Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch

The bonds, they are a-breaking

For actor R Madhavan, if the lowest common denomina tor in as ociety is not cared for, we will become a rotten society

- By Shunali Khullar Shroff

Few things have changed between the last century and now as much as the nature of love. If the 1970s were about free love, this millennial era is about complicate­d love. And thanks to dating apps, we're treating our relationsh­ips like we treat our burgers at a drive-through—consuming them impatientl­y because we know the next meal is only a stop away.

But in the middle of this Cirque du Soleil of love is an entire generation of people feeling utterly confused. They go by the name of Gen X. Resigned to their fate, some of them wonder if there is another, more exciting life waiting to be lived on the other side of marriage. This explains why so many people I know are talking about a new Indian show that deals with a complicate­d marriage. And so, I watched Decoupled, a satirical show about an urban marriage that has come undone. The couple, however, continues to live under the same roof for the sake of their child while trying to establish new rules of engagement between themselves.

‘It's not for you if you’re too woke to find it funny,’ I wrote on social media after watching it. The editor of HT Brunch agreed. So, a few hours liattwer a, I s wshao s t oa n t a tchaelilr with R Madhavan, who prelacyeep­dtidoenc . o It uipsled’s wilfully un-ingratiatn­in ot g a bpuo t seli d kpehaobtlo­e

and. It is unfiltered protagonis­t, for this piece.

emotions and a moment captured at just the right

R Madhavan's Arya is a ptoimlitei­c . a It lli y s inoc t ororneect man who says aloud thoi f ntgh s e moosrt people wouldn’t dare to utter. It’s a role that could have easily made the character impossible

It's complicate­d


to like. But Madhavan somehow managed to make Arya endearing.

In his own words, Madhavan is “finicky about scripts”. “But the challenge of playing a socially awkward guy who isn’t bound by social norms and isn’t very likeable made me say yes,” he says over a phone call.

I bring up the unusual arrangemen­t between the couple in the series. I am keen to hear Madhavan’s views on modern marriages.

“What we are trying to say is that it takes an effort to be in a relationsh­ip. But in today's world, sometimes people’s eccentrici­ties are so deeply ingrained that it becomes impossible to accommodat­e another person’s eccentrici­ties. I know many couples who are together and yet are not in that marriage. You are no longer ticking the boxes for why you married each other and yet not getting divorced. I find that very confusing,” says Madhavan.

I ask him if parents sticking to a marriage for the sake of their children long after the love is gone isn’t too big a personal sacrifice.

“No! You are going to set an example. The kids will bear the brunt of them not living together. And we have seen the world over that those kids carry that trauma into their adulthood,” he says.

Heroes & zeroes

What takes centrestag­e in the show are Arya’s misanthrop­ic antics. And yet you somehow come away feeling that his heart is in the right place.

"I did not want people to think of Arya as a jerk. So I decided to just state what he says without making it look like an opinion. So, when Arya talks about women in Gurgaon hiring maids with inner beauty,” Madhavan laughs mid-sentence, still entertaine­d by that scene, “Or that yoga shot at the airport,” he continues, “Arya is simply thrilled he’s figured it out. He's not passing judgement."

I ask if he thinks Arya is a hero or a jerk. He laughs. “I will quote the writer on this,” he says. “Arya is the hero of small injustices.

Every action of his is meant towards niceness. When he’s yelling at people at the restaurant, saying don't dress Northeaste­rn people as Chinese, he's speaking up for their identities. That's what I like about him."

Madhavan shares that strong sense of justice with Arya. “If the lowest common denominato­r in a society is not cared for, we will become a rotten society,” he says.

I ask him what he feels about a hyperliber­al culture where one can get cancelled any minute for saying one word out of place.

"The yardstick you use to measure Western culture cannot apply to us in its entirety. I want the world to take a chill pill and be super nice to one another instead of going overboard with reactions to things,” he says. “We are living in the Covid era, we need to take it easy.”

Make your choice

Madhavan believes that the aping of Western ideas of liberalism isn't good for our society. "I'm completely for fighting for women; they must have equality in every area of life. But if you're going to call my mother regressive because she wears a sari when she goes to work and she doesn't want to take a promotion so that she does not earn more than my father, then I am not in agreement with you. Making a woman feel apologetic about who she is does not work for the fabric of our society,” he says.

The actor believes that the women in his family are "extremely liberal, extremely free and extremely proud of who they are". "But they do not fit with the descriptio­n of new age women you've given me. So who do I pay respect to? The women in my family who are who they are because they want to be like that or your idea of a liberal woman, which is a Western idea in the first place?" he says.

To see women belittled for making choices angers Madhavan.

“AR Rahman’s daughter gave a fabulous reply when she was trolled [by writer Taslima Nasrin] for wearing a burqa,” he says. Khatija Rahman had replied: ‘I feel proud and empowered for what I stand for, I will not be weak or regret the choices I’ve made in my life.’ And Madhavan feels there’s a message in there for our people.



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where R Madhavan (inset) plays Arya, a politicall­y incorrect man who says aloud things most people wouldn’t dare to utter
Stills from where R Madhavan (inset) plays Arya, a politicall­y incorrect man who says aloud things most people wouldn’t dare to utter

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