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Interview Hindi

Vishal Bhardwaj is very humble and open to ideas: Radhika Madan on shooting Pataakha

During an interaction with us, the actress spoke about her Pataakha journey, hardships she faced, and how she and Sanya Malhotra cried after the fight scenes.

Radhika Madan

Mayur Lookhar

Come 28 September, there will be an explosion on the cinema screens as director Vishal Bhardwaj will fire his Pataakha. It is an apt title to describe its two protagonists — Champa and Genda — in a tale of sibling rivalry. Badki aka Champa is the elder sibling, while Chutki aka Genda is the younger one. The two can barely see eye to eye.

Dangal (2016) girl Sanya Malhotra, who played the older Babita Phogat, will play Chutki, and popular TV actress Radhika Madan will make her Hindi film début as Badki with Pataakha.  

Cinestaan.com spoke to Madan in a brief group conversation recently. The heavy Delhi accent and electric energy is what strikes about Madan. She looks and speaks like a true Pataakha as she impressed us with her candidness and innocence.   

There is an unbridled joy on her face, the infectious positive energy that makes all around her comfortable. During the interaction, she spoke about her Pataakha journey, hardships she faced, and how she and Malhotra cried after the fight scenes. As for us, we felt here was an excited kid you would love to listen to over again and again.


Is this the first time that we get to see you play such an earthy role that is totally grounded in the mud? How did you get into the skin, the colour of this character?

Yes, grounded in the mud literally (laughs). When I cracked the audition, the first question that Vishal sir asked me was, 'Tan ho jayegi?' (Do you mind getting tanned?). I said why not. I didn’t know how tough it is to get tanned. I sat a few hours daily under the scorching sun, praying, 'Oh Lord, please turn me black'. I’d then show my face to Vishal sir and ask him, ‘Sir, have I tanned a little bit?' It didn’t work and so eventually we had to use make-up. I was darkened using five shades with the help of treacle. The stain that you get on your teeth by smoking beedi was applied to my teeth. My hair was bleached just to get in the skin of the character.

All this is the physical challenge. To be Champa from within, they conducted many workshops for us with Atul Mongia. We had regular readings with Vishal sir and Charan Singh Pathik sir, who has written the original story. We went to his village, stayed in his house for 6-7 days, observing the local ladies. We thought that having by-hearted the script, we wouldn’t struggle with the dialect, but the moment we interacted with the ladies, that is when we felt, 'ahhhhhhhh' (pauses). These women didn’t speak Hindi. They spoke fluently [in their dialect] and often it was difficult to grasp what they were saying. We did everything that they do. We milked the buffaloes, bathed them, made cowdung cakes, lit a chulha (cooking fire), etc. Our day used to begin at 4am. These things helped a lot. Our dialect improved after 3-4 days and thereafter we started communicating effectively with them.

In terms of dialect, it is very easy to gauge that you are from Delhi. But this film has Rajasthani and Haryanvi tones to your character. How tough was it to get rid of the heavy Delhi dialect and get into your character?

I’m sure you can make out my heavy Delhi accent. I’m proud of it. The main change in the dialect only came when we met these ladies.  Initially, it was difficult to converse with them. They wouldn’t understand if you say in Hindi, 'Paani dey de?' They would say [in Rajasthani tone] 'Paani paani bharne ku lari hu’. If they don’t get your message, you’ll hear, 'ka bol ri' (What are you saying?) So, as an actor, you need to get into that zone. Thankfully, these ladies helped us out.

It was fun though, as you can never be like this in your real life. I was always like this Papa Ki Pari (Daddy’s little agle). I knew that I wouldn’t get a chance to play such a character again and so I just loved every bit of it. I wanted it to sound natural, as one who has spoken in this tone since birth. Now either you can say [puts on her English accent] 'Sheee, ewww, shit. I just cannot… it’s so stinky. Or you can say, 'chalo, uthake kahan rakhna hai'."

Most people have experienced siblings fighting. Did you get into fights with your sibling(s)?

Absolutely. I used all WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) fighter’s moves on my big brother. He couldn’t retaliate as he was told he should not raise his hand on his little sister. Even I couldn’t pull it off, but I tried chokeslam (Undertaker’s trademark move), pedigree (Triple H’s finishing move). I’ve fought a lot as a child with my brother. I’ve relived all of that in this film.

Not many would get a chance to make a debut with a Vishal Bhardwaj film. How was that experience?

