Neeraj Madhav has appeared in Malayalam films like Memories, Drishyam, Sapthamashree Thaskaraha, and Charlie. But it’s his role as Moosa Rehman in Raj and DK’s Family Man that made him a recognized actor across the country. He’s a part of the Netflix anthology Feels Like Ishq that’s releasing on July 23. In this interview with Varadh Krishna Prakash, he talks about how Family Man changed his career, how he juggles his roles as a scriptwriter (Lavakusha) and actor, and his experience working with Prithviraj and Mohanlal. Edited excerpts…
How big a turning point was Family Man in your career?
It was big because I went from being a regional actor to being recognized all over the country. It was a huge turning point. After that, I started getting offers from various languages due to my visibility. It’s also given me the ability to experiment as an actor.
How do you juggle your roles as a scriptwriter and actor? You’re also into dance and music…
I don’t set up timings for specific activities. I was an aspiring writer-director but I ended up becoming an actor. I had a fun script in hand. Rapping happened during the lockdown as I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before. Your question has become relevant now and going forward into the future, I have to figure out how to manage my time.
Tell us about Feels Like Ishq. Did moments from your own life inspire your performance?
Not really. We were discussing our past love stories and I remembered a crush from school, when for the first time you feel something for another person. It turned out to be nothing, but I remember the excitement. Now, I’m in a different space and when I go back home I see my wife. And so, I’m not the kind of actor who uses past emotions to get inspired. I just go with the moment.
How do you look at OTT? A lot of films are now released directly on OTT as theatres are closed…
I think OTT and theatres will be 50-50. For smaller films, small in terms of budget and not featuring a superstar, it’s better to be placed on OTT. The pressure of initial collections, FDFS crowd and also the question of how long distributors are going to hold your film can be avoided if a movie is released on OTT. Of course, there are certain films that should be watched in theatres. But certain romantic films or small budget films can be placed on OTT.
Theatres are important for big business and financial growth of the industry. So, it’s 50-50. OTTs will still have direct releases even after theatres open up.
As an outsider to the industry, what was your biggest challenge?
It was to convince people what I’m capable of. People judge you based on the parameters and measures they have. Telling people that you’re capable of doing something that’s different from expectation is a tough nut to crack. It was my biggest hustle.
You shared screen space with Mohanlal and Prithviraj early in your career. How was the experience?
I did a small role in Memories with Raju ettan [Prithviraj]. Jeethu Joseph liked me in that role and cast me in Drishyam. It was a huge learning experience with Lalettan [Mohanlal]. He views the scene in totality and not only from his perspective. He makes sure that his co-star is comfortable and performing well and it ensures that the entire scene is good. He looks at it in total harmony. When I got the chance to work with Prithviraj again in Sapthamashree Thaskaraha, I figured out that he’s a visionary. He understands not only acting but also how to create a project.