Indian actress Radhika Apte believes that nepotism exists and flourishes in Bollywood, but audiences are equally responsible for keeping the tradition alive and kicking.
“As a society everyone is obsessed with these film families. So why just criticise those families for making films and casting their children or relatives?” asked Apte in an interview with Gulf News ahead of the release of Netflix thriller ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ on July 31.
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The actress, who made it in Indian cinema through her own merit, finds Indian society’s obsession with celebrity kids problematic.
“Many go behind the kids of these celebrities and make them stars overnight … That poor thing would find it so difficult to take that kind of publicity and pressure once they start growing older. But who does it? We do it … We are obsessed with how the son of an actor is going to look like or how the daughter born into a film family is going to look like. We obsess about them and we make them stars without even having them do any work.”
Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden death has re-ignited debates on the toxic working culture that prevails in Bollywood and how gangs in Hindi cinema can dictate the careers of budding talents.
Certain producers and directors such as Karan Johar have been accused of squashing real talent and promoting privileged star kids through their films.
But Apte wasn’t keen to go into details of this ‘long debate’ as she found it disrespectful to Rajput. Linking nepotism and his death was in poor taste, Apte felt.
She kept referring to his suicide on June 14 — which galvanised Bollywood to take sides about its star-fuelled systems — as ‘the incident that happened’.
“I do not like to associate this whole nepotism right now with the incident that happened. I find it disrespectful. I do feel that because of this situation at least people can give more importance to mental health and take it seriously now. Many people are now aware that there is help available as and when needed. I think that is the least we can take from this situation,” said Apte, who is currently spending her lockdown in London.
But she’s equally pragmatic that nepotism will continue to thrive as long as viewers are curious about star kids.
“Nepotism exists … but if I were a producer with a lot of money and my child wanted to be an actor, I would put that money and make her/him an actor … You cannot stop that. I just feel like as a society everyone is obsessed with these families so why just criticise the families for making films and casting their children or relatives?”
While she has immense clarity on nepotism, she is equally clear about charting her own path in Bollywood and beyond. The actress, whose credits include ‘Ghoul’, ‘Parched’ and ‘Andhadhun’, has a more wholesome approach to rejection and the hardships that await struggling actors.
“On a daily basis things get snatched away from you and I am not even considered for certain roles because I am not a star as big as some people who are just born stars. But I do not have any cynical feeling about that. It is what it is and I would like to be a part of making content where you cast actors based on the skills.”
Her latest film ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ seems to be a prime example of actors who were cast based on their skills. Acclaimed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the cop in charge of a murder investigation, but the rest of the cast is equally compelling.
‘Raat Akeli Hai’ sees Apte plays a mysterious mistress and bride-to-be of a rich politician who gets brutally killed on their wedding day.
Siddiqui plays the cop who’s on call to investigate the murder of her ageing groom.
“Whodunits is one of my favourite genres in cinema. I hope they [viewers] get thrilled. It’s also a love story and a great debut from Honey with some great ensemble cast,” said Apte.
“I play this mysterious woman who is also attractive in a strange way. But she is already troubled and needs to be rescued but she also has something that is going to rescue you from your own demons. I have never played such a part before,” said Apte.
‘Raat Akeli Hai’ marks the directorial debut of casting director Honey Trehan, known for films such as ‘Talvar’, ‘Udta Punjab’ and ‘Delhi Belly’.
As ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ rolls out this weekend, here’s Apte’s take on …
The challenges of playing Radha in ‘Raat Akeli Hai’...
“It was an emotionally exhausting role to play a mentally battered woman with no strong voice temporarily. She’s quite a mysterious character and you never who she is exactly. But it was exhausting especially those scenes in which I had to shout and cry. I had to do them many times from many angles for it to be convincing and that was exhausting.”
The legwork behind this film and her role of Radha...
“I had a lot of training. I had dialect coaches and Atul Mongia [acting workshop director] took workshops with us for body language and interpersonal relationships among the ensemble actors … Radha is a very mysterious woman. She is basically the [mistress] of the man who is murdered on the wedding night. She was supposed to marry him before he gets murdered … She has led a difficult life and comes across as feisty, arrogant and rude … But she’s also matter-of-fact. When it comes to a lot of things, she’s more progressive than others around her. You never know if she means what she says or if she’s just tricking you.”
Keeping the faith alive in these grim COVID-19 times...
“I am in one of the most privileged places in my life where I know even if I fail or do not get anything, I will figure something out or figure something else to do. If you just keep your eyes open and look around, there is enough to make you feel how grateful and privileged you should fee. I have a lot of faith because I am surrounded by inspiring stories around me all the time. My key take away is to live in the present tense.”
Her equation with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, her co-star...
“He’s one of the finest actors we have in the country and the good thing about him is that he is always present in the moment and he reacts to you as an actor … He does not come all prepared for a shot without caring what his co-actors are going to do … He is very responsive and really a lot of fun because both of us can just play along and see what comes of a scene. So we improvised a lot and we sort of changed a lot of our performance based on the other person’s performance. We have done various different types of roles together so it has been quite a journey.”
“One of the toughest scenes was the one where I had to do a lot of screaming and crying. I had to do it about 17 times … and you have to give your full energy to each shot and do it convincingly. I find that very difficult. I need two days at least to prep for it,” said Radhika Apte on her tough scenes.
Radhika Apte’s lockdown diary:
“I am not in the country [India], but I keep reading about what’s happening and talking to my friends and my family back home. I miss meeting my family but other than that I have been blessed. I think London has been much better in terms of lockdown. We have open areas to go walk, run, cycle and I think this time has been helpful for us to do a lot of thinking. It gave us time to understand what decisions were taken in my life and the reasons to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I think this pause has really, really helped me in a lot of other things. I am trying to write as well. Let us see what comes of it. However, I think there is so much uncertainty and unpredictability that the biggest lesson I have taken is to be in the present and not think about what is going to happen tomorrow.”
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‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is out on Netflix on July 31.