My dream is to work with Mani Ratnam again: Madhoo

13/10/2017

Coming back to Chennai, even if it's for just a day, is a matter of joy for Madhoo. The actress, who was in the city recently, says, "My friends Queenie and Rhea had organised an exhibition here. When they told me about it, I just packed my bag and came here with them. I love being in Chennai; I don't need a reason to come here." Excerpts from a casual chat we had with the actress...
So, do you miss Chennai?
You know when they say, mannu vasanai, I love it here. The hotel where I often come to... it might just be a hotel in any other part of the world. But in Chennai, it feels like home. My soul is from here. I come to the city whenever I can; I never miss my dearest friend Ramya's birthday celebrations. I also come here to do temple trips with my family.
#25YearsOfRoja was trending recently on social media. How does it feel to be part of a film that has attained cult status today?
I take life as it comes. I never think, 'oh my God, 25 years of Roja!' I just think, 'Wow, I did it Roja 25 years ago'. I have many favourite roles; I'd done a Hindi film called Elaan and I think my comic timing in that was good. I've danced with Prabhudheva and there are many light-hearted moments from each of the films I've done. But I'd say Roja is the most special among all. That's because it's the only film that people remember even after 25 years. I've done so many movies in so many languages. And each one felt special in its own way. But who is talking about other films after 25 years? I've a lot of gratitude for being cast in the film.
The film also got you a moniker of sort... the Roja girl.
I was Madhoo Raghunathan before and I'm Madhoo Shah now. But I don't use a surname in my work area. Whenever I call people and tell them that it's Madhoo speaking, people go, 'Madhoo... Madhoo... oh, the Roja girl?' It's become my tagline. I'm still remembered as an actor not because I've done so many films in the last few years, but because I've earned a name as a good artiste. And it's partly because of this film.
Do you have fond memories from the sets of the film?
I'd finished shooting and even dubbed my own lines. I've worked in Kannada and other languages, and I wouldn't even know who dubbed for me and who released the film.
That's how disconnected we were back then. My appa is not a big talker, but he happened to see Roja at a preview before I could watch it. He then called me and said, 'Paapu kannan, indha padam paar'. He has seen so many of my films and he has never done this. So, the film felt very special for me. He did the same for my last Hindi TV show, Aarambh.
Are you in touch with Mani Ratnam and Arvind Swami?
I occasionally text Mani sir because I want to constantly remind him that I'm still around and that I want to work with him. It's my dream to work with him again and I've never kept that a secret. I'm in touch with so many directors and actors; I party with them and everybody else is a friend. The only person to whom I say that I'm waiting to be cast by, is Mani sir. I also follow Arvind Swami's work. I saw Thani Oruvan in which he played the villain and got him right back in the top of the league. We all have a concept on how a villain should be. But he looked like a hero in that movie. To be a bad guy, you don't have to look like one. Bad guy is a guy who has bad intentions. And he has played a baddie with such calmness.
You haven't signed a Tamil film in the last four years...
I get a lot of offers, but they don't tempt me. I have this desire to work with certain production houses and certain actors. But a friend has told me that the films that are becoming a hit these days are the ones that are made within a small budget, with new stories and great roles. So, I'm keeping my mind open when I'm listening to stories these days. How about TV shows in Tamil?
I can't take up serials because they consume a lot of time. Since I live in Mumbai, it'd be difficult to come to Chennai for 20 days at a stretch. But I'm open to reality shows and dance programmes. Is there any role that has eluded you?
Till recently, I'd say 'negative roles'. People thought I can't pull it off because I have a sweet face. But I got that chance in Aarambh. Another role that I felt had my name written on it was Sri's (Sridevi), English Vinglish. I now want an opportunity to explore complex relationships. In a commercial film, everyone falls into a cliche. But short films and web series give me that scope. I recently did Sab Theek Hain, a short film, which gave me an opportunity to experiment. Have you ever thought about directing or maybe singing?
The only one who thought I was singer material was the late composer Aadesh Srivastavji. He has heard me hum and had always wanted me to come to his recording studio. But sometimes, I do think of directing a film, but I don't have that technical knowledge. I've friends who are good cinematographers, and they've promised to support me. But I still don't have that courage. Maybe, someday, I will direct myself or another actor the way I want to...

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