W Power 2024

Radhika Madan: Breaking out of the box

The actor rejects the label of an 'offbeat' performer. It's the desire to play outside of her comfort zone that has been the drive for her career

Divya J Shekhar
Published: Feb 15, 2024 04:46:13 PM IST
Updated: Feb 16, 2024 12:20:36 PM IST

Radhika Madan: Breaking out of the boxActor Radhika Madan Image: Mexy Xavier; Directed By: Kapil Kashyap Outfit: Label Riya; Styled By: Zainab Shakir; Assistant Stylists: Mannat Bhalla, Samridh Gupta

Radhika Madan | 28

Radhika Madan says she’s at a phase in her career where she wants to show people her “Govinda side”, meaning she wants to take up more light, fun roles in commercial films. 

She has mostly played intense, hard-hitting characters of late, like in films Kuttey (2023) and Sajini Shinde ka Viral Video (2023), and the series Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo (2023). Her titular role in Sanaa, which is currently touring the festival circuit and will soon release in India, sees her playing an ambitious woman struggling with unresolved mental trauma. The role earned her a Best Actor award at the UK Asian Film Festival in 2023. In her next film too, she’s playing the lead alongside actor Akshay Kumar in the Hindi remake of Sudha Kongara’s National Award-winning Tamil film Soorarai Pottru, which is based on the life of Air Deccan Founder Captain Gopinath.  

“I don’t like being in a box,” says Madan, referring to the industry’s tendency to slot her as an actor who only plays ‘offbeat’ characters. “People only offer you roles that feel safe to them, which is fine because they are investing a lot of money on you. But it’s your choice to say no.” The 28-year-old is fine even if achieving success takes time, as long as it’s on her own terms.

After all, she’s someone who jumped on to the big screen from a career in television, and played a 32-year-old feisty rural woman with a kid in her debut film Pataakha (2018), which was directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. She followed it up with the role of a 17-year-old sprightly girl in Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium (2020), starring Irrfan Khan.

Madan says she didn’t even plan to become an actor, and wanted to pursue training in tap and contemporary dancing. She was called for an audition based on her Facebook profile, and after she bagged the role, there was never looking back. One of the reasons she decided to be an actor was because she “felt safest in front of the camera”.

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Since then, there has been just one major criterion that drives her selection of films.

“The character needs to scare the hell out of me. I don’t like to play myself or be in my comfort zone,” says Madan, who was a juror at the International Emmy Awards 2023.

Radhika Madan: Breaking out of the box

“Radhika has this way of disappearing into her character and in the film’s universe. After that, she doesn’t care about how she looks or how her face comes out on screen,” says filmmaker Kongara. “She likes to be well-prepared and will never take up work that doesn’t inspire her. She’s a sorted actor.”

(This story appears in the 23 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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