I don’t settle for mediocrity: Radikaa Sarathkumar

S Subhakeerthana
radhika sarathkumar

Radikaa Sarathkumar juggles multiple roles—acting in soaps/films, anchoring a television show, producing content, besides being a grandmother.

For those who follow Tamil television, she is perhaps the face of Chiththi, Selvi, Arasi, Vaani Rani and now, Kodeeswari. The bold, witty, and unassuming Radikaa Sarathkumar, who made her debut in Tamil cinema with Bharathiraja’s Kizhakke Pogum Rail in 1978, is as busy as ever. “Whatever I am today is because of my perseverance and hard work. Nothing was given to me on a platter,” says Radikaa, who juggles multiple roles—acting in soaps/films, anchoring a television show, producing content, besides being a grandmother. “Over these years, I have been brutally honest with myself, and that quality has brought me thus far,” she adds.

Excerpts from a conversation:

You are 50 plus, and still going strong. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say you are one of the busiest artistes in Tamil cinema today.

Thank you. Age is just a number. It has been a crazy journey, indeed—from Kizhakke Pogum Rail. I was quite a shy person then. I didn't know how to act. Though my father was a veteran actor (MR Radha), I didn't know movies. Looking back at the long innings, it feels nice that I could sustain my career. It takes a lot to be Radikaa. (Laughs)

It is nothing but sheer will power, commitment and diligence. I start my day with yoga. It is not that I succumb to the pressure of maintaining a good physique, but I am more health-conscious. I shoot almost every day, but I don't work beyond 6 pm. It’s hectic, but I manage. Everything boils down to time management. It is never going to be smooth for anyone to be consistent.

I am sure. And, it is amazing how you take challenges head-on and pull off every role with conviction.

When I entered television, I was busy with films. Most of them dissuaded me, but I knew I would succeed. I was confident about this seamless transition. I slowly became the Numero Uno of the Tamil small screen, which wasn't easy. I faced all my battles single-handedly. I took a huge risk. Banks weren't sanctioning loans. I did writing, acting, overseeing the production—everything myself. You know, it is a man's world. I ventured into television when it was believed women didn't have a strong voice in society. But I got an overwhelming response from the family crowd, and I am grateful for all the love and affection. I learned to be competitive.

Chiththi became a superhit, and it ran at a prime time slot for years. It kind of redefined the representation of female characters on the small screen. There has been a drastic change in content consumption patterns, needs of the audience and so on. At the end of the day, I don't settle for mediocrity. Of course, it is a huge challenge to get people to watch serials amid Netflix and Amazon. I love what I am doing and take challenges in my stride. The glamour quotient of television has been a major draw, but there is more to it than that.

Are you an avid television buff?

I don't watch TV. I watch people who watch TV. People are simple. They only complicate when they talk. (Grins) I know their likes, dislikes and business dynamics. I strive to get better every day. I keep reinventing myself. Thanks to my husband (Sarathkumar), who extends his unconditional support in whatever I do.

Do you enjoy hosting Kodeeswari?

Women approach me and tell I am someone they look up to. But I don't relax, sit back and say, “Hey, I have achieved so much.” I am on my toes all the time. I meet women from different walks of life, who share their stories with me. Most of them have moved me, and it truly feels empowering to be a part of an all-women show. Women are equal to men, or I would say they are doing better. I encourage them to believe in themselves.

On the film front, Radikaa Sarathkumar is awaiting the release of Vaanam Kottatum, a Mani Ratnam production, which will hit the screens in February. “Sarath and I are sharing screen space after two decades. We did Suryavamsam in 1997,” says Radikaa, adding, she has been “open to doing strong roles.” “Also, at this stage, I feel roles are being offered to me because of my credibility,” she signs off.