Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra, who play siblings in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha, on the art of getting out their own skins to essay very different protagonists.
With two of her movies scheduled for release, actor Sanya Malhotra confides, “I’ve butterflies…actually a jungle in my stomach.” Even though Ritesh Batra-directed Photograph is what she shot for soon after Dangal (2016), Pataakha will be her second release, this Friday, followed by Badhai Ho on October 19.
Malhotra, who always wanted to be an actor, has, of late, stopped making plans and setting career goals. “Prior to Dangal, I had this positive journal about getting some awards and recognition. Today, I’m going with the flow,” says Malhotra who essays the role of Genda, the younger of the two warring sisters.
This economics graduate from Gargi College, Delhi, thought that taking part in a dance reality show will lead her to a career in acting. “When I moved to Mumbai in 2014, I didn’t make it to the dance reality show that I auditioned for,” says Malhotra, who was part of a dance troupe in Delhi and used to practice ballet for nearly eight hours every day. After the initial setback, Malhotra decided to stay back in Mumbai and her family supported her decision. “Being an introvert, I gradually started meeting casting directors and auditioning. In 2015, I did nearly 10 commercials, and next year, I bagged the role of Babita Phoghat in Dangal,” she recalls.
With Dangal, her life underwent a major change. After its release, when she got a call from Batra to act in Photograph, opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui, her first reaction was to go for a run to release the excitement. But, it is with Pataakha that she stepped out of her comfort zone completely. “I’m an introvert. To play Chutki, I had to be spiteful and aggressive. Casting director Atul Mongia who conducted our workshops told Vishal (Bhardwaj) Sir that I should be more outspoken and Radhika Madan should be a more internal,” she says.
So, everyone who knows Malhotra up and close was surprised when the trailers came out. However, she had fun delivering her lines such as “Meri jooti baat karegi”. Malhotra says, “What helped me to enact this role were the costume and make-up. Once I was in them, I could not think like Sanya,” says Malhotra, who is now a proud owner of a home in Andheri.
ACTOR Radhika Madan, who has been enthusiastically answering every question posed by a series of interviewers, is finally hungry. As she adjusts her diaphanous dupatta and balances a box of makhana on her lap, Madan elaborates on how she had to unlearn the acting skills that she had picked up in the last four years. “For Pataakha, I had to learn how to smoke a bidi, collect cow-dung, milk cows and give bath to buffaloes. To live Champa’s life was very exciting,” she says.
Last December the 23-year-old was shooting for Vasan Bala-directed Mard Ko Dard Nehin Hota, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, when she was called for Pataakha’s audition. After watching her audition, all that Vishal Bhardwaj, director of Pataakha, said was that “something is very interesting (about her)”. When Madan was in Goa last March, celebrating the completion of Mard Ko…, she was suddenly called to appear for another round of auditions the following day and was given four scenes. She took the next flight from Goa. The flight was delayed and, scared of not getting the dialect right, she started rehearsing her lines at the airport, unmindful of curious onlookers. A month later, she was shooting for Pataakha in Rajasthan.
Madan, a trained dancer, started as a reluctant actor. Four years ago, while studying commerce at Jesus and Mary College in Delhi, she got a message on Facebook to appear for an audition in Greater Kailash in south Delhi. Assuming this to be a prank, she went there armed with hockey sticks and accompanied by two friends. It turned out they were auditioning for the role of Ishani in Ekta Kapoor’s Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi. Though Madan eventually played the role, she had to “learn acting on the job”.
Recalling that phase, she says: “I was too raw. It seems I was paid to learn acting. After four-five months of working on this show, I decided to give it my best shot and started doing better.”
When she moved to the world of Bala’s quirky comedy after this soap opera, she had to unlearn the acting skills she had picked up. “For Mard Ko… I even had to be trained in martial arts,” says Madan about her debut movie, which is about a young boy, who suffers from incognito sensitivity to pain, a rare condition in which he can not feel any pain.
The actor has had her share of struggles though her entry into showbiz was a cakewalk. “After the television show, I did not have work for one and a half year,” says, Madan, who wants to find time for her “first love”, dance, and sign another exciting movie next.