Roles with grey shades fascinate me: Neeraj Madhav

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Actor Neeraj Madhav is buoyant. His performance in web series 'The Family Man' won accolades from fans and critics. With Gauthamante Radham, his second movie as the lead actor, Neeraj seems to be reinventing himself.

The actor, who believes in keeping it simple and easy off the big screen, has a diverse filmography, ranging from intense dramas like Drishyam to comedies like Adi Kapyare Kootamani.

Neeraj, who is ready to set his foot in Bollywood too, reveals his plans and ambitions to Onmanorama in an exclusive chat:

In your recent social media post, you were referring to satellite value of stars. Should satellite value affect a star?

Apart from superstars, most stars like me do not have satellite value. By saying that, what I meant is that after making a movie with me as the lead actor, there are two factors that should work here. One, the audience should be impressed and secondly the producer who invested money trusting me should be safe. Even if a movie like Gauthamante Radham does well in theatres, the makers need a minimum guarantee from the artiste.

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This is my second movie in which I play the lead and it's my requisite for the movie to reach out to viewers in order to give an assurance to other filmmakers when they cast me.

But when you ask if satellite value really should affect a star, I think things are changing. For instance, the movie Thanneer Mathan Dinangal turned out to be one of the blockbusters of last year and except Vineeth Sreenivasan, the other players were quite new to audience and didn't have any satellite value.

So is content indeed the king?

Of course. There should be a freshness to the themes and the subjects should be unique. If that blends well with your target audience, it would work out in your favour. Like Gauthamante Radham, the story was about a man and his first car. Such subjects are definitely new in movies but yet relatable to many of us.

Like Gauthaman, what is your memory of a car?

During my younger days, my father owned a Premier Padmini, which was sold later. But the car which I have bought with my earnings is one thing that I cherish most. I always dreamt of buying a big car and it was just recently that I could buy a BMW with my own earnings.

Will it be right to say that Malayalam cinema has not properly utilized Neeraj Madhav, the actor?

I don't know if it will be the right to put it that way. As far as the actor in me is concerned, I would have never got a character like Moosa in Malayalam which I got from the web series 'The Family Man'. I have no right to blame anyone, but as an actor I needed to prove myself.

Doing 'Family Man' was a risky decision in every way but I wanted to show that I can do this. Initially it was sparing 6 months which later went to one year and it was worth the wait. I could have never got the acceptance I got with it with any other project.

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It was interesting to see you in the opening shot right in the very first episode of season 1 of 'The Family Man'

Yes, in fact that was the first day, first scene and the very first shot that I did in the series. The creators Raj and DK made a genuine effort and trusted me with such a prominent character. Typically, in every Bollywood film you will see a stereotypical South Indian character – dark skinned, fake Hindi accent. But in this one, they had done a thorough research.

You are someone with the boy next door image as well as a serious look. Has such an approach helped in acting?

Honestly, I don't do too much homework unless and until a character demands physical transformation. I tend to adapt the moment I am in front of the camera. Most of the characters I have done, except Moosa, were relatable. There were different layers to the character Moosa and my approach while playing that was to be convincing in each scene. The makers were fine with it and so it was easy to deliver. I think it would be fine to relate to what we call as an impromptu actor.

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Neeraj as Moosa in 'The Family Man'

After having done many comic roles, you are often tagged as a comedian. So, when you did the grey-shaded role, wasn't it challenging enough?

It's true that I was tagged as a comedian in Malayalam industry. But then, there was also a Drishyam, my third movie, after which I realized there was an actor's calling. Light-hearted characters mostly made my way. Comedies are easy to shoot and fun to work but the humour should work in the right sense in such cases.

I used to think if I had the potential to do other roles and that how could I grow myself as an actor. I waited for a movie where I could prove myself like I said before. And after I did 'Family Man', I just enjoyed working on such a character. I realized that my area of interest was in the grey-shaded roles more than the comic ones.

That character opened brought a pan-Indian and international recognition for me. When a legend like Amitabh Bachchan recognizes you, it's perhaps the biggest acknowledgement a star can get. But at the same time, I am concerned about our people. I wonder how many Malayalis have watched the series and how many know that I have done such a role.

Has such recognition opened doors for more ventures from outside Kerala?

Yes. Right now, I am in talks with a leading Hindi production banner. And if everything goes right, I will make an announcement about the Bollywood venture soon.

Is 'The Family Man' star indeed a family man?

Well, yes. I am quite attached to my family and they are my emotional back-up. Whenever I am mentally down, I reach home and it's this small unit comprising my wife, brother, father and mother which cheers me up.

Malayalam actor Neeraj Madhav gets engaged
Neeraj with wife Deepthi

What about your writing experiments?

Yes, it's progressing. Along with B.Tech movie director Ramakrishna J Kulur, I am penning a script which will mark the directorial debut of my brother Navneeth Madhav.

The movie is based on hip-hop-rap and action. Back in 2015, while I was part of Adi Kapyare Kootamani, Rzee who did the rap for a song in the movie, talked about the underground music. Since then, the thought has been evolving and it was much later that Gully Boy, which was also based on rap music got good appreciation. On an experimental note, during the Kerala floods, we released the musical 'Njan Malayali'.

There are many hip hop artistes in Malayalam and with Gully Boy's success, we feel this is the right time to pitch such a theme.

Upcoming projects

The Bollywood movie, which I am yet to sign. The next immediate release will be Ka directed by Rajeeshlal Vamsha and after that is Pathira Kurubana, which will bring back Adi Kapyare Kootamani team.

Is dancing still on?

Definitely. I have never considered dancing to be a profession but it's a passion. When I began my journey with reality shows and dancing, many told me that such things won't work here and that I should try some other industry. But I am happy that with dancing, I could even share stage and choreograph a tribute dance for Tamil superstar Vikram at an award show.

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