Radhika Madan: I act because I get bored living one life
The Ray, Feels Like Ishq and Shiddat actor on her unique filmography and being spontaneous on set…
Radhika Madan slips in and out of roles so easily, you think she’s winging it. In Ray and Feels Like Ishq (both on Netflix), it’s not so much the material you respond to than how coolly she breezes through it. Her slender filmography is packed with surprises. She’s played a village brat, a secretive martial artist, a dreamy schoolgirl and a shifty godwoman. Out this year, her upcoming film is the romantic-drama Shiddat. She’s playing a swimmer in it. Recalling her audition for Pataakha (2018), director Vishal Bhardwaj praised a ‘certain rawness in her craft’.
So is she, really, winging it? “For me it’s all about being in the moment,” Radhika says. “I never hold myself back on set. The worst that can happen is someone will say cut and ask me to go again. I’m not ashamed to be ridiculed on set.”
Excerpts from a conversation…
Between Spotlight (Ray) and Save The Da(y)te (Feels Like Ishq), which release were you more nervous about?
I was really nervous about Ray. It was a character I had no idea about. I couldn’t relate to her at all. It was a big responsibility because in the end, the story hinges on her. We’ve been building Didi up so much, she could not fall flat. It was the tougher role to play, definitely.
Did any of the reactions to the character surprise you?
To be honest, I did not expect people to praise Didi a lot. She is a really grey character. I’ve been getting messages that people are in love with her. And I’m like, really? How did that happen? I got calls saying it was one of my best works.
Feels Like Ishq was totally different, a breezy romcom set in Goa…
It was a much-needed break. The other characters I’ve played till now, they’ve required a lot of prep… be it living in a different city, learning another dialect or playing someone from a different age group. It’s been emotionally, physically, mentally exhausting. So when Feels Like Ishq came to me, I just did it. Also, I am that girl-next-door from Delhi. I’m that dreamy girl who believes in movie love!
Your dialogue reading is always fascinating. Avani, for instance, goes through so many variations when speaking…
How you say or deliver a dialogue comes organically when you crack the soul of a character. It guides you automatically. You don’t need to think… ‘I’ll take a long pause here’ or ‘I’ll go silent there’. I personally don’t do that. I just try to crack the internal world of the character. I don’t want to sound like I've mugged up my lines.
Besides your early TV career, you’ve been in three films and two web shows so far. They’re all strikingly different. Was any of this planned?
The first two projects (Pataakha, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota) were pure luck. What Vishal Bhardwaj and Vasan Bala did was that they changed my perspective on films. Before that, I just wanted to flaunt my hair and dance among flowers. That’s all I wanted to do, which was really superficial. But they made me live such intense and honest characters that afterwards, anything superficial started bugging me. In those two films, I realized why I wanted to be an actor. I am an actor because I get bored living one life.
Your career has also coincided with great roles being written for women.
Yes, and kudos to people who paved this path for us. Whether it’s Vidya, Priyanka, Kangana or Alia… they literally paved this path for us. I am really excited to work in this time when people are willing to experiment and write crazy scripts.
When was the last time you did something crazy on set and the director kept it?
In Save The Da(y)te, I throw away Amol Parasher’s phone and mention Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It wasn’t there in the script. I just threw the phone and said it. My director was so supportive that he didn’t call cut and Amol played it off. Also the glasses-throwing bit came up during rehearsals. It wasn’t part of the outfit. I’d brought it along because it was really sunny.
Did you learn swimming specifically for Shiddat or could you swim before?
I learnt it from scratch, yes.
From what we know, the film is a romantic drama about two couples. Can you tell us more?
It’s my first romantic commercial film. It’s a nice, young love story. It’s also something I have not done before. I hope it offers a different flavour to the audience and they like it. They’ve never seen this side of me.