Radhika Madan in 'Feels Like Ishq', streaming on Netflix. The actor says she gets bored easily, and that's why she tries to take up varied roles.
Radhika Madan was a popular television star before she made the big switch to the silver screen. Appreciation came her way with her debut as a village girl in director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha, followed by Vasan Bala’s quirky action film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Angrezi Medium with the late Irrfan Khan was another feather in her cap.
Her latest releases – 'Spotlight', based on Satyajit Ray’s short story of the same name, and Netflix’s anthology Feels Like Ishq – gave her the opportunity to explore more facets of her craft.
In a freewheeling chat, the young actor talks about the discouragement she faced when she was making the shift to films and why she avoids playing similar characters on screen. Edited excerpts:
From playing a village girl in 'Pataakha' to playing a godwoman in one of stories in 'Ray', you have played a variety of roles in a short span. How much of it is destiny and how much is by design?
I think the first two projects – Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and Pataakha - were destiny, and those two films changed my entire perspective about how I viewed films. After that it just became about living different lives. I wasn’t thinking of positioning myself in a certain way or offering the audience something different so that I am looked upon as a versatile actor. I just get bored living one life and that is the sole reason I became an actor. Maybe that is why I choose films that don’t put me in a box because I don’t put myself in a box.
You made the big shift from television to films. What made you try for the big screen?
There was a particular incident on the sets of my television show. I was discussing a scene with my director and I was talking about my character’s graph and trying to analyse her psychology. I was asking a lot of questions and the director was looking at his watch. He just snapped at me and said when we do movies, then we will take three days to discuss one scene and that there is no time for it at present because the telecast of the episode is tonight. I think that stayed with me. I went back home and kept thinking if I will ever get the luxury of discussing a scene for three days. That is what set me thinking and I decided to try for films.
Did you face a lot of discouragement from naysayers?
Absolutely. My show was number one on the channel for the longest time. Television is a safer bet. They throw a lot of money at you and it’s very easy to get sucked into that security. I was 19 at that time I believe and I thought I was too young to play it safe. I had age on my side and I wanted to give films a try. They kept saying that when you come back after trying in films, you are not going to get another great show. They infuse insecurities in you so that you stay put but you need to know why you are doing what you are doing and you need to believe in your dreams even when nobody else does. That is what kept me going and by God’s grace I got an opportunity to work in films and I am living my dream now.
'Spotlight' got a bit of criticism for straying too far from Satyajit Ray’s original story. Did you feel that the criticism was justified? Had you read the original story before shooting for the film?
To be very honest, I was told not to read the story. I read it after the film came out. Satyajit Ray was a fantastic filmmaker and that is the reason his films are even shown in film schools, but it is important to stay relevant as well. It is a creative freedom of an actor, director or writer to speak about things that are relevant now as well so that everyone has a palate to watch that. I think that might have been the motivation of the writers. However, everyone has the freedom of speech. Everyone has their opinions and neither are they right nor are they wrong. People should respect that and move on. My job was to stay honest to the character and I tried to do that. I am so grateful I got the opportunity to play a godwoman.
How liberating was it to play the character of Didi?
The reason I agreed to play Didi was to experience that power. I am an upcoming actor. I have no idea what a superstar feels like, and I got to play someone who has the kind of power that supersedes a superstar! I wanted to experience that energy where you feel that you own every single person. I had a lot of fun in the process. I saw quite a few Radhe Ma videos as part of the prep, though Vasan (Bala) sir didn’t let me play it as Radhe Ma. We just kept Didi very different. I had to put on a dialect and bring in the right body language. It was challenging, a lot of fun and really empowering.
You have worked with Vasan Bala twice, first in 'Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota' and then 'Spotlight'. What is your working equation with him like?
Vasan sir is like my family. I meet him before going on set for any film or project. I think he is my lucky charm. When I am on his set, it feels like home. It’s always magical working with him. He is a genius. His quirks and how he views things are really different and it opens up your mind. It’s always a learning experience and I can’t wait to work with him again. I would want to do every project of his.
Compared with your previous roles, Avni in 'Feels Like Ishq' seems more relatable. How was it playing this spoilt, rich brat, and did it seem like a sort of breather for you too?
Yes, it was quite a breather and that was the sole reason I did the project. I was too exhausted doing characters that were emotionally and physically trying. Even the role in Angrezi Medium seems like that of a sweet, simple girl but it was really challenging for me to put on that accent and to erase my experiences from my eyes and my body language. Pataakha was challenging on another level and for Mard, I had to take physical training. So, when this project came to me, I thought ‘I need to have fun’. I went to Goa, shot for four days and had a blast. Amol (Parashar) and I were cracking jokes even when the cameras were off. Plus, I got to play a character I had never done before. I thought before they put me in another box, let me just do something else! (laughs)
Is there something you are dying to try your hand at?
Anything and everything! Whatever makes me jump out of my bed in excitement and makes me feel, ‘how will I be able to do this’, I want to sign it right away. Like I mentioned earlier, I get bored living the same life. I didn’t want to live Radhika’s life every day and that is why I became an actor.
You have 'Shiddat' coming up next with Sunny Kaushal. Tell us about that, and other upcoming projects.
I am playing the role of a swimmer in Shiddat. I hadn’t done a proper love story till now. Feels Like Ishq was more friendship and fondness. Shiddat is an intense love story. There are a couple of other things I am doing, including a web show and a few more projects that I am not at liberty to speak about at present.