Radhika Madan on Angrezi Medium: Irrfan's love and passion kept driving us
The actor chats about her role in Angrezi Medium, working with Irrfan Khan during his cancer recovery, the education exodus from India to UK, and her upcoming romantic drama Shiddat
A year’s spun by for Radhika Madan in a flash. Just last March, her film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota was up for release. It was Radhika’s second feature effort after Pataakha (2018), Vishal Bhardwaj’s tangy sibling drama that announced her transition from television to film. With two memorable titles in the bag, Radhika now gears up for Angrezi Medium, arriving in theatres this Friday.
The film, directed by Homi Adajania, is a spin-off of the blockbuster comedy Hindi Medium. Fronted firmly by series lead Irrfan Khan, it introduces Radhika and Kareena Kapoor Khan to the franchise. Radhika plays ‘Tarika’, an Indian teenager aspiring to study in London. Her father, Champak Bansal (Irrfan), is a modest confectioner in Udaipur, but is willing to go any distance for his daughter. “I’ll sell my kidney if need be,” he boasts in the trailer, before receiving the reality check of his life. The Indian schools of Hindi Medium were harsh but relatively small fry. Foreign universities, however, are a different beast.
In this interview, Radhika chats about her role as a small-town aspirant, working with Irrfan over the course of his cancer recovery, the emotional layers behind Angrezi Medium, and her upcoming romantic drama Shiddat.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How did this film happen?
I had to audition for it. Back in 2018, I had just finished Pataakha. I was playing a rural girl with a kid in that film. So all credit goes to producer Dinesh Vijan for envisioning me as a seventeen-year-old in Angrezi Medium. Personally, I prefer to audition for all my roles. It gives me the confidence that I can pull off a part. And it’s fair for producers to demand auditions as well. If an actor like Ryan Gosling can do it, who are we to say no?
How did you prepare for the part?
This was my toughest role yet. Tarika is a timid, quiet person who wants to move abroad. I couldn’t relate to her beyond a point. So I went to Udaipur and hung out with teenage girls studying there. They’d pick me up in scooties and show me around. I observed how they speak — which was a mix of English and local accents. I also studied their thought processes, what do they think about moving to London or making boyfriends. At some point during the prep, I stopped eating meat and went vegan. It helped me tap into Tarika’s unadulterated mind.
Thousands of students move each year from India to the UK. How closely does the film explore this situation?
You will see a lot of the realities in the film. We’ve captured the fascination that Indian students have with studying abroad and how it affects them and their families. In small-towns, this fascination begins with an obsession with fair-skinned people. Children assume their lives are set once they move to another country. They don’t understand why. Our education systems aren’t drastically different. The film captures their aspirations through an emotional, wholesome story.
This was Irrfan’s first film after undergoing cancer treatment. What was the mood like on set?
We were really conscious and used to work according to his health. We’d always prioritise his scenes and wrap up early. We took it one day at a time, since nobody knew if we would finish this film. But his love and his passion for his art drove him and us. He didn’t let our spirits droop for a moment. It was the coolest set ever. Everybody used to laugh and have fun. It’s only when I saw the trailer that I cried my heart out.
Tell us about your next film, Shiddat.
I recently finished shooting for it. I play the role of a swimmer in Shiddat, so I had to learn swimming. I'm starring opposite Sunny Kaushal. Mohit Raina and Diana Penty are also there in the film. It’s a love story with an intriguing plot. I had a lot of fun working on it.