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R. Madhavan Speech: Break the Clutter

Learn English with R. Madhavan. Indian actor, writer, film director, and producer who predominantly appears in Tamil and Hindi cinema. Madhavan has won four Filmfare Awards South and three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. He has been described as one of the few actors in India who is able to achieve pan-Indian appeal, having appeared in films from seven different languages.

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R. Madhavan:

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“Success, or the lack of it, has a way to make you realise what your boundaries are.” R. Madhavan


“So you guys are in your, you know, at the threshold of the dreams that you want to achieve. Please sit down, it’s going to be slightly longer. And you know, you guys are going to actually determine how the environment around you is going to progress along with you.

You must know that at no point in your life is something impossible. At no point! You could be in a place you could be born and brought up in a place like Bihar, like I have done and be a beginner star to come and talk to people in Coimbatore as a star.

Or you could be in the industry like the Tamil and Telugu industry and be known as the most exciting director. Rajamouli suddenly decides that he can make a film, which is, if not better, but at par with Hollywood.

And he does that staying in India and he hits the ball right out of the park. He becomes historic in just that one moment. There is a huge lesson to be learned on things like that. Everybody keeps saying: “Success is when, is when you, when the right opportunity meets the right preparation.” Right?

So you can’t have the right preparation by being the engineer that you want to be and you keep looking out for the right opportunity. But what makes the right opportunity and the right preparation come together? When does that synergy happen for you to be prepared for it?

Because like they say, if you’re prepared but you don’t get the opportunity, it’s useless. If you had the opportunity and are prepared, it’s not useless, but they have to meet at a point, right? And that meeting happens because you will it to happen because you wanted so badly to happen.

I could be walking down any street, I could be anybody, but why did that one director come and meet me and wanted me to act in that television serial? If you look at every next step in my career, I have never prepared for it.

I have never imagined that this could happen. I never imagined that Mani Ratnam would call me. How would Mani Ratnam know about a guy who’s doing a television series in Bombay without even seeing one episode of mine?

So let’s come back to that one point that happens. The synergy that happens between the right opportunity and the right preparation. And that happens when you have what is called situational awareness. So let me tell you a little bit about situational awareness.

Situational awareness is when in the, as in the army, they say, “You’re completely aware of what is happening around you at all times.” So as I was saying, the situational awareness happens when you are completely aware of everything that is going around you at all times and you should be able to do that.

When we are in the army and you are walking down the ground, parede ground around anybody who’s involved with the defense will know what I’m saying is the truth. And if there is an officer walking away from the other side of the ground, you have to stop and say to them and say: “Ram Ram sirji” or whatever is the call of the unit. If you don’t, they give you a brick in your hand and you have to shave with that brick.

So… thank you, that’s awesome. So what, the situation awareness is because you should know when the enemies around you, when there is danger around you.

You know how that is taught to you from when you’re a child. That’s taught to you in the form of good manners. In the form of being courteous. So when, when you say a “good morning” or you’re saying a “good afternoon” or you’re looking around and helping a teacher who’s carrying a book and being aware that she needs help, or you’re watching around and stepping over a train and not tripping on yourself.

You should know that you’re fairly evolved in the form of… in the art of situational awareness. That’s why people insist on teaching children good manners. And anybody who has good manners, it’s not just a desire, it’s not the desire just to be considered to be a polite guy, but the ability to know when somebody needs to be reached. Somebody needs help. Somebody is in need of assistance or somebody has to run away. And that’s, that’s why you teach your child good manners.

And I will tell you today from the bottom of my heart, I might not be completely worthy of some of the opportunities that I got when I grabbed it like hell and I got those opportunities simply because I was a very well-mannered person.

I was able to… Yeah. So… And with that manner, with the way you walk, with your gait, the kind of words that you use. It’s very common to use normal language with your friends and everything, but most people don’t even have a vocabulary.

The reason I started those classes in Kolhapur was so that I had my friends who came to me and said: “Maddy, we are very good engineers, buddy. We are really good at what we’re doing. But the problem is, I can’t speak in English, I can’t speak in Marathi. So when they come from Tatas and Kirloskar campus selections, I’m not able to communicate to them.” They don’t even observe a Kolhapuri boy wearing a Terry cotton pant and a shirt and wearing slippers and don’t even consider that he’s a good… He could be a good engineer.

