“Smile ah, adhu oru mile ku pogume” – Actor Vivek’s dialogue from Dum Dum Dum flashed across my mind as R Madhavan greeted me with a brisk and warm handshake with a flash of that famous impish smile. While women (and apparently men too) across the country are still going gaga over his smile, it is impossible to notice the affability when he calls himself an ‘unconventional looking hero.’ After a blockbuster Vikram Vedha, Madhavan is now stepping into the digital arena with his first web series, Breathe. With a successful career spanning more than fifteen years, the actor’s choice might raise a few eyebrows. But Madhavan says he has always known that digital content is the way ahead. “I have been doing the research for quite some time. I didn’t forecast brands like Amazon and Netflix to step in, but I realised that there will be an explosion with digital content around 5 years back,” he recalls.
However, there was still an iota of skepticism when he was approached for Breathe in 2016. “The web content that was coming back then seemed like a poor cousin of what is being produced right now. So, I wasn’t very keen,” he admits. But Amazon’s brand value assured him of quality and he was on board. The conviction grew when he met the director Mayank Sharma and heard the script. And he was thanking his stars for not missing it when they started shooting. “The creative and logistical aspects came beautifully together for Breathe. If you take the seventh and eighth episodes, I don’t think any other series in the world has a finale as dynamic as this,” says an enthusiastic Maddy. “I am not saying this as it is my product, but it is something that I am very proud of,” he adds.
The actor considers the digital space as the new idiot box and he backs his answers with statistics. “Do you know the percentage of the audience who go to the theatres to watch films? Less than 2%. Only 5% watches TV. But around 35-40% have access to digital content,” he reasons. The Vikram Vedha actor also quotes the West where older actors whose careers were considered to be finished became bigger stars with such shows. “It is a lifelong career for actors who are good with their language and can adapt to live sound. There is no limit to what can be done.”
The promotional efforts taken for Breathe were also unconventional. The actor tweeted out the link to the trailer to all Twitterati who liked or retweeted his tweet, much before the official launch. The tweet went viral getting around 9,200 retweets and more than 30,000 likes. “All credit to Amazon digital content ideas. They had the power and the potential to catapult it to this level. It was a bit of effort, but the response we got for the trailer was tremendous. When the content is good, we can go the extra mile confidently,” he says.
Breathe is an Amazon Prime Video India original which has been dubbed in three languages — Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
While the series was shot in Hindi, it has been dubbed in Tamil and Telugu. It revolves around a father who struggles to save his son with a rare blood group. The trailer which was launched recently has an interesting connection. Madhavan-Kamal Haasan’s Anbe Sivam where Maddy plays a man with same rare-blood group grabbed the limelight 15 years ago. A failed attempt at the box-office back then, the unique Anbe Sivam took its time to reach the cult status it has now. Fifteen years later, here Madhavan is on the cusp of another new, off-beat venture. “I never noticed that,” smiles Madhavan as I point it out to him. But he also asserts that his choices echo the person he is at that point in time. “I am not unconventional due to a need to be so. Just because I still have a lot of girl fans doesn’t mean I can do a film like Alaipayuthe now. My body and my mind are not 25. Sometimes I do age-appropriate stuff. I do intelligence-appropriate stuff and most important, stuff that appeals to an evolved audience,” says Madhavan.
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.