Exclusive: Radhika Apte on Nepotism, Sleazy Men and Dreaming Big
Radhika Apte talks about making it big in Bollywood despite all its nepotism and sleaze.
Radhika Apte is one actor who has been breaking all norms that once defined the heroines of Bollywood. Her unconventional looks and her art house appeal have never held her back from stepping confidently into the mainstream or fulfilling her most ambitious acting dreams. From Akshay Kumar’s Padman to pairing up with Saif Ali Khan in Sacred Games and Ayushmann Khurrana in The Piano Player, Apte boasts of a rather impressive line up. In this exclusive interview, she tells The Quint why she dreamt of being an actor ever since the age of ten.
Q: When did the acting bug get you?
Radhika Apte: I don’t remember. Since I was a child I wanted to be an actor. I used to do a lot of theatre in school, watched a lot of theatre and in college I joined a theatre group. I was doing a lot of intercollegiate cultural activities as part of theatre. So I have been doing theatre... I think I was ten years old. I always wanted to be an actor. I was always fascinated by films and theatre.
Q: A lot of girls feel under confident about their looks, height, weight when they consider pursuing a career in acting. Did you wallow in self doubt too?
Radhika Apte: Of course! Self doubt comes when you are performing and you are really scared about doing certain part, it’s challenging. It’s not self doubt, but it’s that worry... will I be able to pull it off? It doesn’t need to be in film or theatre, even in a workshop sometimes ,you are given an exercise and you look at somebody else doing it and you feel like f*#$! Do you think I can do it? So that worry is always there.
But about the body and all that... when you come into the film industry, of course lots of people pull you down by telling you ‘You don’t have this, you don’t have have that’... But those things that they were telling me didn’t really matter to me much. I never believed in that.
Q: Like you said, in the film industry, people pull you down. So have you ever been rejected for the way you look at an audition?
Radhika Apte: More than auditions, it’s the meetings you know. Initially you go for these meeting and they tell you ‘you need to do this to yourself, you need to do that to yourself’. But I would never be bothered.
Q: From working in small films you slowly paved your way and made a place for yourself in the mainstream. From being paired opposite Vinay Pathak to the likes of Akshay Kumar, Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajinikanth... you’ve come a long way. Has it been a conscious decision to work on your career graph?
Radhika Apte: To be honest with you, I don’t look at being paired opposite Vinay (Pathak) as something higher or lower than being paired opposite Akshay (Kumar). I don’t look at it like that at all. I think what is important is to be able to get work that you want, and to be challenged further. And in our world, to be honest with you, to keep getting good work is actually more important than who I am paired opposite, you know.
Q: A lot has been spoken about nepotism in Bollywood. How did you manage to get noticed in crowd of star kids?
Radhika Apte: See, if you are the son of a businessman who has a huge business, it’s obviously easier for you to at least get introduced in that scene. So it’s not something that happens only in the film industry. It happens across every field. Even for a shoemaker’s son, it would be easier to start a shoe making business than for anyone else. I am just giving you a random example.
You just need to focus on your own journey and you have to keep working at it. Of course it’s difficult to crack into this industry, especially when there is so much competition. But you just keep doing it.
Q: Have you ever experienced the casting couch? How have you dealt with it?
Radhika Apte: Very little, not much to be honest.
Right in the beginning, when I came to Mumbai, I remember a couple of times some people asked me to meet them really late in the night. So I just refused. These are like the middlemen, trying to get you an audition and all, you know. But I never met them.
But later on I think, I just got this one call where someone told me that ‘listen, if you want to go meet this producer he might ask you to sleep with him’. I laughed and I said ‘no, I am not going to meet him then’. But other than that, I have worked with lots of people and I have never faced this.
In the south, they just make it very obvious that they want to sleep with you. But I just don’t cater to that and I don’t even know if I have lost work because of that, because it never really reached me that much.
Q: Have people started treating you differently now that you’re in the big league?
Radhika Apte: No not at all. Maybe I don’t hang out with such people. I think I give a very no nonsense vibe.
Q: I am sure as a struggler in a big city you must’ve have faced many rejections. How did you cope with that?
Radhika Apte: Work has never effected me so deeply.
But I think everybody has issues and depression is something that is extremely common. I never shy away from taking therapy or trying to work on my mental health.
If I have any issue I immediately address it. I never shy away even remotely. But work has never put me in a dark space so far. Touch wood!
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