From the trailer of Phobia, you appear to be the solo lead. Are you in each frame?
Yes, I am and it is very exciting. Phobia (releasing on May 27) is not a ‘niche’ movie. In a commercial film, it is very rare to get an opportunity to play a protagonist with so much screen time. Such roles go to A-listers. Even if you play a female lead, those roles are shorter compared to that of male actors. Since I am a workaholic, being on the sets gives me a huge high. During the 20 days of shooting Phobia, I was very happy.
Since you dominate the screen, did you worry about how to hold the audience’s attention?
The challenge is to keep them engaged with my face. I am curious about the audience’s reaction. This is the second time I have taken up such a project after my debut, Gho Mala Asla Hava (Marathi). It is an important film for me. If it works, it would be great. Otherwise, it would teach me something. Apart from my acting, what would make the movie gripping, among other factors, is how interesting is the story and how sharp is the editing.
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The teaser of Kabali, where you are cast opposite Rajinikanth, has generated widespread interest.
It’s quite incredible — the teaser has got 60 million hits. I really like Rajini sir. I had a photoshoot with him before we started shooting. Since I had never met him, I wanted to say hello to him before the photoshoot. When I walked to his van, he was standing outside to receive me. For the first time, I have been treated as an equal by a man of his stature.
In Malaysia, we had long shooting schedules. We used to chat a lot. He would tell me about his films and I used to blabber. On the last day of shooting Kabali, I had tears in my eyes. After he received the Padma Bhushan, I called to congratulate him, and though he could not answer, he returned my call later in the day. You can see his soul in his eyes.
You have been exploring various mediums — advertisements, short films and television.
Apart from advertisements, my disposition towards the others is the same — be it short films or movies. Shooting for short films gets over quickly and you miss them while the work on movies goes on for a long time. However, advertisements are most difficult for me, since they are about how the clients want to position the product and not about how you want to play a character. It is different from shooting for a movie. You have to keep in mind how to put a cup of tea down and how to drink. I needed to get the hang of ads to start enjoying them.
How did you get drawn to theatre?
After completing my graduation in economics and mathematics in 2006, I took a break to travel and then I never went back to college. When I was in school, I used to do a lot of theatre. An older friend, also called Radhika, was studying in Fergusson College, Pune, and she used to take me for plays. So I joined the same college and even before our classes started, I did workshops on theatre. Since 2003, I am associated with Pune-based group Aasakta and have acted in a number of their plays.
How did you shift from theatre to cinema?
During the first Writers’ Bloc in 2009, I acted in a play called Purnaviram, which was a huge success. I got movies like Shor in the City and Rakhta Charitra after that. I still want to act on stage. I am likely to do a new English play with Aasakta. Since its dates are clashing with another film that I am shooting for in June, we are figuring out how to go about it.
How connected are you with Marathi cinema?
Honestly, I don’t watch much of Marathi commercial cinema. I keep track of the movies that are talked about. Since it is my mother tongue, I am most comfortable with Marathi — the feeling is akin to taking off your chappals and walking barefoot. I have got an amazing Marathi film in hand and I will announce it once I sign it.