She barely needs an introduction. Rolling in glory with more than 200 films in the Indian television as an actor, she is an entrepreneur and a producer. The founder of Radaan Mediaworks India Limited, she is free and liberal thinker. She has successfully produced many serials. Her film, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kathai, has won the Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film of a Director. A woman who is just the right cup of tea for those who respect tradition, encourage the neo and also seeks for the contemporary. Women Exclusive catches up with the Radhika Sarathkumar for a wholesome interview.
How would you best describe yourself?
It’s a tough one. I think I’m a normal person. I don’t take things seriously and am fun loving but very hard working.
You have undergone rituals in various religions tell us about that
I studied in a convent so I was exposed to Christianity. My mother’s very good friend was from a Muslim family. I was brought up by them and they taught me to read the Quran to pray. My father did not believe in any religion so there were no such beliefs at home. Only my mother did and she is a free thinker. I think I became religious after my marriage because of Sarath who is very inclined towards religious disciplines.
Your childhood days:
(Laughs) I was a very very quiet child, dull and boring. I was a bookworm. I used to just do my own work. But after I went to Colombo I changed as a person became more full of fun. I was a tomboy. I used to tell stories I used to dance. I was like a dada in class. By the time I came to acting, I became a quiet person again. Since I didn’t know anything about acting, I had to work very hard.
What has been your biggest struggle so far?
Everything! There is a lot of struggle in everything from work to talking to the actors, getting things done, making people understand, the public and their misconceptions about every single thing, I have to overcome. Then there is the challenge of meeting up with the expectations of my children. Everything is an effort. Nothing can be done by sitting down and enjoying; doesn’t work that way.
Is there a childhood trauma that still haunts you?
I think of being left alone. My mom left me at the hostel. From the time I would get into the car I would start crying and when I would near the hostel, my cry would become louder. Finally, when I was dropped, I would roll on the floor and cry. All my life I was in the hostel. I used to hate it. I remember once when my mom told me to put up Ryan in a hostel, I gave her a dirty look bad enough.
What is that one memory which you will never forget?
When Ryan was born.
What was your future goal as a child?
I used to come up with a new goal almost every day. If it was being a doctor on one day, the next day my plans would change and I would opt to be an air hostess. Nothing was concrete and acting, that was not even in the wildest of my dreams.
How did you feel when you were called for acting?
I asked the director Bharatiraja, “who would want to see my face?” But he had a lot of confidence in me. To tell about my first director, he is a genius. He changed the look of cinema and is a very emotional, a highly intelligent person, but yes he is my director.
How are you as a director yourself?
I think women make smart directors. We know to multitask. When I was in London my director did not turn up, he was stuck in some shoot so we did not know what to do; our crew, actors were there. I started to plan in the mornings. I used to drive, pick up actors and I was the production manager also. I directed for ten days. There were kids acting in the movie and they were all studying in London. I think we were good at adjusting and molding any situation in our favour. My mom says “The minute you take a spoon you can make out the person is a cook or not. Likewise, even if nobody is at home you must know to get your work done.” I am confident of any roles given. I can handle it.
How were the initial days of your shooting?
To me, it was like a picnic. I never knew the seriousness or impact. My mom used to convince me. She told me to give it a try and if you don’t like it you can go back. It was tough to walk barefoot on the hot rocks. Whenever I had to dance I would refuse and the producer would be upset.
How did you feel when your first movie became a big success?
The film was a big hit. But it was teamwork. Nothing can take place alone. My mom believed that I can handle it.
Which screen do you prefer small or silver screen?
I don’t see the difference. In television, the workload is heavier. People think it’s easy but television is more difficult.
What else do you like doing other than acting?
I used to play the piano in school. For my wedding anniversary, my husband surprised me by gifting a piano. I have a teacher who teaches me the piano now. I like the piano and I like cooking
What is your opinion on politics?
Trying to be a sincere voice has become a challenge. But you just have to ignore everything and move on. When I first came into politics the disappointment was immense. One has to be 100% dedicated because it involves the lives of so many people. I keep saying to Sarath that he is too sincere but that’s the way he is I don’t think he will change.
What makes a woman independent?
Economic freedom itself is a great source of independence to any woman and education is the basis. One needs to be less dependent on others. That will give you more confidence.
What is your idea of women and feminism in the past and now?
