At first sight, she strikes you as the simple girl next door, but there is more to Radhika Apte than meets the eye. At 28, her resume boasts of an impressive body of work that is the dream of many actors.
Only a few years old in the film industry, Radhika has already attempted a wide range of roles. Be it her impressive performance as Nandini in Ram Gopal Varma’s Raktha Charithra, a role inspired by a real life character; her role as Sapna in Ekta Kapoor's Shor In The City or her portrayal of a hooker in Prakash Raj's Dhoni — the actress has not gone down the beaten road and has been bold in choosing her roles.
Born to doctor parents in Pune, Radhika was drawn to acting and dancing since childhood. Her fascination with the performing arts introduced her to Mohit Takalkar’s theatre troupe Aasakta and acting has been a constant part of her life since then.
While most actresses complain of being typecast, Radhika has managed to avoid the 'disaster' so far and is looking forward to doing challenging roles.
The actress, who recently wrapped up shooting for her next film Manjhi - The Mountain Man, speaks to dnaindia.com about the film, her career and life post marriage...
How did acting happen to you?
I remember as a child I was a big fan of films and theatre. I used to love performing. I was also taking training in dancing as a child. I went to an experimental school and had a lot of freedom to explore arts and extracurricular activities along with studies. I used to direct plays in school and act too.
Used to do dance dramas with friends and have special performances which my school very happily allowed us to show and also helped us improve and gave us a lot of exposure. After school I went to Fergusson College only because they had the best cultural group and theatre activities. In the meantime I got introduced to Aasakta, a theatre group from Pune. I have been working with them for the past ten years. Films happened because of theatre.
Did you have to face a lot of struggle at the beginning of your career?
I wasn’t very ambitious about getting into films initially. I did only the ones that came to me without having to struggle much. The year when four of my films released, (Shor in the City, RaktaCharikra 1&2, I Am) I went to London for my dance studies. I did a diploma in contemporary dance from Trinity Laban, London. Many people told me that it wasn’t the right decisions as I had offers pouring in at that time.
But I was so driven to learn this dance form that I went anyway and have no regrets. I think that was one of the best years I have had! It was an extremely enriching experience. Since I came back from London it has been a bit of a struggle as I had to remind people of my work and it did feel like starting from zero again. But luckily I have a lot of releases lined up for the next year and some really good projects too.
Coming from a non-filmi background, did you experience any culture shock?
Well, not really. Of course I have learnt a lot about the industry and the business in the past few years and I am sure there is so much more to learn. It is a completely different ballgame and one needs to learn to be in it. But it’s true for every kind of work and industry. My parents are both doctors and that business has its own unique way of functioning.
I think I am very lucky to have had a very liberal upbringing. It helps me to look at things without having biases.
How did Manjhi-The Mountain Man happen?
I got a call for an audition. I auditioned in the presence of Ketan sir, and got selected! The first time I met Ketan sir and he told me the story I knew I wanted to do the film instantly. First of all because the story is immensely inspirational and a beautiful love story but also because being a fan of Ketan sir’s work and having met him I really wanted to work with him.
He has the most charismatic personality and his passion for film making is something else! His visualizing of the text is quite magnificent and he actually brings his imagery to the screen!
Tell us something about your role in the film?
I play the role of Fhalguni. Who was married to Manjhi. It’s a very beautiful love story. Fhalguni is from a small village. She is innocent, impulsive, mischievous girl as well as a proud and rotective wife.
What kind of homework did you have to do for your character in Manjhi-The Mountain Man?
The most important thing was to get the accent right. I had to really struggle to do that and hence did a lot of rehearsal with the dialogue writers. Also as we shot at the actual location, it was easy to observe the mannerism of the women in that village. Ketan sir and I had many discussions about the whole graph of the character and particular scenes. But I think I left the rest up to my instincts and impulse.
How did it feel to act with one of the best actor, Nawazzuddin Siddiqui?
He is an absolute treat to work with. He loves to improvise hence we used to try doing the scenes in different ways. It was a lot of fun trying to come up with different reactions and we had Ketan sir to guide us which made it a wonderful experience!
Given a chance, would you be a Dharma/Yash Raj heroine? What kind of roles interests you?
Yes sure why not. I hate to be typecast. I think the worst thing that can happen to an actor is to get associated with a particular kind or type of roles/genre etc. I am open to play any kind of roles as long as they excite me!
You have worked in South, Tollywood as well as Bollywood? How was the experience and how diverse is the work culture in these industries?
All these industries have a lot of similarities in their working obviously but as the culture in these different states differ; their work culture/ work ethics differ too. I feel the difference is less in the more contemporary film projects but the typical formula commercial movies come with a lot of traditional ways of functioning. I find it very hard to adjust to that as I find myself not in agreement with a lot of their ways. But right now I am doing all kind of work without being too judgmental and trying to learn.
Tell us about your transition from theater to films and if you have any preference?
I got into films because of theatre. Some people offered me work after they saw some performances. I do not have a preference. I love both. Though I must say its difficult to balance both as both need your full commitment. Right now I am doing a Marathi play directed by Mohit Takalkar, written by Girish Karnad and adapted by Pradeep Vaiddya. Its called Uney Purey Shahar Ek.
How did the Asian Paints ad happens?
I know Shoojit for a while now. I always wanted to work with him. I got a call from him for the same hence went for the audition and now I see it playing on TV all the time.
You recently got married to your musician boyfriend Benedict Taylor. How has life changed?
Life has not changed at all. It’s just the same as it was when we were living together.
Films, theatre and marriage — how do you prioritise?
For me the most important thing in life is the people I love. I need to spend time with my husband and family and I do not compromise on that for anything. At the same time we all in the family love our jobs so it all gets sorted on its own!
What’s the best compliment you've ever received?
Oh! I don’t know. I am very bad at receiving compliments. I was just reading an article about the same the other day on a flight. It said how important it is to not disregard them. They had mentioned some ten ways of how people dismiss the compliments they are given and I fit in all
of them. So I have decided to learn to not be like that. Hopefully next time I should be able to answer your question!
What other projects are you working on?
My Bengali film Rupkotha Noy just released three weeks ago and has been received very well. My Tamil film with Karthi is releasing on October 2. My Marathi film with Riteish Deshmukh by Nishikant Kamat releases on the 3rd. Manjhi — the Mountain Man and Hunter (Hindi, with Gulshan Devaiah, directed by Harsh Kulkarni) will release in the beginning of next year. And so will the Bengali film Pendulum.
I start shooting for Nila Madhab Panda’s next hindi film on October 21. I am also doing a film directed by Rohit Batra, with Neeraj Kabi, called The Field, and Leena Yadav’s next film.