Bollywood is known for its controversies, nepotism and cut-throat competition, and Radhika Apte has seen her fair share of these in the 10 years that she has been around. The 32-year old, who made her acting debut more than a decade ago, has finally arrived.
The Pune-born actress, known for her good looks and her choice of unconventional roles, got her first break in the Hindi film industry in 2005 with a brief role in Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!
She then went on to act in movies like Rakht Charitra, I Am, and Shor In The City, along with other movies in Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Marathi. But she stepped into the limelight only after Sujoy Ghosh’s 2015 thriller Ahalaya, a 14-minute short film that has garnered over seven million views. Post that, Apte gave winning performances in Badlapur, Manjhi – The Mountain Man, Hunterrr, Parched, Phobia, Madly, and Kabali, among others.
Radhika studied economics and mathematics in college, and then started working with Mohit Takalkar’s Marathi theatre group, Aasakta Kalamanch. Actor Rahul Bose saw her performance and recommended her for her first Bengali film, Antaheen.
A passionate dancer, she learnt Kathak for eight years under the late Rohini Bhate. After entering the film industry, Radhika went on to London to study contemporary dance where she met her husband, musician Benedict Taylor.
When asked if she’d like to dance instead of act, she says, “Absolutely not. Going to London wasn’t an out-of-the-blue decision. I really wanted to learn dance, so I went ahead and finished the course. And I’ve always been passionate about dance, but I’ve also always wanted to act. Yes, I’d love to learn new forms of dance, but I can’t choose one over the other. I just hope I find the time for both.”
The actress has been appreciated for the skill she brings to her roles. But it hasn’t been an easy journey. She explains, “Success never comes easy. Actually, nothing in life does. I’ve struggled and worked really hard to get here. I still remember my initial days in Mumbai. I wouldn’t take money from my parents, so I was surviving on a meagre amount, trying to pay rent and making ends meet, till I got the next audition.
In an image-conscious industry, Radhika has always maintained that she doesn’t care much for conforming to a stereotype. “I don’t do what doesn’t make sense to me. There are people who don’t accept certain kind of roles to maintain a particular image that they have in the industry. I can’t do that. I like experimenting with different roles,” she said.
But her diverse roles make it difficult to categorise her as either an indie or a mainstream actress. Is that intentional? She laughs, “You know, indie cinema is also commercial. We do sell tickets. I just make a choice based on the role that I get to play. If I like it, I go for it – it’s just as simple as that!”
She displays the same candour when talking about balancing her personal life in an industry where women who’ve tied the knot are perceived to be at a disadvantage “I keep my personal life separate from my work, so they should too,” she says.
As a professional whose liberal views reflect in her work, Radhika recognises the misogyny in the industry. In fact, she has been a torch-bearer against the unfair treatment of women in the industry. She believes that the industry is a reflection of the society around it. “We don’t live in an equal society. But if society is like that, then you can’t expect anything different from the industry. We should be talking about how society treats its women instead. That’s where the change needs to begin,” she adds.
Apte has done movies in over seven languages, including Kabali with superstar Rajnikanth, She says, “Working with him was such an amazing experience. He’s such a beautiful, humble person. It just makes you smile.” Despite all the success, Apte still doesn’t consider herself a success. She explains, “I have a different dream. So my definition of success is definitely different from someone else’s. You should know what success means to you. Don’t go by someone else’s definition of it.”
The actress just wrapped up shooting for Padman, the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who revolutionised the concept of menstrual hygiene in rural India with a low-cost sanitary napkin machine. The film also features Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor. “It was a great experience working with them. Sonam is a dear friend of mine. Akshay is a dream to work with because he is so disciplined. So your shoot starts on time and finishes on time!” she says.