychological drama that deals with the lives of ordinary people who’re thrown into extraordinary circumstances. I play a single-parent (Danny Mascarenhas) of a six year old, Josh, who suffers from lung failure. The web series capture my struggle to save my son. It’s bigger than any of my films. It’s in a different format too. There are eight episodes in total.
How did you have to prepare for this format?
I think it was the first time I took notes to understand a character. Evlo azhudhen; enna expression-oda mudichen… I had to write down even the minute details. We didn’t shoot episode-wise. So, I’d often be in a different frame of mind the previous day, and returning to that from another scene was tough. Also, I was shooting for Vikram Vedha simultaneously.
Breathe was also different because we shot with sync sound. I don’t get such opportunities in Tamil cinema. The novelty of the experience was extraordinary. I feel proud of myself. (Grins) We’ve shot the series in 8K format, which gives you a better cinematic experience.
Any reservations in accepting the role?
Truth be told, I wasn’t keen initially. I was about to tell the director, Mayank, that I needed more time to think. But after listening to the first episode, I was moved. Vikram Malhotra (founder and CEO, Abundantia, the producer of the series) referred this to me, and that made it seem really interesting too. We have done some fantastic films in the north. Now, I thank god because he has given me the exact opportunity I was looking for.
You seem to be playing a menacing father in Breathe. Does such intense roles affect you on a personal level?
The romantic answer is yes, and the factual one, no. (Laughs) I don’t take myself seriously. And everyone knows I am not a method actor. But a part of my brain always think about my character and assess the work that I do. That way, some kind of homework happens on a regular basis subconsciously.
How do you evaluate your career as an actor?
I am not a busy actor, and I don’t do many films. If you notice my films, they’ve been unplanned. That has worked in my favour though. (Smiles) At this phase of life, I am enjoying whatever I do. I know of many actors who experiment but fear how it’s going to pan out. Thankfully, it has never happened to me. I don’t play it safe. It will be my insecurity if I expect to be treated on the sets of a web series with the same level of stardom, as on the sets of a film. It’s all about how I am willing to change. The best aspect of the digital medium is that it allows a creator to tell his story the way he desires, and there are no box office restraints!
I have Sargunam’s film in the pipeline besides a biopic on a rocket scientist. A Vikram Vedha remake is in the cards too. Which language? In Hindi, for sure.
(Amazon’s Breathe, a trilingual shot in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu simultaneously, will start streaming from January 26)