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Why Radhika Madan learnt to smoke and milk buffaloes

By Ramesh S
September 27, 2018 12:09 IST
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'I was ready to do anything and go to any extent.'
'Vishal Bhardwaj told us to gain 8 kilos, but we gained 10-12 kilos.'
'I had to blacken my teeth, bleach my hair, get freckles on my face...'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Radhika Madan/Instagram

Television star Radhika Madan began her career in Ekta Kapoor's Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi.

As Ekta told this week, "Radhika did not even know how to walk in heels when we first brought her down from Delhi. But her walking style automatically changed when she was draped in a sari. Look at her confidence today."

Radhika makes her Bollywood debut in Vishal Bhardwaj's Pataakha.

"I didn't care about how and what I will look in the film because I truly wanted to live Champa Kumari's life," Radhika tells contributor Ramesh S.


Tell us about Pataakha.

My character's name is Badki urf Champa Kumari in the film. She plays the elder sister of Chutki urf Genda Kumari, played by Sanya Malhotra.

Badki is very dominating and feels that she is the 'it' thing in her village.

She's like any normal elder sibling who hates her younger sister for no reason.

IMAGE: Radhika Madan in Pataakha.

Over 60 girls were auditioned for your role. How did you get it?

I was shooting for Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and got a call to audition for Badki's role.

My first thought was why would Vishal Bhardwaj sir would choose me?

But then, I gave the audition.

After I wrapped up Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota in Goa, I got another call, saying I was on board and that I have to go to Mumbai straightaway for the shoot.

Before landing in Mumbai, I was given some scenes to practice the dialect.

People at Goa airport were making fun videos of me practicing the dialect; they must have thought I had gone mad!

When I landed in Mumbai, I went to Vishal sir's office, gave the final audition, and eventually landed the role of Badki.

Since Pataakha is set in a village, did you have to undergo any special training?

We had a lot of readings with Vishal sir about Do Behnein, which is based on Charan Singh Pathik's short story.

Apart from that, we had a lot of workshops with Vishal sir and Atul Mongia, the film's acting workshop director.

Besides, we stayed at Charan Singh's house for about five-six days.

We would wake up at 4 am with the other village women.

We got accustomed to milking buffaloes, thatching roofs, plastering the walls with dung, walking long distances while balancing matkas full of water on our head and around our waist.

We polished our Rajasthani dialect by talking with the ladies there.

I have never smoked in my life, so I started with herbal cigarettes and graduated to bidis.

Our hair, makeup and costume designers really helped us to transform into Champa and Genda Kumari.

IMAGE: Radhika and Sanya Malhotra in Pataakha.

You gained 10 kilos for Pataakha.

Gaining weight is fun, the losing part is always taxing.

My day would start with rasgullas and end with ice creams!

I love rasgullas, so I would have more than six pieces every day for a whole month.

I didn't care about how and what I will look in the film because I truly wanted to live Champa Kumari's life.

I was ready to do anything and go to any extent.

Vishal sir told us to gain 8 kilos, but we gained 10-12 kilos.

I had to blacken my teeth, bleach my hair, gain weight, get freckles on my face...

How was it working with Vishal Bhardwaj?

He is such a brilliant film-maker.

People might say he is a task-master, but he is such an easy director to work with.

He is open to ideas and gave us a lot of freedom to express ourselves.

If at all our thoughts did not match, he would discuss it very coolly.

He made sure we are on the same page.

IMAGE: Radhika at The Man Who Feels No Pain premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Photograph: Jeremy Chan/Getty Images

How did you become an actress?

I was living in New Delhi and planned to go to Broadway to learn dancing.

Somebody saw me on Facebook and called up for an audition.

At first, I thought it must be a fake call to lure a woman in the name of auditions.

So I took two of my male friends with hockey sticks, intending to teach them a lesson.

But after reaching there, we realised that an actual audition was going on. So I gave mine.

Somehow I got selected, and I came to Mumbai with my father for the final audition.

I am good at copying people; and the person who was auditioning before me was a theatre actor.

I copied her and got the role to play the lead in Ekta Kapoor's Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi.

I started shooting three days after the audition.

The first three months of the shoot was very bad and I wondered why they took me. But soon, I got deep into it and learned acting on the sets.

IMAGE: Radhika in Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi.

How tough is it for a girl is to survive in Bollywood?

I feel things have changed now.

A lot of films are being made with so many up-and-coming directors.

Our audience is smart enough now because of the exposure to Netflix and Amazon.

Good content is being shown on screen and that means that now there is a need for an 'actor' instead of a 'heroine'.

Thankfully, directors are also looking on that direction.

So our industry is welcoming talent with open arms.

Who are you a fan of?

I am a die-hard fan of Kareena Kapoor. I would faint if I saw her in person!

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Ramesh S