"We filmmakers make many big budget movies to tell about the freedom struggle, about the Mughal rule and our history, but there is another field where India's achievements are appreciated and we don't talk about, that is science and technology. There are many heroes of this field in our country and I think it is very important to talk about them", says the actor, producer and director of upcoming film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect. R Madhavan has also written the screenplay of this film.
Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is all set to hit the theatres on July 1. It is based on the life of former ISRO scientist and aerospace engineer Nambi Narayanan. The film premiered at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, where it was well received by the viewers.
Ahead of the release of the film, Madhavan had a special interaction with the media, where he spoke in detail about his directorial debut, his process of selecting scripts and also about the popularity of Rehnaa Hai Tere Terre Dil Mein. Talking about his bond with Shah Rukh Khan and Suriya, the actor said, "Even I am a complete outsider and I don't think I will ever be able to be an insider. But I want to say with my whole heart that there are so many good people in this industry and they have supported me whenever I needed them."
Excerpts from the interview.
Q. Makers take a lot of creative liberty in biopics. What can we expect from your film Rocketry?
A. There is 100% truth in what is shown in the film, we have not taken any cinematic liberty. To be honest, I didn't feel the need. The story of Nambi Narayanan is so interesting and at the same time dangerous that it is already quite cinematic, I had to take a few things out of the script to make it believable.
Q. You are associated with this film as an actor, writer, director and producer. What was the feeling in the midst of all the responsibilities?
A. (Smiles) Today when I look back I feel it was like a madness. I was so immersed in this story and not only me, but everyone involved in the film was very focused. The best part was that our planning was very solid. We actually planned it like a rocket launch. Talking about the direction of the film, I didn't want to direct it, the film was thrusted upon me at the last minute. Just 20-25 days before the shooting, the director of this film couldn't match his schedule and he left. So It was either drop the film or take up the responsibility to direct it. Many people associated with the film also told me that you can direct, so I just jumped into it. But to be honest, when I went to the sets for the first time, meri haalat kharab ho gayi. I felt it like a mountain, whose peak I could not see. But then one of my friend gave me advice that don't look at it as a project, think about just one shot at a time. Then slowly I started, took the position and now the film is all set to release. Even though it took me 6 years to make this film, I am proud that I have made the film that I set out to make.
Q. As an actor, what are the things you keep in mind while choosing any script?
A. I see that whatever script I am doing, the directors and writers who are writing it must have researched well on the topic, so that it can appeal and involve the audience. When I did Tanu Weds Manu, no one was talking about desi romance. All the romance was happening on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It was as if there was no romance in India. So I was looking for a desi story and that's when Aanand L Rai gave me Tanu Weds Manu. Similarly, I think I was ready for Rocketry as well. I was looking for something different. I believe that whatever you do, try to give your best. To be honest, I think Hindi actors are very hardworking. They want to do it all. It's time for the writers and makers to evolve more.
Q. Are you competitive?
A. I think as an artist you can never be a part of the competition. You cannot say that one painting is better than other or that one's acting is better than the other. But yes, I want to be the richest actor in the world (laughs), that's the only competition in my mind.
Q. What do you think was the reason behind what happened with Nambi Narayanan?
A. He was such a great scientist of ISRO. He was so perfect that people could not believe it. People thought that how can someone be so patriotic, so expert in his work. They thought something must be wrong in this person. And as people got a chance, they showed no mercy to him. Not even listened to him. Truly speaking, after meeting Nambi Narayanan, I became a different person. There was a splendor on his face along with pain in his eyes. I understood that this person cannot be known because of just one controversial case, there is something very special in him. When I heard his full story, I felt that ignoring his achievements will be a betrayal to the country. And that's why I made this film.
Q. Different phases of Nambi Narayanan have been shown in the film- from 30s to 80s. What was your process with the looks?
A. I would like to state that we have not used prosthetic or graphics at all to show any look. Whatever you will watch is real, from grey hair, beard to my weight. I even got my jaw broken so that my teeth would look like Nambi Narayanan sir. In all this research, we took two and a half years and used to take full precautions. More than medical research, I was focused on Ayurveda. Keeping all the things in mind, we had prepared a plan, and by following that, I also reduced my weight in just 14 days. I did not take any medicine, surgery, exercise or any medical help.
Q. Since it is a biopic, what was the process for you like internally to get into the character of Nambi Narayanan?
A. I have spent 6 years with him. We had been together for 3 years before shooting because I had to understand rocket science, I had to understand rocket engine. Then I also learnt how to talk and walk like him, the way he laughs, cries, gets angry; everything. Also I had to keep in mind that I cannot mimic him. You just have to take the character and play it in your own style.
Q. Any one aspect of Nambi Narayanan's personality that you want to imbibe in your life?
A. His confidence. He believes that if you have confidence in something, you work towards it wholeheartedly and if someone comes in between that, move them aside. It made a lot of sense to me because I was such a person that if someone comes in my way, I move aside. But now I stand by my belief.
Q. Shah Rukh Khan and Suriya have special appearances in Rocketry. Can you share something about your bond with both the actors?
A. I had mentioned about this story to Khan Sahab (Shah Rukh Khan) when we were shooting for Zero. I didn't think he was even listening. But he told me that you are doing something different, I am very proud of you. Then after several months, when I went to his birthday party, he asked me about Rocketry and said that he wanted to do a role in it. At that time, I took it as a joke. But after a few days my wife Sarita asked me to thank Khan Sahab for his gesture. Then I sent a message to his manager thanking him. Soon after, his manager called me and said, 'Khan Sahab is asking when do you want the dates?' I said I don't want to build castles in the air. But he was very serious. Then, I said there is an important part. Then he just came, did the scene in both Hindi and English and also met Nambi Narayanan sir. The respect I saw in Khan Sahab's eyes for him, then I understood why he wanted to be a part of this film. For this film, he did not even take any fees from me, not even the cost of costume and assistant. And the same thing happened with Suriya. He had come from Chennai to Mumbai with the entire team to shoot. He told me that after Khan Sahab does the shooting, he will do it. Everyone had shown this kind of adjustment. He also did not take a single penny. So if you ask me whether there are good people in this industry or not, I will say wholeheartedly that may be I am a complete outsider and I do not think that I will ever be able to become an insider. But there are very good people in this industry. Everyone has supported me whenever I needed them.
Q. One of your most talked about film 'Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein' is about to complete 21 years. What do you think about the popularity and love it received?
A. (Laughs) I think the popularity of Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein is because of the kids who found that film very romantic at that time, loved the songs and connected with the character. Today all those kids have grown up and now some of them are doctors, engineers, teachers, journalists, some are in police. So they have power now. And today, when they talk about this film, it seems that the whole world is talking about Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein. But the truth is that the films which came after 10-20 years of RHTDM, when the kids of that time will grow up, they will talk about it and I will be an old story.