Arey, I loved it. I think I’m quite blessed. It still feels like a dream. Often we forge these preconceived notions about people. I thought he’d be a strict man, but he is such an easy director to work with. He is very humble and open to ideas. If you wish to make any improvisation or do a particular scene the way you want, you can just go and tell him and he wouldn’t object. If he is unsure, then he will ask you to explain why do you think the scene should be done in a particular way. Now, either you will convince or vice versa. That openness, that comfort which I felt with him, it is a dream to work on such a set.

You were seen in a different avatar in the TV show, and now in Pataakha you are perhaps unrecognisable from your TV days. Were there people who were taken by surprise completely with your look in Pataakha?

I was attending some film party with a friend. The Pataakha trailer had just come out. My friend introduced me to 3-4 people who all lauded the trailer, but there was no reaction from them. I felt a little offended, wondering whether I had done any work in the film. One of the guys then had a conversation with me and he praised the effort of Sanya Malhotra. Neither he nor the others could recognise that I was the other girl. I asked him, hope you know that the other girl is me, but he found it hard to believe. I felt that I’ve done so much hard work, but perhaps, nobody will realise that I’ve done it. However, that is the biggest compliment for an actor.

You are part of Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota. Can you talk about that?

Well, that film premièred [and won] at the Toronto International Film Festival. I had signed that film first, but since Pataakha released first, it becomes my debut film.

Have you harboured any thoughts of a dream role?

Well, my dream role is Geet that has been played by Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met (2007). If there is ever a Jab We Met 2.0 then I’ll request [director] Imtiaz Ali to cast me in it.

Apart from having a Vishal Bhardwaj film, Pataakha also has the very popular Sunil Grover who is playing a character called Naradmuni. Is there any gossip to share?

He is a Naradmuni off-screen too. You look at him and he appears to be having something brewing in his mind. He’s just controlling himself. You are having a serious conversation with him, and he’s having this wry smile on his face. You can sense something is going on in his mind. He’s an absolute fun actor to work with. He improvises a lot. You need to be on your toes while shooting with him. You by-heart your lines, and go into the shoot with him, but the lines change when the camera rolls.

Sanya Malhotra made a blockbuster début with Dangal (2016). How was she as a co-actor?

Two Delhi girls, but she doesn’t have anything Delhi in her. I really liked her in Dangal. When I came to know she is part of this film, I was really excited. I thought when I’ll meet her, it will be like 'Chal Gitta'. But when I met her, she was like this shy girl [says softly], 'Hi, I’m Sanya'.

I wondered what just happened. I’m an extrovert, but Sanya is very shy and quiet. However, I really liked the very first day. We got a lot closer after the workshops. We became good friends off-screen but on the screen, we were required to be the opposite. It is actually very tough. She is one of the closest people in my life right now. Thankfully, we were both professional enough. The moment we got into our make-up, costume, and once the camera rolled, I felt like, 'get out of my sight'. We’ve really hurt each other. Genda’s existence was just so annoying. The moment we heard 'cut', I used to ask her, 'Hope, you didn’t get hurt'. We’ve apologised to each other, we've cried after shots.

Given that the two of you had become close friends how did you bring this rage on to the screen?

Well, that is where our workshops helped. We rehearsed a lot of such scenes during these workshops. Some of these scenes were then incorporated into the film. I hated Genda, but I love Sanya dearly. I get scared sleeping alone. When we went back to our hotel, I used to sleep in her room. The crew scared me with ghost tales. They would knock on my door and flee. I used to carry my pillow and rug to her room.

What is a memorable moment from the shooting?

It has to be the climax. I can’t reveal that to you now. What we felt was totally insane. What I can tell you about is the fight in the gobar [cowdung]. That was a very intense fight. It took us a while to get out of that zone. I was asked to calm down. I didn’t realise that the man offering me water is Vishal sir. Sanya was still into it. We then went to a room and for the next 30 or 45 minutes we were just hugging and crying, apologising to each other for what we had done. That was the most special moment of the first half.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Another beautiful thing which I saw in the trailer and then in the 'Hello Hello' song — basically these two boyfriends...

(interrupts) Jagan Ji and Vishnu.

Champa has this beautiful childish conversation with her boyfriend while talking on a phone asking how much does the guy love her. We don’t know much about this guy and the other actor who played Genda’s boyfriend. Can you talk about these two guys?

It is these guys —  [Jagan (Namit Das) and Vishnu] — who complete us. They make us Badki (Champa) and Chutki (Genda). They are our pillars. We wouldn’t have been able to perform without these guys. They supported us throughout the film.

Looking at your exuberance, your energy, I wonder how you were as a child?

[Says like a child] Ji main toh aisi hi hoon. I was born like this. (laughs). There is nothing to hide from you all.