'I am the longest lasting heroine'
When the Who's Who of Tamil cinema is listed, Radhika's name will definitely be mentioned.
The daughter of veteran actor M R Radha, sister of actors Radharavi and the late Vasu and wife of star Sharad Kumar, Radhika is a much-acclaimed and awarded actress.
In her long career as one of the top heroines of Tamil cinema, she has acted with all the top heroes -- including superstars Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.
She was one of the few people who could walk into late chief minister M G Ramachandran's house at will. She also enjoys a good personal rapport with current Chief Minister Karunanidhi.
Her latest avatar sees her as the successful producer of television serials, so much so that she has often been compared to Ekta Kapoor. She is also the main protagonist in her long-running serials -- Chitthi, Annamalai and Selvi.
Rediff.com caught up with her on the sets of her latest serial, Chellamay, which airs on Sun TV. The set was actually a by-lane outside a huge house in Valsarvakkam, a Chennai suburb.
The scene involved her walking down the street and into the house, preceded by a single camera. There were no special lights, very little make-up and no props. "Please wait," said Radhika politely. "We have to finish this scene before the light fades."
Click next to read excerpts from an interview with Special Correspondent A Ganesh Nadar.
'I have never shared screen space with my father'
You have been a heroine, movie producer, small screen heroine, director, producer. Who is the real Radhika?
I entered the movie industry as a novice. I evolved as an actress. I have watched directors, producers and other artistes and learnt the trade. As a producer, however, my responsibilities are more.
The heroine, director, producer are all parts of the same profession. I am in a profession where you do your best and get paid for it with fame or brickbats. I work and get paid for it. I am a professional.
I do not distinguish between my role as a heroine, director and producer. They all blend into one whole entity -- the entertainment industry.
You have held the audience's attention for decades. How did you manage to do that?
Hard work! It is hard work only. I did not plan to act for decades when I started out. I wanted to act for only two years. I think I am the longest lasting heroine. I cannot see any of my contemporaries still acting.
I give my 100 per cent to anything that I do.
You have reinvented yourself constantly?
Yes! I came as a heroine, then produced movies, moved to the small screen and I am sure I will be able to reinvent myself further and do better.
You and Ekta Kapoor were supposed to produce a serial together. What happened?
We did discuss it. But we did not go ahead.
Have you shared screen space with your father, M R Radha?
I have never shared screen space with my father, but we have acted in the same movie.
Image: Radhika with her father M R Radha
'You cannot compare Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan'
How was your relationship with MGR and Shivaji?
MGR was a fine person. He was a warm person, very dynamic. He was very helpful and affectionate as he knew my father very well. I did not interact with him as much as I interacted with Shivaji.
I have acted with Shivaji and thus got a chance to know him better. He used to say, 'I watched your movie. You acted very well.' That was a huge compliment. He was the best actor in the country and getting a compliment from him meant a lot to me.
He used to treat me more like a family member than as an actor. As he knew my father, we shared a very warm and personal relationship. We chatted a lot on the sets.
What is the difference between acting with Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan?
They are two different people. Rajinikanth is a superstar but he is very down-to-earth. He is very fun-loving when he wants to be.
I have done two movies with Kamal Haasan and more with Rajinikanth. I enjoyed the roles opposite Kamal, as both roles were intense ones. He talks a lot about movies. He lives movies. You cannot compare them. Both are talented in their own way.
In Oor Kavalan, Rajinikanth asks you, 'You are a big shot, you think you are M R Radha's daughter?' Was that part of the script or did Rajini just add that?
(laughed) Rajini loves comedy. It was not part of the scene. He just added that.
How did it feel when you shared screen space with your husband Sharad Kumar?
(Smiles) He was not my husband then. We were friends. He was jovial on the sets. He is a versatile actor and a thorough professional. It was good to work with him.
Image: Radhika and Rajinikanth in Urkavalan
'Glamour cannot be an influencing factor in television serials'
We are a patriarchal society. Yet, women-dominated serials do so well.
We hold the remote control.
So you don't agree that it is a patriarchal society. In reality, society is male dominated.
