As Moosa in "The Family Man", Neeraj Madhav has been a true revelation but the character's popularity does not come as a complete surprise to the actor, who knew that the opportunity was a performance gold.
Neeraj as Moosa kept everyone guessing till the end as he gradually transforms from a man caught in bad circumstances to the central villain in the Manoj Bajpayee-led Amazon Prime Video series. His character's backstory is as startling and tragic as his transformation into a cold-blooded terrorist.
The actor realised his role hit the right chord when his social media accounts started flooding with messages from people praising his performance.
"People are binge-watching the show and messaging me on Facebook and Instagram. They don't really know me but they are Google searching me and taking the effort to know me. That's the best thing about being an actor," Neeraj Madhav told PTI in an interview.
"I'm lucky to have been provided with Moosa because a character should happen to an actor. This was the character I was waiting for in my career. I predominately work in Malayalam cinema and I have never done something so intense before. I'm super glad that this happened to me," he added.
The Malayalam actor said Moosa resonated with people because director duo Raj and DK took the effort to understand the character as a person.
"It makes Moosa more humane rather than being just a regular villain. A lot of people could connect with his trauma," he said.
Neeraj said when he joined the cast, he knew he had landed a good role because everybody wanted to play Moosa.
But the big challenge for Madhav about cracking the role was the lack of references and the constant shifts in the character's emotional state.
The actor said he decided to break down Moosa's character and "respond to the emotion of the particular scene without going too much into the motivation".
"I wanted the particular scene that I was in to be convincing without thinking about this bad*** guy. That worked for me and for the directors. I tried to live in every scene in a way that it looks convincing. When you put together the scenes, you understand the graph."
One of the reasons the show has clicked, Neeraj said, is because the directors took the effort to cast actors according to the regional backgrounds of the characters, giving it an authentic pan-India appeal.
Recalling how he came to be a part of the show, the actor said when he got a call from Mukesh Chhabra, he did not know much about the role and requested someone from the team to brief him.
"I expected a call from an assistant director or someone like that but I received a call from DK who told me that seemed apt for the character so I should audition. I was totally blown away by the brief."
"I'm getting the kind of response that I haven't got for a movie," said Madhav, who had bagged a role in "Chhichhore" but had to leave the film due to scheduling conflict. "I'm really glad that this has happened (the response) and people are keen to see me. There are no regional borders now. I don't see any discrimination in terms of audiences. They are watching international shows and they are welcoming the change."