R Madhavan Interview: Breathe was a big challenge, which I didn’t expect when I accepted the series!

In an interview with BollywoodMDB, the popular actor talks about his first ever digital show, Breathe.

By Mohnish Singh - January 25, 2018

After making a crossover to films from television and establishing himself as one of the most versatile actors of Indian cinema, talented actor R Madhavan is now venturing into the ever-expanding world of digital entertainment with his forthcoming digital series, Breathe. The trailer of the series was unveiled a couple of days ago, which has generated a positive response from the audience. Breathe will start streaming on Amazon Prime from 26th January 2018. BollywoodMDB correspondent, Mohnish Singh, recently met the actor to know more about the series. Excerpts…

R Madhavan Interview: Breathe was a big challenge, which I didn’t expect when I accepted the series!
R Madhavan

Q. Tell us something about your character in the web-series, Breathe?

A. My character’s name is Danny Mascarenhas. From the trailer, it is evident that there is a problem; his son’s life is in danger. He is left to make choices that might not be morally and legally correct. What will you do if you face a situation where you have a choice of saving somebody who is really close to you, but you are restricted by the laws and social rules? Will you go ahead and do what it takes to save him. Or will you stay quiet and within the rules and let him die? That is the choice my character has to make in the series.

Q. How challenging was it for you to play such an intense character?

A. Very challenging, because if you have to do this over a period of two hours’ film, it is easy because you are just keeping the track of only 120 minutes. So if you reach the peak of your emotions in the first half an hour, you can sustain it for the rest of the film. But in this one, it has to be maintained over the period of 360 minutes, which is almost close to four films. We were shooting at the same time period as one movie, which is 50 days. So, in those 50 days, I had to keep track of what level my emotion was at the third day where the seen had been shot of fourth episode’s 22 minutes or whether on the 49th day, I was shooting for the second minute of the series. So, the non-linear shooting, the time period in which the story has been told, and the fact that I can’t peak at any given point of time - the anger should keep rising, the intensity, the craziness should keep going till the final episode - all that was a big challenge, which I never expected to be faced with when I accepted the web-series.

Q. If I am not wrong, the shooting of your Tamil film, Vikram Vedha, overlapped with the shooting of Breathe. It would have definitely been tough for you to switch between both the characters…

A. I would like to say it was, but it wasn’t. Not for a simple reason; the answer is slightly complicated. There (in Vikram Vedha), it was very clear-cut what I was doing. I was coming from a straightforward place. He is a righteous guy who sticks to the laws. Here (in Breathe) the character was so frightening in terms of things he had to face to save his son that I would never want to come back with the same character after the shoot was over. So, as soon as the shoot used to get over, I would hang out with guys, play around, have a little bit of jokes and forget about everything and come back. So the withdrawal was very fast. So it was not really tough for me because it had a totally different situation but it was very tough while doing.

Q. Comparisons are also being drawn between your looks in Vikram Vedha and Breathe?

A. It is the same look. However, there is a slight difference also, in terms of spectacles and the innocence that comes with wearing a Gandhi kind of spectacles. They (the makers) wanted a pair of Gandhi glasses because Danny Mascarenhas is almost that non-violent at the beginning of the story. So yeah, we added those structures. But we also wanted a look that could switch between being a normal guy like Manu Sharma and suddenly becoming a monster. So, that had to happen and therefore the look had to be a mix of both. Vikram Vedha’s look helped me get that desired look for the web-series as well.

Q. In the promo of your web-series we see that your child has a problem and you are taking the law in your hand and killing people. So, what is your personal take on that?

A. That was the first part of my answer. I hope that nobody gets into a situation like that. But it is very difficult to answer that question till you are actually faced with it. I can give you a moralistic response right now. So, I can’t tell you what I think about it really. I can only tell you a cosmetic answer. I do hope that none of us has to go through a situation where we have to answer that question in real.

Q. If you have to choose one of your films which you think was better suited to the format of a digital show, which one would you pick up?

A. I feel Rang De Basanti is one film of mine that would have been better suited as a digital series because there are so many things that could be said about it. For instance, my character was in the movie only for nine minutes. Just nine minutes. But, in those nine minutes, I had to come across as a patriot, whom the country loved; a good son, whom the mother adored; a good boyfriend, who could spur a woman to spur others to give up their lives for; a good friend, whom everybody thought was worth fighting for. All that is something people generally take a whole film to show, but my track had to be shown in nine minutes flat. And not just mine, every one of those characters in the film could have been expanded upon. Think about it: You have Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and Sadguru’s episodes both from the past and in the present and you could just go on and one with those tracks. In such a scenario, I feel Captain Ajay Rathore could have easily been there for ten episodes at least.