From ‘Kriti’ to ‘Kabali,’ Radhika Apte just wants to be known as an actor5 min read . Updated: 20 Jul 2016, 12:21 PM IST
After 11 years and nearly 40 films in formats as diverse as television series, feature films and short films, Radhika Apte refuses to stick to a mould
New Delhi: Radhika Apte has been nursing a bout of nausea all day, which explains why the person at the other end of the phone line sounds nothing like either the fiery village woman in Ketan Mehta’s period drama Manjhi—The Mountain Man or the mercurial agoraphobic in Phobia, a summer release out earlier this year. But the easy nonchalance comes across. After 11 years and nearly 40 films in Hindi, English, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam languages in formats as diverse as television series, feature films and short films, Apte refuses to stick to a mould.
“I don’t like any label," she said, talking about the tag of being bold and unconventional often attributed to her by sections of the media and the film industry. “People will always put you in different categories. It’s not good or bad, but it’s their opinion and it comes from their perspective and definition of what may be conventional or bold. I don’t react to it, I don’t get offended or excited," she said.
Apte, a Bollywood movie buff as a child, was born to a family of doctors in Pune. While studying in Fergusson College for a mathematics and economics degree, which she completed in 2006, Apte began dabbling in theatre, beginning with Marathi plays, and going on to English and Hindi plays.
In 2003, director Mahesh Manjrekar spotted her at a drama competition that he was judging, where she was part of a play called Brain Surgeon, and offered her a role in his fantasy drama comedy Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi! Apte played a small role in the Shahid Kapoor-starrer, which eventually released in 2005.
“He saw the play and told me that he wanted me to do a small part in his film. He was doing 2-3 films at that time, and there was no other (role) he could cast me in," Apte said. “I was still in college and I realized I had never even seen a film shoot before. I thought it would be interesting for me to go during my summer holidays and just see what the process is like. That’s why I did it. There were days I enjoyed it and others when I found it difficult. But it’s just that you understand how films are made."
A couple of Bengali and Marathi films followed, but Apte’s made a breakthrough with director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s critically acclaimed drama Shor in the City (2011). The role came to her on the basis of a photograph, in which she is wearing a traditional outfit. Nidimoru spotted the photo online and at the time was not even sure whether it was a result of a professional photoshoot.
“We were looking for fresh talent and the picture was very much modelled in the same zone as her character in the film: no frills, and with this vibe of a hidden gem. We soon realized she was a gem in real life too," Nidimoru said.
Even though she was trained in Kathak under exponent Rohini Bhate, in contemporary dance under Gauri Vanarase and in Kalaripayattu under Rajashekharan Nair in Kerala, Apte took a year-long hiatus in 2011 to study dance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. She came back to slowly emerge as one of the most unconventional performers in the Indian entertainment industry. From filmmakers Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar’s festival favourite Ha Bharat Majha (2012) inspired by the Anna Hazare movement to south Indian hits like Legend (2014) and Vetri Selvan (2014) to path breaking short films like Anurag Kashyap’s That Day After Everyday (2012) and Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya (2015), there are few genres she has shied away from.
Bollywood beckoned her again in 2015—Apte’s minor supporting role in Sriram Raghavan’s revenge drama Badlapur was hugely acclaimed, while releases like anthology film X: Past Is Present confirmed her love for experimental cinema. With her last feature film, Phobia, a thriller based on agoraphobia, Apte not just notched up rave reviews, but also proved she could carry a film entirely on her shoulders.
“The basic concept of Phobia needed a really good actor, someone who had the chops. Radhika is one of the few actors today who can act and look really great on screen," said director Pavan Kripalani. “Her strength as an actor is her ability to internalize a role and make it human and real. She has this uncanny knack of finding truth beyond what is there on paper."
To be sure, Apte’s varied choice of format and platform has never been a matter of concern for her. “What is the difference between a short film and a feature film?" she asked. “It’s work. If you like it, you do it. If you don’t like it, you don’t do it. I’m not a strategic planner. I really enjoy the process (of acting) and I don’t care about the platform."
Among the many things the 30-year-old says she doesn’t care about are award ceremonies and the business of her releases.
“I don’t know what Phobia made," she admitted. “I didn’t even ask, and anyway I was working on my next feature film. After the last day of promotions, my job was done. It’s easier to switch off and detach from a film than follow up. I can’t do that. How much money has been made or not doesn’t interest me," she added.
As she awaits the release of her Rajinikanth-starrer gangster drama Kabali this week, Apte has been working on a Phantom Films production titled Ghoul, which is also set to be shot in Hindi by debutant director Patrick Graham. The film is a collaboration with two Hollywood companies, Blumhouse Productions and Ivanhoe Pictures, and Apte plays the female protagonist.
When is the film likely to be released?
“God knows yaar," she said, with a laugh. “I would just like to be remembered as an actor. Try to do different kinds of parts, break boundaries and challenge yourself is the basic thing you should do as an actor."