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Mr. Nice Guy

About Lekha Menon

A journalist for 16 years, Lekha Menon is the editor of a leading Bollywood and lifestyle magazine in the UAE. Prior to this, she was working with well known media houses like The Times of India and DNA in India.

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Most women, when discussing men, often use a term that I feel, is quite exclusive to us Indians. It’s called ‘marriage material’. “X is great but not ‘marriage material’ while Y is not ‘marriage material’ but so much fun!” So on and so forth. No one knows its origin but roughly explained, it means a ‘candidate’ who is ideal to take home to mama and also perfect for a hot date! A thorough gentleman but someone with a great sense of humour, intelligence and sex appeal – the quintessential nice guy.

Of course, let’s get practical. The aforementioned qualities are too much to expect from one man so we are left to fantasising about film stars and their oh-so-perfect personas on screen. But off screen, how many actors fit this description? Frankly, not many. The alleged hedonistic lifestyle of film stars and their sizzling scoops and scandals, lapped up by a gossip hungry media often lend them an unapproachable and unattainable halo – great to admire from afar but something to be wary of, up close. There are few, very few actors who can boast of virtues that have not been scripted or imagined by a screen writer.

R. Madhavan is one of them. I remember the time he first entered our lives… with a television show where he was the perfect Nice Guy. The confusion in his eyes, the innocence of his smile, the identifiable middle-class insecurities, the deep-rooted grace spoke back to my own South Indian upbringing and adolescence. My friends too found him adorable and we would often discuss the ‘cute fella’ from Banegi Apni Baat. But he became an integral part of our fantasies when  his Tamil debut Alaipayuthe released. Now, here was an actor worth dreaming about. Once again, he was the quintessential middle-class hero – relatable, kind, the sort my mom would love. The emotions (and oh the music!) of this movie still gives me goosebumps when there’s a re-run on TV.

I even enjoyed his Hindi debut Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, a cheesy romcom with questionable portrayal of women. But it worked purely because of the charm that Maddy and Dia Mirza imbued their roles with. To date, it’s my guilty pleasure watch, equivalent to gobbling down three large Cadbury Silks. Over the years, I have seen him playing different roles and each time that disarming smile and effortless performance lingers on long after the film is over. I want a friend like him from 3 Idiots, a lover like him from Tanu Weds Manu, a mentor like him from Saala Khadoos.

Why is Madhavan so different from the rest? I thought often. And here’s my simple answer. If you have fallen in love with his ‘charming boyfriend, caring husband, great friend’ roles on screen, it’s those very vibes you get off it too. It’s rare to see an actor leaving his starry persona behind to mingle with people but Maddy is one such star.

As a journalist, I have met and interviewed several stars over the years but he remains one of the few I have genuinely enjoyed interacting with. I still remember my last meeting with him in Dubai where he had come to promote a little-known TV show that, strangely enough, spoke about Malaysian food and culture. He, along with a few other celebs, was there to lend his support to the producer, who was his friend. He could see the humour in it and even laughed about the oddity of promoting a Malaysian show in Dubai, when I questioned him about it. Right from moment one, he was friendly, chatty and warm, answering questions patiently about food, life and cinema. There was no pretense or mask to him. When he spoke, he spoke from the heart even if it was something as innocuous as his love for curd rice and pickle! (One of my favourites too which resulted in an immediate South Indian connection!) I could sense that he was a man who hadn’t forgotten his roots or his love for the simple things in life. Interviewing him turned out to be a pleasure because he had this ability to put you at ease, unlike most other stars who deliberately (or otherwise) filtered their responses. The conversation flowed easily.

After the press conference was over, he stepped down from the podium, interacted with the audience and did something quite remarkable – acknowledged the journalists present, individually. It was a gesture I would never forget. Let’s face it, which star would go out of his way to meet a scribe he doesn’t know personally? Needless to say, he also posed patiently for the mandatory selfies with fans. You may argue that most stars would do it given the fact that they know the value of a selfie in the age of social media but with Maddy, it was different. It was organic and natural, not a put-on.

My friends in the events management field say he is one of the most co-operative stars to work with. No tantrums and no attitude problems. As a journalist, I can vouch for his no-fuss approach to interviews. Everybody has good things to say about Maddy and that itself says a lot about the man.

As we said above, women may get attracted to the bad guys but it’s the Nice Guys that win their hearts. And Maddy is a really nice guy.

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