Not just a pretty face

Not just a pretty face

Radhika Pandit’s rise to fame and stardom reads like the storyline of a film. Born to Krishna Prasad and Mangala Pandit, who hail from the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka’s Konkan coast, Radhika first came to public notice when she played one of the main leads in the Kannada television serial, Nandagokula.

Unlike many successful TV artistes aspiring to move to films, Radhika did not have to go knocking on doors for an entry. When the TV serial was nearing completion, some of her photographs appeared in a local magazine. The makers of Mungaru Male, fresh after the thumping success of that film, were ready to launch their next project, Moggina Manasu.
They were looking for a new face, for a girl who could speak Kannada. They noticed her pictures in the magazine and called Radhika for an audition. She got the role — and thus began a memorable journey in Kannada films that has so far got her the Karnataka State Award for 2008-09 and three back-to-back Filmfare awards.

Travelling back in time and talking about how her very first movie got her the Filmfare award, Radhika became visibly excited as she relived that moment. “The feeling of getting a Filmfare award is indescribable. Filmfare awards are something one has watched as a child. The whole family gathered around the television set and watched their favourite stars walk up to the stage and hold up the ‘Black Lady’…never in my dreams had I thought I would be a part of it. When your first film is out, your expectations are different — you want to see how you look on the big screen, you want to see how people react — an award is something you are not even thinking of! When your name is announced, and you’re walking up the aisle and people all around are clapping — it is a feeling that I simply cannot explain!”

She got her second and third consecutive Filmfare awards for Love Guru (2009) and Krishnan Love Story (2010). “That second award was a pleasant surprise — I knew my competition was tough. The third — I wouldn’t say that I was confident of getting one, but the possibilities were high,” she says in a matter-of-fact manner. In an industry where fortunes are as fickle as the weather, how important are awards to her? “Awards are important. I am not saying that only awards decide how good an actor you are. But it inspires you to work harder. I feel that awards are like milestones that keep reminding you that you are on the right track.”

Radhika has worked with many leading actors, including Puneet Rajkumar, Yash, Ashok Rao and Dhruva. “Puneet is the only ‘star’ that I have worked with. All my other co-stars have either been my contemporaries or my juniors. Tarun and Yash — we started off in the film industry together. Puneet Rajkumar is called the ‘power star’ — I didn’t know why he was called that till I worked with him. On the sets, he is just a co-actor and great fun to work with. He’s got the maximum number of fans, his movies run and make business like that (snaps her fingers). It is nice to see such a powerful actor being so simple,” she says.

Radhika is one of the very few ‘local’ female leads, somebody who represents the ‘Kannada girl.’ “It’s nice to know that I represent the Kannada hudugi — I feel really proud that I dub for my own films — that’s what brought me that name.” Many producers and directors import heroines from Mumbai and other languages. She says she had no problems with ‘importing’ stars. “Getting imports — I think it’s really nice that the Kannada film industry believes that talent has no barriers, so we welcome people. It is really nice that we get people from outside to speak our language! But bringing them because you feel there is a lack of talent here is not true. They just have to be discovered. I think it’s purely a director’s call. I don’t feel it’s wrong to get people from outside…but the reason should be right.”

The young actor says she wants to continue doing roles where she can contribute as an actor, and not just be cast as a pretty face. “Glamour is part of my job and it is required. But that should not be the only thing that my job requires. It is not that I am looking only for women-centric films. But I certainly believe that the roles I play should contribute to the subject, and not merely add colour to the film. I am proud of the fact that when my movies worked, it was not because it was a ‘star’ movie; I had my own identity in the film. I did get my recognition; it was not like I was in the shadow of a star.”

The perky young actor is playing the female lead in Nagathihalli Chandrashekar’s latest film, Breaking News. Awards or no awards, one thing is clear — this actor seems determined to carve a name for herself as a serious actor.

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