On the eve of the release of her new film Forensic (a Hindi remake of the Malayalam film), Radhika Apte spoke about her experiences of working in the film industry – how she wished that actors were cast on merit, resisting botox, and dealing with rejection.
The excerpt is from an interview along with Vikrant Massey, her co-actor from the film.
If you could escape from one occupational hazard what would it be?
I don’t know if I would call it an occupational hazard, rather something I’d like to be changed is the value given to actors in the industry. Everyone wants the best cinematographer, they want the best designer but no one wants the best actor, they always want a star. For example, if a cinematographer wants to better their game they have to learn more, but if an actor wants to better their game they don’t take courses as they’re not valued. Instead of that they have to focus more on exercising, dressing better and getting more photos clicked. Those who cast for films worry more about who the actor is connected to rather than their actual abilities.
This causes people to say things like actors are dumb, acting is the easiest job to do and other stuff like that, which I find very annoying because the actual craft is not respected at all.
Everyone knows you’re a good actor in the true sense of the word. What is the challenge for you now?
I want to have the freedom to fail because then I’ll take more risks and try different things so that I can be shit sometimes but that’s ok because I’m just trying different things. The pressure of being a good actor makes you take less risks, which is why I get stressed when someone categorises me as such because the truth is I’m shit in some places but that’s ok because I want to try and I might go really wrong which is alright in the end.
Sometimes I’ve done rubbish where I was so disinterested, asking in which parts I should cry so I could go home.
My research has shown me that you have stayed away from succumbing to the stereotypes of what’s sexy in Bollywood. Is there ever the pressure to fit in and how do you deal with that pressure?
I had that pressure before. When I was new I was told to do many plastic surgeries.
Were you asked upfront?
Oh yeah, in my first meeting I was told to change my nose. Then in the second meeting I was told to get a boob job and then that continued to getting something done to legs, something done to my jaw as well as botox. I was like ‘Are you joking? It took me 30 years to colour my hair, I’m not getting any injection.’ While it did put me off I didn’t feel pressurised. In fact I felt angry and all of that actually helped me love my body more. I was like ‘Fuck you, I love my body.’
A friend of mine told me she got botox once and when I asked her why she did it she replied that she’d never do it again but she just wanted to know what my problem with it was. The thing is that I don’t hate ageing – that’s just against nature. I don’t want to be immortal, eventually I want to die and eventually I want to age! I’m sick of people doing botox and though the pressure does affect me it doesn’t affect me to the point that I would ever want to do it.
What is the upside of not fitting the mould?
I feel the upside is I’m happier. That’s the upside for me. I like myself better and I feel good to have some values that I really believe in even if they may change over time. What definitely won’t change though is my stance on plastic surgery. You’ll never see me with a different nose or having any injection.
Tell me any advice good or bad you’ve been given on how to navigate Bollywood?
In my first few years acting was all about passion for me. Fortunately, somebody told me to remember it’s a business and that nobody was here for the art. It was such great advice.
Doesn’t that break your heart though?
No because it makes rejection very easy to take. You realise that rejection is not personal at all. The real reason you got rejected was because you didn’t fit into a business strategy for whatever reason. Fact is if you’re putting in money you want returns so it’s not like the producer has to change. Society works a certain way and they want to watch certain things. These habits take a long time to change.