Rajkumar Hirani’s second production, ‘Saala Khadoos‘ turns a national level boxer into an actress.When actor R Madhavan who lives close by came to Rajkumar Hirani with a script he had been working on with a young director, Sudha Kongara, the filmmaker was immediately interested in co-producing it with him. Rajkumar Hirani’s second production, a Hindi-Tamil bi-lingual, Saala Khadoos, is the story of a rustic fisherwoman who Madhavan’s character, a retired boxing coach, grooms into a match-winning boxer.

What Hirani wasn’t sure about was casting a real boxer in the lead as Sudha unlike Madhvan. Their argument as they went from one association to another, watching matches, was that the fights needed stamina and intensity and only a boxer would make them look real. They must have auditioned at least 100 boxers before they finally found their girl in Ritika Singh. She is a national-level kick boxer who is a black belt in karate. She has also learnt mixed martial arts and participated in Raj Kundra and Sanjay Dutt’s Super Fight League. Ritika Singh has represented India in Kick Boxing, Karate, and MMA.

Rajkumar Hirani, Ritika Singh and R Madhavan
Rajkumar Hirani, Ritika Singh and R Madhavan

“For the auditions we made her shoot a boxing scene just for me since I had not seen her in action in a match. I was impressed. Then, we gave her an emotional scene which required her to get angry and yell at Maddy. She took me by surprise. She doesn’t try too hard, she’s a spontaneous actress and an extremely focused girl,” Hirani points out.

What’s really got the 17 year old who’s a familiar face in the boxing circuit the thumbs up from the director is the fact that with only a few lessons to help her grasp her dialogue, Ritika was able to convincingly carry off her scenes in Tamil. “Of course we’ll get someone else to dub her voice but she was able to express herself well in the alien tongue. Hindi, of course, is her language so there was no problem there. We have not made her undergo any professional acting classes because we wanted a certain rawness. Even her diction is not completely polished,” Rajkumar Hirani adds.

They started the shoot with the climax match and Ritika went on to fight several other bouts, also sing and dance. “Most of the songs play in the background but there is one rustic dance which she has done really well, along with a love song,” Hirani applauds.

So what was the biggest challenge for his protégé, you wonder, and he laughs, “Initially she had to lose some matches and Ritika grumbled that she didn’t like getting hit. She would rather do the hitting herself.”

Hirani wasn’t able to be completely involved with the filming since he was busy with PK at the time. They couldn’t delay the shoot as Madhavan was all pumped up after undergoing a six-months training in the US and then had to shed the extra kgs for Tanu Weds Manu 2. But he admits he’s been creatively involved with the editing and the music. Has he been keeping an eye on the budget too? “I’m terrible with that,” he guffaws. “I’ve made them do some amount of re-shooting. The idea is to make a good film.”

Rajkumar Hirani Films & Tricolour Films in association with UTV Motion Pictures present Saala Khadoos. The film stars R. Madhavan in lead role alongside Ritika Singh. The film written and directed by Sudha Kongara is all set to release on 29th Jaunuary 2016.

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