You are quite the flavour of the season. Can you feel the love?
(Laughs) Yes, I can feel the love, but it’s scary love. I’m trying not to let myself get overwhelmed with all the attention. All this love and adulation come so abruptly and also go so abruptly, it’s better to just keep calm and keep working.
Sujoy Ghosh’s Bengali short film, Ahalya, got you massive response. Did you anticipate it?
The response has taken me by surprise. Sujoy and I have known each other for a while. One day, he called and said that he’s going to Kolkata and asked me if I’ll shoot with him for two days. I instantly agreed. His brief to me was pretty simple. He said: ‘You just have to open the door and look like a goddess’. I hope I got that right. (Laughs)
When I Googled you, the first search option that came up was ‘Radhika Apte hot’. Did you have any idea?
Really? I think this will come up for every female actor. Somehow, in the country we are, the word ‘hot’ is used for all heroines. So it’s okay. I’m not taking it personally.
So what is your definition of sexy?
It has to be the personality. It can’t just be looks. You can be whatever — conventional looking with classical facial structure and all that — but if you don’t have inner charm and personality, it just won’t click.
Hindi film audience saw you for the first time in Rakhta Charitra and then, of course, in Shor in the City. But you got recognition only with Badlapur. How do you interpret it?
It’s true I got maximum attention with Badlapur. Actually, I went to London for my dance course right after Rakhta Charitra and Shor in the City, so, I didn’t have any releases in two years. Badlapur was my first release since I returned. Sriram Raghavan did such a brilliant job with the film and it had such a good cast that the film got great appreciation. You know, it’s so strange, I just shot for six days for Badlapur and I never thought the film would get me such response. Casting director Mukesh Chhabra asked me to meet Sriram. I was apprehensive about auditioning for the role because I’m very bad at auditions. I never get a role if I audition for it. Fortunately, Sriram didn’t ask me to audition; he straightaway offered me the part. Then we had a lot of meetings and discussions on how I will approach the role. I improvised a lot and it’s all to Sriram’s credit because he brings out the best in an actor in a very quiet way. It was a small part and I wasn’t even part of any publicity so the response took me by surprise.
Were you disappointed when Shor in the City did not get you more commercial film offers? Is that why you went for the dance course to London?
That’s not correct. Shor in the City did get me a lot of offers in the commercial space, but I went to London even before the film released. I really wanted to learn dance and was so much in love with what I was doing that I wanted to finish the course.
So, in a way, you chose dance over films?
Not really. It’s just that I don’t leave things midway. If I take up something, then it’s only because I love it so, it makes no sense to leave it just because I got a better offer. Both my parents are doctors, but I’m passionate about dance and have always wanted to act since I was a child. I started with theatre in college, got into experimental theatre, then regional films came my way and then Hindi films and then dance followed, and now I’m back to acting full time. I like to do things properly.
Would you say that you had to struggle to get where you are today?
Absolutely. I’ve struggled all the way through. I auditioned a lot, did my bit of waiting around and not getting call backs. I remember, initially, when I moved to Mumbai from Pune, I just didn’t like the pace of the city. I went back to Pune after seven months. Even now, I don’t think my struggle is over. Maybe, now people know me and I get offers but I don’t always get to do what I want to do. I think, success has a different definition for everyone.
But now that you have bagged a Tamil film opposite Rajinikanth, maybe the struggle will be over?
(Laughs) Yes, I’m doing a film with Rajini sir. It’s really bizarre the way the offer came to me. The director Pa. Ranjith called me and I thought it was a hoax call. Then I met him and he narrated the story and told me if you say yes, then it’s a yes; so I said yes. It’s still sinking in that I’m going to be working with Rajini sir.
You seem to be mixing up all kinds of cinema — regional, commercial, shorts, international. Is that conscious?
Well, it’s not intentional, but I like it like this. I don’t have any barrier of language or medium. I don’t care for an image, so I don’t have to think about what to do or not to do. Being a Maharashtrian, I got Marathi films, then Rahul Bose saw my play and offered me a Bengali film and then Ram Gopal Varma offered me Rakhta Charitra in Hindi and Telugu and that’s how I ended up doing films in all these languages. But I thoroughly enjoy international films and that’s something I’m always on the lookout for.
Since he introduced you to Hindi film, was there any advice that Ram Gopal Varma gave you which has stayed with you?
Well, RGV is a man of few words. He likes to let his actors work in silence which is good for an actor’s observation skills. It helped that he didn’t tell me much.
You’ve been pretty open about your personal life. Were you advised to hide the fact that you are married?
Till date, people tell me to hide that I am married(to violinist Benedict Taylor). I get that a lot more in the south than in Mumbai but I’ve never paid any attention to this. I don’t do what doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t care for an image. I’m who I’m and I talk the way I am. I never saw my marriage as something I need to hide. What I do in my personal life should be separate from my work. I understand that when you become famous, people listen to you so you should take a stand on important matters that can positively influence people, but my personal life is my space. I’ve always been headstrong, passionate and I like to believe that honesty always works. I don’t know any other way.To all those who said I won’t get work because I’m married, I want to tell them that now I’ve a film with Rajini sir. I mean, who’s bigger than him?
How do you think Bollywood perceives you now? Are they still trying to figure you out or do you think they’ve found a slot for you?
I’ve never thought about this. If roles come my way then that will speak; if roles don’t come my way, then that will also speak. Sometimes, even if you are appreciated, you don’t get work. Landing a role is a consequence of a lot of things other than talent. If I think of how I’m being perceived then I’ll just be wasting my time. I also want to wait and see what comes my way.
Since you are a trained dancer, would you want to do a dance movie?
Oh yes. I hope somebody offers me a dance film and trains me for it.
Is there an iconic Bollywood song you want to dance to in any of your films?
You know I love the AR Rahman songs of the ’90s in films like Roja, Dil Se, Bombay. I’m obsessed with Rahman’s music and it’s a dream that one day he composes for a film that I’m working in, or I get to dance on those magical songs of his.
Your film Parched will be premiering in the Toronto Film Festival and Manjhi—The Mountain Man and Kaun Kitney Panee Mein are also releasing soon. You are clearly making up for the two-year lag in your career.
Yes. Please don’t get bored of me. I’m getting bored of myself. There’s just too much of me everywhere. But after this, there will be a gap again.