Even in a small cameo, R Madhavan managed to make a mark as the martyred pilot, Flt Lt Ajay Rathod in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's cult film Rang De Basanti which released in 2006. In Mehra's autobiography, titled The Stranger In The Mirror, R Madhavan recalled his experience of working on this film.
The actor revealed that the first shot he filmed for Rang De Basanti was the romantic scene where his character proposes Soha Ali Khan's and the duo share a kiss. This sequence is a part of the song 'Tu Bin Bataye' in the film.
As per a report in Bollywood Hungama, R Madhavan has shared his thoughts on his onscreen kiss with Soha in Mehra's autobiography. The actor confessed that he imagined Soha's brother and actor Saif Ali Khan 'socking' his face after he found out that he had to kiss the Race actor's sister in Rang De Basanti.
Madhavan revealed, "The only thing I could think of was Saif (Soha's brother, with whom I had worked before in a tense movie as rivals) socking my face. But I had to establish that I was an ideal boyfriend. This was probably her first on-screen kiss as well." The tense film mentioned by R Madhavan was Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein in which he and Saif played rivals in love trying to woo Dia Mirza's character.
Interestingly, R Madhavan was not the first choice to play the role of Flt Lt Ajay Rathod. Mehra revealed that this part was earlier offered to Shah Rukh Khan when the latter was shooting for Swades. However, the superstar couldn't do the film owing to date issues.
On the other hand, Madhavan was initially approached for the role of Karan Singhania, which was eventually played by Tamil actor Siddharth. The 3 Idiots actor revealed that at that point, he was shooting for Thambi (2006) and had shoulder-length hair.
Nevertheless, he took up the role of Ajay Rathod as it required him to shoot for just 8 days. However, Madhavan's shoulder-length hair was still a hinderance as it didn't suit his character of a pilot in Rang De Basanti. So, the makers shelled out Rs 70000 and organized a special wig for him. Seeing the team's efforts, Madhavan couldn't refuse the role.
R Madhavan further mentioned in Mehra's book that he was blown away by Rang De Basanti's script, especially because it was very detailed.