I thought Chennai was a very conservative place. Since I did not grow in this place, I had vague ideas of the city initially. What is strange is people do not take a ‘no’. They get bogged down if they hear a negative or something that is not what they want to hear. People go to the extent of committing suicide. Disagreements in relationships is a big issue today and tolerance level has gone down drastically. People are very concerned about monetary differences whereas that cannot be an issue when it comes to a relationship.
What do you think today’s women lack?
I think they don’t know what they want. Focus is something that they lack. They try to move through different paths and many times opt for the shortest route. That is not the right option when it comes to a career. At any level, hard work cannot match a short cut. In the end, it is hard work that pays off.
Any one woman whom you look upon?
My mother, she is super strong. She looks rough and tough but she is a good hearted and fun loving person. My father is nothing when compared to my mother. We were brought up by my mother. She is very fun-loving always sees a lighter side of things she is very strong. She brought us all single-handedly. Had it not been because of her encouragement I wouldn’t have stepped into acting and continued. She is an energetic and vibrant person.
Could you tell us a little bit about your journey of Radaan Media
Like I said everything is a challenge. I had to be on my toes all the time. I learnt from my experience, took every opportunity to seek more, turned every challenge into a lesson and every mistake into a successful feat. Since I didn’t have an MBA degree, the initial years have been tough. It is also sad when people cheat. And most importantly nobody was convinced that an actor could also run a successful business. But I kept on going, no matter what.
How do you de-stress yourself?
Nobody is there to give me a magic drink. I have to climb on my own. It is like discovering ourselves and our capacities. Every problem is a way to make you believe in yourself, to make you feel that you are strong enough to come out of it. So, whenever there is a barrier and you are troubled, just tell yourself it is a test and there is a way you will be out. I don’t get stressed easily.
How do you balance work and family life?
What one needs is the aim to do justice to both. There is no way one can leave the other. So instead of thinking hard on how to balance, one must just make sure both get the desired time. For that, I follow the policy of not talking work at home. I don’t work after six in the evening. My home is then my priority. I enjoy my family time as much as I love my work. And in the end, both ends get balanced naturally.
What do you think you want to achieve in 2016.
I have no idea. When I came into acting, it was not planned. One has to leave certain things to destiny. I keep working and whatever comes my way take it as a challenge. Any work to me is like a milestone and I must do justice. So as of now, I have not planned anything for 2016. Let’s see what crops us next!
What is the best thing you like about Sarath?
Sarath has been a wonderful husband. He is a smart, sincere, helpful, educated, hard-working person who is actively involved in social causes. He is emotional and goes all out to help others. He is a wonderful father. What else would one want? The best thing about him though is his perseverance. His positive qualities are so powerful that it kind of spreads to all the people who are around. We get encouraged and inspired by his spirit and perspective of life.
Your smile is as popular as you are. What is the secret?
I never take myself seriously. I just see if my makeup is fine. I barely get time to look at the mirror properly. More than physical beauty, I feel it is my work that should speak. Perhaps the happiness I get with my work makes me smile. Smile is a beautiful thing and speaks the heart. Nothing like a natural smile that can make a day.
What is your message to our women readers?
Women should believe in themselves more. Be confident. Maintain a steady balance. Friends, family, everything else will be fine if the balance is maintained.
You were born to a legendary actor –M.R. Radha, describe him as a father, actor and a human being.
As a father, he was very fond of the girl child but strict with boys, because he wanted to groom them as a good human being. As a child I remember asking him why you don’t believe in God, he said that there is some energy above us, but he did not name it as a god, he didn’t believe in rituals, but he believed in superpower. God is like current, you can’t touch, but you can feel his presence. As an actor, he was the greatest actor who travelled a lot, performed in stage and his energy was fantastic. Shivaji sir used to say that he learnt a lot from him. The strangest part is that he never knew to read and write but he was a very good listener. He had a manager named Alagiri, he used to read the paper in the morning, he used to listen to it, in the evening it will reflect on the play or drama. As a human being, he is a socially aware person in those days was fantastic. He wanted to make a difference in society. His revolutionary thoughts were beyond politics. He wanted to change the society for the betterment.
What do you think you have learnt from him or following even today
Even today all my dialogues I listen to my script and deliver it, in Tamil, Telugu and all language, I think this habit is from my dad. People tell me that, I do like my dad.