In Conversation With Radhika Apte, India’s Indie Darling
Radhika Apte starrer Phobia released today and has managed to garner critical appreciation from all corners. This psychological thriller is directed by Pawan Kripalani and stars other immensely talented actors such as Satyadeep Mishra, Ankur Vikal, Yashaswini Dayama, among others.
Radhika Apte, who selects her films based on the kind of characters she is offered, keeps you at the edge of your seat in this thriller. With the recent Best Actress award at Tribeca 2016(for her film ‘Madly’, partially directed by Anurag Kashyap) and Phobia releasing to rave reviews, Radhika Apte is surely the flavour of the season. Therefore, here is a throwback of our interview with the actor where she states clearly that she is not in the industry for celebrity-hood and glamour. Read on.
“I have done a lot of bad work. When I saw those films, I was like, this is crap. But they were learning experiences. You cannot throw that away.” The first thing that strikes you about Radhika Apte is that she’s as blunt as they make ‘em. Riding on the success of Badlapur, Hunterrr, among others and the recent release of Phobia along with the Best Actress Award at Tribeca, Apte is quite the talk of the town these days, but when she walked into a city diner where we were meeting for the interview, I almost didn’t pay attention to her. Then, she took off her shades, and it was quite impossible to stop staring into those beautiful eyes, to go with a smile that lit the room up.
Unabashedly un-Bollywood, Apte states clearly that she is not in the industry for celebrity-hood and glamour. “The film has to be challenging and exciting. I don’t like doing boring films. But, unfortunately, sometimes you choose films for the popularity or the money, to put it bluntly.” But, staying away from mainstream Bollywood is a conscious decision? “Yes, the palette does look like I am doing only indie films, but my inclination is always towards content. Having said that, the line between indie and commercial is blurring today. Both Badlapur and Hunterrr have been backed by major studios.” And, does she have a Khan dream? “Not at all. See, if I get a film with them, I will do it for the popularity, but I will not go out of my way to get a film like that. I am not struck by any of that glamour or fame. I did not come here to become a famous Bollywood personality. I have been doing a lot of south Indian films, and they are commercially big and stuff, but honestly, I want to stop doing that.”
Apte started off with critically acclaimed regional films such as Antaheen and Amol Palekar’s Samaantar, before starring in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakta Charitra films and the crackling Shor in the City. While she did receive quite a few mainstream offers after that, she chose to work in smaller but interesting regional films, such as Rupkatha Noy, Postcard and Vetri Selvan. Does she have a natural acumen for languages, having worked in films in seven languages? She laughs. “I am not good with languages at all. But, I have great short-term memory, so I learn my lines really quickly. When you hear me talk in Tamil or Telugu, if not for a slight accent, you’d think I belonged to that state. And, my features help. I can be Tamilian or Bengali or Maharashtrian.”
Even after starring in so many acclaimed indie projects, she has not travelled to film festivals abroad. “It’s true. Some of the films that I could not be a part of became festival favourites. I want to be a part of that circuit. I want to travel to international festivals and do international work. And, Mumbai is a good place for that now. A lot of people are showing interest in actors and projects from India.” This does not mean she does not get to travel. If she is not shuttling between cities for film shoots, she spends time in London with her musician husband, Benedict Taylor. “I had studied contemporary dance at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and I try to go back at least three times a year to stay in touch with my craft. But, that is becoming difficult as I get involved with more projects here.” Which, for us, is a good thing.
I thought it was a really interesting role, even though it was a small one. In most big budget commercial films, actresses are either cute and goody-goody or the antagonist. This was a grey character which was interesting to explore. On top of that, you have Sriram Raghavan directing you and a stellar cast to work with.
Being the new Hunterrrwaali
Hunterrr was shot two years ago when this furore over bans and censorship wasn’t there. It is a funny coincidence that the film has been released now, when the country has become more prudish. We didn’t dream of going through this phase. It is good to talk about sex openly, when things are as stupid as beef being banned. It is really sad because, when the trailer came out, they allowed the word ‘chodu’ in it, but the new committee did not allow it in the film even with an ‘A’ certificate. That concerns me, because Hunterrr is such a simple film. Having a sexual appetite is such a huge thing in India. This prejudice is too hardcore. Sex is seen as this dirty thing. You just do it when you want to have children and then you don’t indulge in it. And, if you want to indulge in it, it is a dirty, horrible thing. What can be worse than that?
Making out with Nawaz mid-air
Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi, the Mountain Man is quite an inspiring story about two people in love. Ketan is so inspiring himself. He is full of zest and this childlike imagination, and the great thing about him is that he gets high on imagination. There is a shot in which Nawaz [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] and I fall off a cliff, making out while we are falling down. There is a heavy wind from below because my sari has to blow up, and on top of that, it’s raining. We spent eight hours shooting that scene. It was so painful but exciting. There was a six-inch wooden rod that the both of us were propped on, high up a wall, with blowers from the bottom and rain machines from the top.
I hated Whiplash
I didn’t like Whiplash at all. I don’t know why people were going gaga over it. Foxcatcher was fantastic. I loved Birdman. In Bollywood, I really liked Haider. But, I don’t get to watch a lot of Hindi films. Of the ones I can remember, I didn’t like Finding Fanny, even though the look and feel of the film was great and I loved the people in it. Highway was terrible, and I walked out of 2 States.