So then I said the fault lies with you guys. You have to break the clutter. Nobody’s going to come and say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe you’re going to let me give you a shot.”

You have to be noticed in that very first instant. And for two reasons: one is that either you should know what is your good… what is a good profession for you. If you’re not able to make an impression, then quickly change it.

This is not the be-all and end-all. The engineering or whichever subject that you choose to major in when you are in college does not literally have to be your lifelong profession, but give it a shot. At least know if that is a profession that you really want to pursue and excel in, because that’s the only way you’ll survive is if you excel in it. If you excel in it to such an extent that you think sleep, dream, eat, breathe that particular job.

And I do that with acting and I’m telling you, I do not know what else. I would have been a really bad soldier because I would have… because I think I’m a really good actor. I’m involved completely 100% of the time I’m doing research.

If I have free time, I’m going to YouTube and finding out what is a different method of acting. I just do that with a passion. If you’re not doing that for your profession, know that you’re in a secondary profession, know that you’re doing something which is not, which the Lord has not made you to achieve glory in.

So, you have to give it that shot. Now what I’m trying to tell you is that Kolhapuri… friends of mine who then came to me and I said, “Okay, let’s try and see if we can change that.”

So at five o’clock in the morning, they would come to my room and we’d go to the terrace. And I started teaching them how to present themselves in the interview, things that I had the good fortune of doing because I had many interviews and many group discussions to attend.

And then I started with basic things on how, how to shake hands. How to look somebody in the eye and speak. How do you introduce yourself? How do you shake hands with a lady as opposed to a man?

How do you speak on a phone? What is dining-table etiquette? What’s telephone etiquette? What’s… when do you use a shrimp fork or a salad fork or a… People might think I might don’t require that. I’m never going to work on those things. I’m doing my father’s business, but you will never know. That is to prepare. That is a preparation that you make to make that quantum leap in your careers. These are basic things you have to know that.

You have to know how to dress correctly. You have to know if you have body odor. You have to know whether you’re spitting on people’s face and how to stop it when you’re speaking. If you don’t do these things, ladies and gentlemen, you will be in an average life doing an average job and living an average life.

Having said that, I’m not saying that is wrong. That could be your calling. My father is very happy living that sort of life because they do not live in extremes. But if you have a passion and if you have a desire to be exceptional, if you have a desire to be seen apart from the crowd, then this is the bare minimum thing you should do. So when these guys went for the interview, the next time in Kolhapur, I made you the point to call the Tatas and say, “Hey, you know what? What is wrong?” Because I’m from Jamshedpur from the Tata Steel town. I knew the officers. I knew the senior gentleman. I said, “Sir, you know, these friends of mine are extraordinary engineers. The mere reason why you’re not taking them is because they don’t know how to present themselves in English.

How long is it going to take for you to send somebody who knows Marathi in your in your panel so that they can actually judge and see these guys are good enough for Tata Steel? Do you need good people who speak in English or do you need somebody who are good engineers?”

And he agreed. He actually sent people from Maharashtra. And for the first time in the history of Kolhapur we had five guys getting into Tata Steel and Kirloskar. And… and I just wanted to say that I don’t… I’m not taking credit for it.

It is just… I just felt bad because it is just just small three-day push that they required to achieve that. So when they were interviewed they said, “Four years of learning engineering one side and those three days with Maddy. We became engineers and successful because of those three days.” And what I am teaching you is nothing extraordinary. It is simple stuff. It’s the norm. It’s the way of the world. So yes, we’re all radicals yet. I mean, you guys are very awesome students.

You are sitting there quietly listening to me. We used to make a ruckus if somebody came to give a speech. But the idea is that you have to connect to the audiences that you’re speaking to. Public speaking and group discussions skills can be taught in 15 minutes.

I used to challenge my students that I should check and see. I will hold each and every one of your attention for 15 minutes because I would say such relevant stuff that you would be forced to pay attention to me.

And that’s how you make an impression. That’s how you break the clutter. That’s how you get seen in this world, and that’s how you can achieve glory for yourself and this wonderful nation that you’re part of.”[/read]

R. Madhavan

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