Madhavan R's directorial debut Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is slated to hit the theatres in Tamil, Hindi, and English on July 1. Awaiting its release, the actor-turned-director opens up to Ramya Subramanian about his upcoming film, working with Suriya and SRK, and how he takes risks and manages to do different kinds of films at the same time.
Edited excerpts below:
When you first watched Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, did you find faults, or were you happy? What was the feeling like?
Very good question, it is something nobody has asked me till now. The first time I watched this film was in Serbia after finishing the shoot. The editor was with me so he'd edit the scenes as we were going and finally he edited the last scene in the film, and showed it to us. When I first watched it, I watched it with the intention of forgetting that I directed the film.
It was about two hours and forty-five minutes, we were all looking at each other and nobody said anything in the end. We all felt that luckily, we didn't mess up. We believed it wasn't something embarrassing or a flop. And we knew that as a first-time director, I got the story to an extent. Whether it is a good film or a bad film, if we'd receive success or the film will flop – we don''t know any of that yet. We will find that out on July 1.
As a producer, you have been honest and clear about the intent behind making the film. It is not a commercial film with a folk song and fight sequences...
I want to correct you. I think it is really a super commercial film. But, it is not a commercial film in terms of a producer, it is commercial in terms of how the audience views it. In general, I have said it is a non-commercial film. Now, I am very brave to tell you that not because it is my film, but because of the cinematic value of Nambi Narayanan's life, which is untouchable. I am very sure that this is a super commercial film.
Suriya and Shah Rukh Khan are both in this film. They came in without any salary expectations, got in the whole crew for you, and associated themselves with this film. How was this experience, and how did it evolve in place for you?
Whatever you said is exactly what happened. Shah Rukh Khan approached me. I was telling him about the script and he said he'd do a role. I told him to stop joking. He said he has to be a part of this film. I thought he was saying that to make me happy and I left it. The next day, he messaged me asking when and how many dates I wanted. I told him 'Don't get us excited and then you'll put us down.' He didn't agree, as he wanted to be part of the film.
Suriya has always been with me and whenever I told him this story, he'd always ask me what I was doing differently all the time. He'd say it with a lot of love. He kept asking me when the shoot was going to happen. He would ask me when Shah Rukh Khan was shooting. He didn't want to make him wait, so he would book a ticket and come for shoot. So, when people ask if there are nice people in this industry, with assurance, I can say there are some very nice people here.
You have said in your recent interviews that acting is a simple job. You have made your first film with so much difficulty that I'd say you have almost made three films with your first film. So, do you have plans to continue as a director?
Directing this is enough! I enjoy being an actor and I think I have a lot more to give as an actor. I have many lives to play. Being a director requires you to be a god and be aware of all the departments, where you should be able to motivate people to work. As you said, doing it in three languages is a whole other level of difficulty.
Looking back at it, I don't know what I was thinking when I did the film. It doesn't make sense. Making the film in three languages, and dubbing it in Karnataka… It just doesn't make sense. We shot in eight countries with different timelines. We also filmed in snow at -10 degrees, and I didn't even know if I could act in the cold. But it just all fell into place. My only fear is that it won't fall into place again the next time, as things don't fall into place every time. I don't want to go through that mess again.
Aren't you somebody who has always been into this smart risk zone? You're never somebody who puts himself into the industry standards or someone who thinks he should have a market value. You're one of the first few stars who got into OTT. You'd suddenly give us an inspirational talk or become a brand ambassador. You do all of this and I wanted to ask you if these are instinctive decisions like this film or are you predicting the future and the trend?
I think I prepare subconciously in terms of the research. I am never sitting still. I am seeing a YouTube video or watching the latest trends, and what people are commenting on and talking about. Somehow my mind assimilates a direction. When I see what I need to do, that preparation and instinct both kick in together. If not for that, I could never do a series called Decoupled or Vikram Vedha or Breathe.
I don't consciously prepare. Subconsciously, I gather a lot of information. I don't take smart risks, I take total risks because when people said you should not do this as a hero, I did exactly that because it felt right to me. Nobody knows how this industry goes and there is no way to predict it. I've had a larger amount of successes than failures, from Vettai (2012) to Tanu weds Manu (2012) to Irudhi Suttru (2016) to Tanu weds Manu returns (2015), Breathe (2018), Vikram Vedha (2017), Decoupled (2021) and now Rocketry: The Nambi Effect – and these are all different kinds of films. In between, I'll go do a Maara (2018), which also is different or I'll go do a Nishabdham (2020), which didn't work for me. But I had to get money for Rocketry: The Nambi Effect before Covid.
You say things as they are.
That is because I cannot lie to this super-intelligent audience. Immediately, they'll say enough! I don't have to lie to them. They know very well that's the way I can earn their respect. If I say something truthful, they will believe me, else anything I say will become a lie.