Fought really hard for my role in Angrezi Medium as I got to work with Irrfan Khan so early in my career: Radhika Madan
Radhika Madan talks about playing a 17-year-old in Angrezi Medium, and how observing Irrfan Khan on set was an acting masterclass.
After her dream debut in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha – a tale of two warring sisters, followed by Vasan Bala’s action comedy Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Radhika Madan will once again venture into a different zone with her next, Angrezi Medium, a sequel to Irrfan Khan-starrer 2017 hit Hindi Medium.
Radhika will be seen playing a 17-year-old Udaipur girl, who aspires to study in London while Irrfan essays her middle-class father who does everything in his might to fulfill his daughter's' dream. Helmed by Homi Adajania, the film also has Kareena Kapoor Khan and Dimple Kapadia in pivotal roles.
While one may believe her role in Pataakha was complicated, Radhika says she found playing Tarika in Angrezi Medium far more difficult. "For the audition, I had to perform two scenes — one where I declare that I want to go to London, and another which is part of the climax. I guess my performance in the latter worked in my favour,” she says.
To prep for her role, the actress met teenagers in Udaipur, and understood what their opinion on studying abroad was. She also had a coach so she could get the nuances and the body language of a small-town girl right.
“I couldn’t relate to Tarika at all. When I was doing these workshops, the acting coach told me that physically, I may look like a 17-year-old but my eyes will give away that I was older, say 24-25. Now how do I get rid of my experiences from my eyes? This is insane! How do I crack that?”says Radhika, her eyes widened.
“So I went to Udaipur, and hung out with these 15-16 year old students without revealing my identity. I had cooked up a story that my father was just transferred to Udaipur, and I have to get admission in Grade 12. They were ready to help me, and would take me around on their scooty. They couldn’t figure out my identity because I would dress in a very simple manner, wear glasses, and sport pigtails. I had strictly told my team to not to follow me with a car and the bodyguard. Some of them felt that I resembled Radhika Madan, the actress,” she laughs, adding, “I tried getting into the skin of the character, where I could see and experience things for the very first time besides getting the pronunciations, tone, and nuances right. I have been to London but Tarika hasn’t. So to see the airport and the city with these new eyes, my reaction... all that was tough. People say that I looked cute and sweet as a teenager but it was more than that."
Radhika, earlier known for her work as a television soap actor, cannot contain her excitement of working with Irrfan so early in her career. Was she intimidated working with the highly acclaimed, and arguably India’s best known international actor? “Not really. It is a good thing as well as a bad thing that it doesn’t hit me instantly when such a huge thing is happening with me. The bad thing is that I don’t get to celebrate the moment, and the good thing is that I am in my character, I just focus on the scene and my performance. When the trailer came out, and the credits started rolling, I couldn’t control my tears because it was the first time it was actually hitting me that I am living my dream. Since then, whichever promo or song came out, I was crying like crazy.
"But during the shoot, I was like Irrfan sir is my father, and not the international star. He was my papa on sets,” says Radhika.
Giving credit to Irrfan for the natural father-daughter chemistry that can be seen in the trailer, she says, “It has to do with how comfortable he made me feel. He didn’t treat me as a newcomer, nor did he tell me to perform a scene in a particular way. He treated me as a fellow artiste, and that really gave me the freedom to just be in the character and do whatever I wanted to do even if that means playing with his beard, or fixing his hair, or making sure that his tie is fine. Of course, both of us were in our characters, and it wasn’t like I was working with a big star. So the credit goes to Irrfan. When I was meeting him for the first time, I called him saying, "Hi papa" He looked at me and said, ‘Arre, aap hain? (Oh, you are the one?). I always pictured him as my father, and I am glad that he didn’t throw any tantrum or gave that vibe of ‘stay away’.”
Angrezi Medium marks Irrfan’s comeback after he was diagnosed with cancer. “But never once did Irrfan sir show that he wasn’t well. He was so involved. He was giving his 200 per cent be it when he was practising his lines or discussing scenes. The environment was so positive. It was this unsaid language between Homi and Irrfan sir, and that was beautiful. Homi knew when to pack up, and Irrfan sir knew when to push more. The cameramen would arrange the angle in a particular way where Irrfan sir could do the take just once. They were conserving his energy. We were just observing all of this. The respect which Dinu (Dinesh Vijan, producer), Homi, and the whole team have shown towards Irrfan sir is commendable,” says Radhika.
She adds she took notes while watching Irrfan perform. “He never stops being a student. Before every important scene, he would be pacing up and down with the script, telling the director to discuss the scene. What an inspiration he is! You can learn just by observing him. I would take notes while watching Irrfan sir, Deepak Dobriyal because I may not get this opportunity again."
There have been different theories about Radhika bagging the part in Angrezi Medium. A few reports in the past had suggested she replaced Sara Ali Khan in the film. While Radhika had then hinted she had to fight for the role as it had gone to a star-kid, this time, she merely laughs, saying, “I came to know that the second part is being made, and they were looking for a new face. I had just finished Pataakha. I begged my team to get me this audition. I gave the audition, and it was this sheer belief of Homi and Dinu that they could picture me as a 17-year-old after watching me in Pataakha, in which I was 12 kilos heavier, and a few shades darker. I believed in myself, and it was so beautiful and overwhelming to see your director and producer believing in you as much.
I will continue to audition for movies that catch my attention. I won’t assume that, ‘Okay, the film is being made, and they will cast this actress only,' and not do anything about it.”
This brings us to the never-ending debate on nepotism. It may be recalled Radhika had made a dig in the promo video of Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, in which she seemed upset over the fact that her well-deserved time in limelight is being stolen by a star-kid (Maine Pyar Kiya actor Bhagyashree’s son) Abhimanyu Dassani, who debuted with the film. However, Radhika has no complaints. “Industry was treating me well from the very beginning. I debuted with Vishal Bhardwaj. Actually it depends a lot upon you. I always knew the situation. Maybe star-kids have the access but what can be done about it? Should I be sitting at home and cribbing that I audition for so many projects but I didn’t bag any, or give my 200 per cent, and keep adding films in my kitty. I knew that going forward, I won’t get the time so it was a good time to learn when I was sitting at home then. I made sure that I learn something new every day, watch a film every day. It is important to give your 200 per cent, and then see what happens. That approach has helped me in bagging roles. I love my job. I am having fun,” says Radhika.
Her next is Shiddat, a love story opposite Sunny Kaushal, in which she plays a swimmer. “I want to work with the best of directors, actors, and best of scripts. I want to live life. That is the reason we become actors, right? We are not content with one life, and that is why we keep chasing or choosing lives, that we will live this or that character. It is not about reaching a particular position or the destination. It is about the journey. In the journey, I want to chill and enjoy, and live every role with utmost honesty. With Pataakha, one felt that I can do only a certain kind of roles but Mard Ko Dard... changed the perception, and now, Angrezi (Medium) is again a different role. Tarika is from Udaipur and Badki (her character in Pataakha) was also from Udaipur. But if I get to hear that there is a huge difference between these two characters, I am done. I am sorted,” she concludes.
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