Why are you talking about reality? Do you want to watch reality for entertainment? It will be boring. A lot of women watch serials which have substance. It is content that carries a serial.
Don't you think that some of our soaps are retrograde? Vengeance seems the only motive.
In my serials women are shown as progressive and women of substance. In my last serial, Selvi, I played the roles of a police inspector and her daughter. There will be people with different shades of character. There will be people who try to put you down.
I am not taking names but vengeance is ruling the roost in serials.
What is real life like? On the road, if someone abuses you, you get down from your car to hit him.
In politics, someone says something today and years later his opponent still keeps repeating or refuting it.
In films, a director and a star have a small problem and years later still refuse to work with each other.
It's not vengeance; it's a mindset. People are not willing to forgive, forget and move on.
In the age of titillation and glamour, how far will your clean serials go?
I don't think people sitting at home want to watch anything titillating or glamorous.
The television set is in the living room. People like to watch clean stuff and that's what we are providing them.
Glamour cannot be an influencing factor in television serials.
Image: Kamal Haasan and Radhika in Per Sollum Pillai
'Thankfully, my daughter is not interested in films'
You come from a family of actors. Do your children plan to enter the profession?
I do not believe in telling my kids on what they should do with their lives. They are free to choose.
My father thought it was funny when I told him I want to act. He thought it was a fad which would last for two years.
My children are exposed to more movies than I was. I was bought up in a convent boarding school where we did not watch many films. I was in a boarding school in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. I was brought up in Sri Lanka too.
I am happy with what my children what to do. Thankfully, my daughter is not interested in films.
Yes, thankfully! It is actually such a pain. A lot of people are aspiring actors. A lot of people want to become stars. Only a few succeed. Luck plays a major part in entering the field. Then, talent keeps you there.
I was lucky. There are a lot of people out there who are more talented than me, who are better looking than me. But they have not succeeded. I am still here.
The struggle, the pain, the hits, the flops, the compliments, the brickbats -- I don't want my daughter to go through all that. Let them enjoy their life, why go through all this?
Image: Shivaji Ganeshan and Radhika in Nermai
'Sharad and I never discuss movies at home'
Both your husband and brother are very active in the South India Artistes Association, but you are not involved?
I was the president of the Television Producers' Association. I quit because I had no time to devote to it.
What is your advice to aspiring actors?
You have to give your 100 per cent. Even then, you must always be prepared for failure. The success of a film or serial is not in your hands.
Going to a good institute to study acting and other related activities is good. When aspiring actors come through an institute, they are polished and are used to the camera. Thus, they don't waste our time on the sets. Time on the sets costs money.
When you go back home, do you leave your on-screen personality behind?
Sharad and I never discuss movies at home. We are busy and have enough work with our kids. If we ever mention movies, it will be only in one context. "Shall we go for a movie?"
Image: A scene from Chellamay
'I watch my own serials!'
Do movies have a good effect on the youth?
Does society have a good effect on the youth? This effect of movies on the youth has become a cliche. Movies are entertainment. Please treat them as such. You are supposed to enjoy a movie and leave it. It's not for taking home, unless it's a movie with a clear message.
Some movies are made with a positive message. Why do I want to watch Shah Rukh Khan singing and dancing? What do I want to watch Aamir Khan? It is fun.
What effect do television serials have on the youth?
The youth of today have a mind of their own. I don't think a television serial will influence them in any way. They might get carried away with the glamour and the popularity because they are not aware of the hard work involved.
This is a Tamil Nadu specific question. Actors are treated like Gods. Does that weigh upon you?
More in Andhra than in Tamil Nadu actually... I am humbled by the attention people shower upon me but I leave it behind when I go home.
I don't think people will imitate me even when I play a negative role. I did do a negative role in Jeans for director Shankar. I don't think people become negative because of that. In fact, people said I played the role with panache.
What are the serials you watch?
My own! When I am at home, I watch all serials for a few minutes. I watch it to find out their concept and also for the actors. The only serial I have really enjoyed is Friends.