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Thursday, July 05, 2001

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Grand aunt of the small screen


IT'S 11 a.m. The Radaan Films office in T.Nagar is abuzz with activity, what with Chithi's high TRP ratings. Just then, one of the staff announces, "Madam is coming." And the real-life Sharada, aka Radhika walks in. Clad in a faint purple salwar kameez with hardly a trace of make-up, she appears youthful and has the quintessential girl- next-door look, far from her awe- inspiring reel image. But once she begins talking you will be proved wrong. Like "Chithi", she is vulnerable at times, but Radhika is more of an independent and a no-nonsense woman, who has for the last two years kept people glued to their television sets from Monday to Friday.

When critics ridiculed Amitabh Bachchan for anchoring a TV quiz show, he silenced them by rising like a phoenix with Kaun Banega Crorepati. Similarly, all those who sneered at Radhika's small screen ambitions are today dying to be in her shoes. "I usually get a kick out of doing things which people tell me not to. My decision to do TV serials too, in a way, was to prove them wrong," smiles the actress.

She entered the TV world much before 'Chithi' happened, probably in the early 1990s. "Being a single parent, I was keen to be home early and take care of my daughter, Reyanne. With the long and erratic film schedules that was impossible. So, I wanted to switch over to an equally creative alternative medium that will keep me going for the rest of my life".

Thus was born Radaan - conjured up from the names, Radhika and Reyanne. But her production company's success was short-lived. It was soon closed down owing to financial problems.

'At the end of a 300-film mark and many years of toil, I had to start all over again. Being a spiritual person helped me through the trying phase. I wouldn't have been distressed, if I had lost money because of my mistakes. But the company was mismanaged. My hectic shooting schedules prevented me from paying personal attention to it. So, I just decided to shut it down, only to revive it after a year with my brother and mother's support. Gradually, everything started falling into place."

Her rollercoaster ride began with the telefilm 'Siragugal,' about a Tamil family settled in the U.K. and how the meek wife fights her egoistic husband. By getting into the skin of the character, Radhika invited thousands of appreciation letters and calls.

She has indeed come a long way from the gawky and plump teenager, who made her debut many moons ago in Bharatiraja's film. With Chithi, Radhika has reasserted her flair for histrionics. Tell her this, and she modestly owes it to director Basker's visualisation power. "He has brilliantly captured my mannerisms and traits, taking a cue from the way I talk, walk and behave. In fact, he has done that for the other characters too. For instance, Kaveri is quite a talkative girl and Basker decided to retain that quality. This has helped the artistes to be at their natural best. I should also be indebted to the highly motivated team with whose support I plan to keep the serial going for another two months," she enthuses.

But mention Koteeswaran, and one can see disappointment writ large on her face. "We invested quite a lot on the sets and cannot erect another immediately. So, it is sad that it will have to go off the air. May be, I will try to revive it sometime," she says.

Going by her campaigning for the DMK in the recent elections and the huge crowd she drew, you are tempted to ask Radhika about her plans to join politics. "No, never," is the firm reply. "I am too straightforward and will be an absolute misfit. Being Kalaignar's family friend, I campaigned for the party. There is nothing more to it. As for the huge crowds, I am quite a level-headed person to get carried away. I will always remember what my father used to say, not adulation, but happiness matters," she declares philosphically.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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Section  : Entertainment
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