A father who has been told that his five-year old son has just a few months to live. He explores every chance he can take to save his dying son…even if it means killing. That’s the character Madhavan gets to play in his digital debut in Amazon Prime Video’s Breathe, a departure from the roles he has essayed in feature films. Directed by Mayank Sharma, the eight-episode series will air in 200 territories worldwide on January 26, becoming Amazon’s second Indian original to release after Vivek Oberoi’s Inside Edge. Speaking on the sidelines of the series’ trailer launch in Chennai, actor Madhavan gives the new format credibility and star power. The actor speaks about how bullish he is about the format.
Breathe is set in a format that’s very different from feature films. It has eight episodes with runtime hitting close to four hours. How tough is it to be in character for the duration of such a shoot?
Very tough. It was the first time in a film set that I had to keep taking notes to record the mindset of my character. We would be shooting for the final episode and then suddenly we would have to shoot bits that were meant for the first episode and I’d have to get into a totally different mindset. What made it harder was that I was simultaneously shooting for Vikram Vedha where my character was quite the opposite of Breathe. That’s also why my look is quite similar in both roles. But what I enjoyed in Breathe was the ability to shoot in live sound…it’s hardly an opportunity I get in Tamil. These factors gave me the chance to go much deeper into the character.
Did the small-screen format allow you the freedom to choose a character you might not have opted for in a feature film?
If you’re referring specifically to my character’s negative shades, then I’ve already done that with films such as Aayutha Ezhuthu. But of course, Breathe, is about an ordinary person getting drawn into an extraordinary situation. It’s a story that required a certain length and we didn’t retrofit anything to make it into full-length film.
You signed on to do this series even before one could predict the success of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix in India…
It is obviously the future. Even the biggest films are being watched in theatres by just 2% of our population. Just take a look around…everyone’s primary source of entertainment has become their mobile phones. In fact, a big chunk of the people watching our movies watch it either on their laptops or phones. Services like Amazon Prime isn’t just about a particular kind of audience either, it’s as much for the masses as it is for a multiplex audience. But because it’s meant for a smaller screen, it doesn’t mean there are any compromises to how it’s being made. We’ve shot Breathe in 8K format which would be crystal clear in any theatre.
As an actor, what were your thoughts before you got into the small-screen format?
My mindset would have been a lot of different had my last two films (Irudhi Suttru and Vikram Vedha) not been blockbusters. When a feature film actor in India gets into the digital space, it’s easy for people to start talking and say it’s because the offers have dried up. But just take a look at the West. There’s no difference there and it’s common to see top actors star in TV shows and original series. If there are actors staying away from this format because of some preconceived notions, it’s them who is going to lose out on this exciting new format. I’m glad I got into it so early and it hasn’t come at the cost of a feature film career…I have two big biopics, a Tamil film and the Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha that’s lined up.
Lastly, what are the shows that you’ve been watching lately?
Oh, I’m constantly hooked to shows. I’m currently addicted to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.