Radhika Apte: Theatre actor to thinking cinema’s poster child
You might marvel at Radhika Apte’s natural ability to act. But it’s taken a decade, and experience ranging from the stage, to short films and regional cinema
The first time we met actor Radhika Apte was in February, 2015, during a spoken word performance by actor Kalki Koechlin in Mumbai. It was just a few days short of the release of Sriram Raghavan’s thriller Badlapur, and a month away from Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s light comedy, Hunterrr. The films ensured that Hindi film fans and the industry noticed Apte all over again. They did wonders for Apte’s career and catapulted her into much-awaited stardom and critical recognition.
Life, as she knew it, would change in the months to follow. But that night, Apte was just one among the crowd of actors and filmmakers. “This could be a big year,” Apte had said at the time. It was.
The actor had no less than 11 releases in 2015: a mix of Bollywood films (Badlapur, Hunterrr, Manjhi — The Mountain Man, Kaun Kitne Paani Mein) but also shorts (Ahalya, The Calling) and regional language hits in Malayalam (Haram) and Telugu (Lion), and even a TV series in Bengali (Stories by Rabindranath Tagore: Chokher Bali).
A decade after she made her acting debut, the 30-year-old actor has truly arrived. Born in Pune, Apte’s tryst with acting began on the stage. The city has always been a breeding ground for Marathi theatre. She worked extensively with Mohit Takalkar’s theatre group, Aasakta Kalamanch. It was during this time that Rahul Bose saw her perform in the English play Bombay Black, and recommended her for her first Bengali film, Antaheen (2009), with Bose, Aparna Sen and Sharmila Tagore.
Cut to 2016. We are waiting to meet Apte at a producer’s office ahead of the release of her psychological thriller, Phobia. Queued up for a crisp 20-minute slot, in a room full of film journalists, we get a sense of how fame has found the actor. There’s talk of delayed schedules, even pondering on her love life before she married musician Benedict Taylor. This is the stuff reserved for big stars.
When we finally meet her, Apte indeed looks the part of the Bollywood star. She’s dressed to the nines for our photo shoot; she smiles practised-ly into the camera, and carries that charm into the chat. Point it out, though, and she asserts, “Oh please, yaar. These guys have put me in heels for this,” she says referring to the lime, sky-high, ankle-strap heels she’s donned for the occasion. “I’m just here to talk cinema, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” she says.
During the interview, Apte remains intermittently poignant and funny. “I like it when somebody gives you the freedom to talk about ideas, ask questions and incorporate that into the work you do. I had done a lot of research and had my own thoughts about it and we developed it together,” says Apte, of “collaborating” with director Pavan Kriplani in Phobia, where she plays a victim of agoraphobia. It’s a big movie for Apte: she appears in every frame.
Besides Phobia, Apte will also be seen in Kabali (Tamil) with Rajinikanth. There’s also Leena Yadav’s Parched that released at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
Recently, she was declared the Best Actress at the Tribeca Film Festival for her role in Clean Shaven, a part of a collective of shorts Madly, directed again by Kashyap. This is the same movie from which revealing grabs of Apte were leaked online last year. Apte shrugs it away: “It upset me for a couple of days. But I don’t have time for this. There are too many things going on that are worth more.”
Beyond cinema, Apte is keen on returning to the stage and the dance-floor. Shortly after Ekta Kapoor’s Shor in the City released in 2011, Apte left for London to do a one-year course in contemporary dance from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. “I learnt contemporary dance and release therapy, and that has added so much vigour to my movement,” she says.
It’s during this time that she met her husband musician, Benedict Taylor. With him, Apte has experimented in dance and music. They performed an experimental piece based on stories highlighting the Palestine and Jew conflict in London. “...My dancing has deteriorated a bit. It’s really hard to balance right now, it’s frustrating actually. I hope I find some time this year to go back to it,” says Apte.
Apte’s recommendation of 5 films to watch
1. Killa, Avinash Arun (Marathi): “Avinash is a good friend, and after I finished watching his film, I went up to him and told him, ‘I can’t believe you did this.’ It made me choke, it was beautiful.”
2. Court, Chaitanya Tamhane (Multilingual): “It was really good, because it spoke of something that was important and the way it was made was so interesting and different.”
3. Masaan, Neeraj Ghaywan (Hindi): “What a great story, I really liked it. The performances were really good.”
4. Hunterrr, Harshavardhan Kulkarni (Hindi): “I think it’s very funny. It’s very well-written. People perceived it as a sex comedy. But it’s nothing of that sort, it’s super and so real. It’s such a boy story.”
5. Piku, Shoojit Sirdar (Hindi): “I loved it. Everything about it was endearing.”
Phobia releases on May 27 at theatres across the city