Don't judge a book by its cover or a film by its name, says actor Madhavan, furious at presumption that his "Ramji Londonwale" is a rustic tale just because of the title.
"I can't figure out why people presume 'Ramji Londonwale' is a rustic tale just because it has a rustic name. Not that I see anything wrong in a rustic flick. Some of our best films from 'Mother India' to 'Lagaan' are set in a village.
"But just because Sanjay Daima, who assisted Ashutosh Gowariker in 'Lagaan', is directing me in 'Ramji Londonwale', does it follow that the film is again rustic? It's as simplistic as presuming that Ashutosh would continue to direct only rural sagas. Silly to typecast actors, even sillier to slot filmmakers."
He pauses for a breather. "Let me clarify, 'Ramji' isn't a 'Lagaan'. Just because Sanjay Daima who assisted on 'Lagaan' is part of it and just because some of the supporting cast from the earlier film is in my film, it doesn't follow that we've a 'Lagaan' hangover. 'Ramji' is as dissimilar to 'Lagaan' as 'Lagaan' was to Ashutosh's 'Swades'."
Speaking of "Swades", wasn't Ashutosh Gowariker very keen to have Madhavan play the lead in the film? "He was, I must admit. He told me I was his initial choice. But the distributors seemed happier with Shah Rukh (Khan). I don't blame them. Even I'd choose Shah Rukh over myself," grins the tense star, whose latest film has just been released.
Madhavan admits he has never been so nervous before. "Not even when my first Hindi film 'Rehna Hai Terre Dil Mein' was released. Today my 'Rehna Hai...' director Goutam Menon is working with Kamal Haasan on a Tamil film while I'm doing a Hindi film based on a screenplay written by Kamal Sir. It's a small world, a truly small show-world. What goes around comes around. I started as a Bihari in Mumbai's TV world, went on to Tamil cinema and keep coming to Mumbai for Hindi films. I've homes in both Mumbai and Chennai. Borders between regional and Hindi cinema are closing. They should close further."
Sighs Maddy: "The producer of Ramji Londonwale, Dr Murli Mohan, came from London for the release of the film. He has just completed the production work of Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Provoked' in London. I can't imagine two films being more dissimilar than 'Ramji' and 'Provoked'. And yet the same man is at its helm. Today producers are willing to back all kinds of films. I like that. It makes me more comfortable about my transition from one kind of cinema to another."
The film has been shot entirely in and around London. "Earlier, our directors used to take off for any foreign country without rhyme or reason. Now there's a specific reason for a country being chosen as a location. In 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' and 'Hum Tum', London wasn't just a random location. Neither was New York chosen as a backdrop for 'Kal Ho Na Ho' because it was a pretty place. Likewise, London is as much the hero of 'Ramji Londonwale' as me."
"If Ramji works, I've Rakeysh Mehra's 'Rang De Basanti' to look forward to."
He pauses and then chuckles, "In Mehra's film, my co-star is Soha Ali Khan who was offered 'Ramji Londonwale'. See what I mean by a small world?"